Why I’m Not Participating in the Goodreads Reading Challenge in 2015

According to Goodreads, I have read over 600 books since 2010. That’s about half the books I’ve read (that I can recall) in my entire life.

Part of it was circumstantial; 2010 was the year I got out of grad school, and got a full time day job. I had way more time for reading.

Part of it was selection; my primary intake of fiction from 2002-2009 was through fanfiction. Something easy I could pick up or walk away from; a nice snack to enjoy during school.

But most of it I owe to the Goodreads Reading Challenge.

When the Goodreads Reading Challenge started in 2011, I had already been a pretty active user of the site. I had added the books I could remember having read, and regularly added books I saw in bookstores or that other people had read. I had recently started writing for a YA literature blog, and alongside working in a school library, I was getting exposed to more and more books.

So I started out at 75.

It seemed like a good number. I was maintaining a good pace, and since I got July off, I was reading like fire. So I upped it from 75 to 85, and blew past that number in December. By the end of the year, I’d read 90 books. Feeling the need for a challenge, I went ahead and doubled my goal: in 2012, I would read 150 books.

Well, I blew past that number, too.

In 2013, I had taken on a bunch of other commitments, and had really felt the push of the 150 book goal. Therefore, same goal instead of pushing even harder. But somehow (I know exactly how) I ended up reading 189 books in 2013. 126 percent of my original goal.

So, of course, what do I do? I give myself a goal of 175 this year.

And then I realized, late this year, that I was reading myself crazy. I was reading while I was catching up on the DVR. I was reading while I was EATING DINNER. I was reading every chance I got. Not because I wanted to, but because I had to catch up. Have you ever gone onto Goodreads and seen that you were three books behind on your challenge? It’s nerve wracking! I felt like I ALWAYS had to be reading, no matter what else might be going on. The challenge was exacerbated by the guilt that I had so many books in the house, both paper and electronic, and felt that I needed to push through them.

So in 2015, I’m going to give myself a year-long thirtieth birthday present.

I’m going to give myself a break.

I’m going to give myself time to watch movies on my Netflix queue, and hang out away from the house without feeling guilty about not reading. I’m going to enjoy a few webseries (did I mention I still haven’t watched The Lizzy Bennet Diaries because I couldn’t take the time away from reading?), and listen to podcasts at work instead of settling for mediocre audiobooks because they’re all that’s available through the library. I’m going to chill out and stop grimacing every time I look at my to-read shelf (which is a full, double stacked bookshelf in my den).

I’ll still probably end up reading over a hundred books, based on the speed at which I read before the challenge took over my life. But if I end up reading nothing but Captain America fanfiction for two months straight, I won’t feel stressed out about not giving that time to books I can record in Goodreads. It will just be time spent reading stuff I love.

There are all kinds of reading challenges people set for themselves, and they’re not always based on numbers. Some decide they’re going only read fiction, or read more books by women or authors of color. Some decide they’re going to try New Adult Oracular Myth-based Campus Sports Rock-Star BDSM Erotica.

Do you create tangible challenges for your reading process? What are your goals for next year?

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