Our Reading Lives

A Year of Not Counting: My Time Off From the Goodreads Challenge

Jessica Pryde

Contributing Editor

Jessica Pryde is a member of that (some might call) rare breed that grew up in Washington, DC, but is happily enjoying the warmer weather of the desert Southwest. While she is still working on what she wants to be when she grows up, she’s enjoying dabbling in librarianship and writing all the things. She can be found drowning in her ever-growing TBR and exclaiming about romance in the Book Riot podcast (When in Romance), as well as on social media. Find her exclamations about books and pho on twitter (JessIsReading) and instagram (jess_is_reading).

At the end of last year, I made the decision that I would not be participating in the Goodreads Reading Challenge, in which you set a goal for the number of books you would try to read in a calendar year, in 2015. I had set gradually higher and higher numbers in the years preceding, and had been finding myself more and more stressed out by my own goals. To some, this might sound silly: just read! Why are you counting anyway? But when you are a voracious reader and have a to-read list that is approaching six thousand, you take the opportunity to use any tools available to help you read as many of those books as possible.

So I decided. I wouldn’t set that arbitrary number in the purple box (why did it have to be purple this year? I love purple!) and let it rule my reading choices. I would take my time, watch some Netflix, read some fanfiction that I had been setting aside to get through books, and see where I came out on the other side.

This isn’t to say that I wasn’t keeping track. Every once in awhile, I would go into My Books and check the stats, because I couldn’t stay away.

And I definitely did not read as many books this year as I have in the past couple of years. (I’m slated to finish at about 83 percent vs. last year.)

But if I look at the numbers, there was definitely one noticeable difference:

I was reading more books I loved.

I gave a much larger percentage of books (and in comparison to 2012, a larger number, too) four and five stars. Since I keep to the Goodreads “suggestion” for book rating— three stars is “I liked it”, four “I loved it” and five “It was AWESOME”—that’s a really significant thing. It means from the start, I wasn’t even picking up books that only held some vague interest; instead, I was going straight for the things I hoped I’d love. I still have a pretty good number of three star books for the year, but there has been a huge drop in one and two star books. I was also more than willing to pull a book from my to-read shelf or mark it as abandoned at a much earlier point in my reading, because I didn’t feel like I had to read to a particular milestone in order to add it to my “read” shelf. And as I continue to weed physical books in small bites, I have also started doing the same to my Goodreads to-read shelf as I come into contact with titles that are far less “I’d read that” at this point in my life than they might have been five years ago. 

When you add the fact that I would have had to bring down my number a little more than halfway through the year, as I changed jobs and wouldn’t have the same kind of reading structure I had gotten used to, it’s probably all for the best.

Also, who am I kidding? I would have lost the time for five or six really long audiobooks in that month…two months…after the Hamilton album dropped, anyway.

There are so many books. I don’t want to read them all, but I want to read a pretty good portion of them. The reading challenge is a great idea, particularly for people who want to set goals to ensure that they will read. I don’t need that—at all. I know I’m going to read. I can’t go too long without doing so, or I start to itch. And cry a little bit. And sure, I keep seeing my to-read list growing and growing and the stacks of books in my house doing the same; but they’ll be there tomorrow. And next year.