There’s something about setting a goal that just feels great. Meeting or even surpassing that goal feels even better.
Over the last few years, I’ve experienced this joy over and over again with my annual Goodreads reading goal.
I used to think of myself as a laboriously slow reader. When I first started tracking my reading in 2013, I read a measly 23 books. Twenty-three! Ugh—that’s less than two a month.
But last year, I read 70. That was in large part thanks to setting a reading goal. In 2017, my goal was 40, and I read 45. In 2018, my best year to date, I surpassed my goal of 50 by over 20 books! There was a time in my life when I thought reading so much was impossible.
Initially, I was so gung-ho about my reading so that I could plow through a massive TBR pile. Right now my to-read shelf takes up two whole bookshelves and a window shelf in my small Brooklyn apartment. You know how you hold on to a book for years and then it pains you to think about getting rid of it without reading it? That’s, like, every book I own. In reading so much, I’m trying to bring myself (and my wife) some sanity.
But the point is, reading goals are great. Yet they can also be a bit of a double-edged sword. In order to meet my goal, I’ve forced myself to finish books I hated. After a certain point, it’s just easier to keep going and add it to the tally than to give up and move on.
I’ve also read some books faster than I probably should, missing out on important details or context just to get through it. I used to stop and reread all the time. Now I just go, “Ehh, I’ll figure out what’s going on eventually” and keep reading.
I sometimes intentionally look for very slim, short books in order to have an easy win. I have no problem counting graphic novels or poetry books to my list anymore. You could argue this is cheating, and I would answer, “Okay.”
But I’ve also read a lot of books I otherwise wouldn’t have. I no longer agonize over which book to read next, afraid I’ll be locked into it for several weeks. Now I can look at a book and say, “This will only take me a few days to finish, so why not?”
Of course, a major issue with setting a recurring goal is the insatiable appetite it builds. Reading more books will always lead to wanting to read even more books the next year.
Which is why this year, I’m attempting the unthinkable: 100 books.
I know there are people who scoff at that number and easily read more than that in a year. But remember, this is the guy who just a few years ago had trouble getting above 20. I would never have imagined I could read so much if I hadn’t started setting reading goals and gradually built my way towards such a lofty one. And I’m well on my way—I’m already ahead of my target at this point in the year.
However, I might retire reading goals after this. It’s hard to imagine ever getting much over 100 unless I quit my job or we are somehow magically awarded more time during the week. And I do sometimes long for what reading was like before the pressure of meeting a yearly goal came into my life.
But who knows—if I’m writing next year about making it to 150, you’ll know something changed.
How do you feel about reading goals? Have you ever set an unimaginable one and surpassed it?