I Stopped Tracking My Reading (and Why I’ll Probably Start Again in 2017)

Almost exactly a year ago, I quit a full-time job in New York publishing. I moved out of the city after two years of trying to keep up with the pace and energy (and frankly feeling exhausted by it). I stayed with that job as a remote consultant for another six months.

But that job required that I read the first 50 pages of hundreds of new books every year. In 2015, I finished maybe – MAYBE – a dozen books. But I’d racked up a page count that would’ve made you think I’d read more than 100. I was reading for work constantly, and my personal reading / work reading Venn diagram quickly became a circle. So I stopped tracking any of it. I had enough spreadsheets for work; why did I need another to tell me how few books I was actually finishing? Or a Goodreads goal that was forever behind schedule?

That job was – for many reasons – not a good fit for me. But one of the ways in which it still impacts my life is that I haven’t kept track of a single book I read in 2016. This is both good and bad.

Here’s the good: I stopped reading to fulfill an arbitrary goal or to feel productive or really for any other reason than because I wanted to. I had to figure out how to read for myself again. It hasn’t been easy – I’m still working my way out of a hardcore six-month-long reading rut – but slowly  I’m rediscovering my love for reading. I’m picking up what I want to pick up (mostly genre fiction) without worrying about what else I’m neglecting and whether it’ll throw off an arbitrary schedule.

Here’s the bad: now that we’re getting down to the end of the year, I have no idea what I actually read over the last 12 months. Like there were a few highlights but I couldn’t tell you how many books I read, in what format, by what percentage of women vs. men, AOCs vs. white authors. And I feel completely adrift. I’m being asked what my favorite books of the year were, and I really have no clue. I can pull up my Audible account for a small glance into what I listened to, but print books are basically lost to me.

While there are many reasons not tracking my reading was a good thing, a year-long reset button if you will, I can’t fathom continuing to read for another year unchecked. Ultimately for me, goals are good, lists are good, benchmarks are good, and periodic check-ins are good. There’s something uncomfortably unmooring about not being about to look back on the year (especially a garbage fire year like 2016) and feel productive or to know how I spent my free time.

So for 2017, I’m setting goals again. I’m resolving to read more than 50% women authors, 30% authors of color, and more than 50 books total. I can’t guarantee it’ll be a smashing success — coming back from time off isn’t easy, no matter what the activity. But I have my spreadsheet ready, my Litsy and Goodreads communities in the wings, and a stack of TBR that’s calling my name. (Plus the 2017 Read Harder Challenge to complete!)

Are you tracking your reading in 2017? Do you not keep track at all?

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