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Our Reading Lives

On Failing the Goodreads Challenge

P.N. Hinton

Contributing Editor

Born into a family of readers, P.N. gained a love reading as a sort of herd mentality. This love of reading has remained a life long passion, resulting in an English Degree from The University of Houston in Houston, Texas. She normally reads three to four books at any given time, in the futile Sisyphean hope of whittling down her ever growing to be read pile of no specific genre.

I have participated in the Goodreads Challenge since 2012. And 2017 was the first and only year (so far) that I failed. Miserably. I pledged a modest 90 books, and ended up with a total of 77 completed. When I stared at the final number before the calendar rolled over, I felt a wave of disappointment and shame.

I blame it on the woeful year 2017 was for me personally, because frankly that year was rough. To quote our favorite slayer, it sucked beyond telling of it. I went through a lot of personal trials that year as well as having to deal with the world at large and that was a testament to those problems.

I know, I know. This is a personal challenge. We’re not graded or judged for this or any other book challenge that we undertake. There are no ancient hooded Bookworm Elders that peruse over each failed challenge hissing, “Shame!!” when they see a failed challenge. Sometimes you just fall short of any challenge you face because life happens.

Reading is something I have always been good at and has gotten through multiple rough spots in my life. It helped when my mother passed away, and I had to live in Houston while my father adjusted to his new reality as a widowed father. It helped in 5th grade when I was the new kid in school and as such the target for all the teasing.

Books were there when my son was born and we went through a gauntlet of health issues and scares after my son’s birth. He had a score of health issues, which resulted in three major surgeries by the time he was four months old. Books got me through all the long, lonely days in the hospital when it was just me, my baby, and the ever present hum that of those buildings. Thankfully, after that period we were out of the woods and I have enjoyed all the joys and challenges that come with raising a child.

Books get me through the rough times now when I feel the walls of adulthood closing in on me. Growing up you never get told that most times, adulting sucks. We all need some kind of safe haven for those times. When I feel like I’m in the hamster wheel of the never-ending feelings of failure, ineptitude, and lacking I turn to books to take me away. Calgon who? Give me a good book any day of the week. I am a bookish person and they have always been my constant friends.

So, yes I feel a big sense of failure that I didn’t come close to my goal in 2017, even two years later. Especially when I look at the challenges from years past and how I did:

2012: 109/85 books (128%)
2013: 112/110 books (112%)
2014: 75/60 (my highest percentage to date at 152%)
2015: 78/75 (104%)
2016: 93/85 (109%)
2018: 90/60 (150%)

The only blight is 2017 with that damned 77/90 books read. I felt I failed what was my longest friendship by not meeting the goal.

Now, once I stopped being a drama llama and really looked at the numbers I noticed something. While there were a few years where I knocked it out of the park, there were also quite a few times that I barely met the goal. And I realized it is no big deal. Things were rough all over that year. There were days that I didn’t get to or even (gasp!) want to read. There were days that were so rough and emotionally draining between pressures at work and life that all I wanted to do was mindlessly crush candy. Others, all I wanted to do was fall down the rabbit hole that is YouTube. And then there were some days where all I wanted to do was veg and stare into space while drinking wine.

Frankly, there’s nothing wrong with that. Being a die-hard reader is not a membership to some secret society that you have to renew every year. It isn’t some contest that you measure yourself up against others in. Being a reader doesn’t mean you have to take part in every competition, challenge, or book gauntlet that gets thrown down. When you make reading a task that you have to do, then it stops being fun. And when it stops being fun, you don’t do it at all anymore.

It is still good to accomplish goals, but you shouldn’t make it all about the goals. Enjoy life and take joy in the things you love especially if it is reading. I’ve made my peace with missing my goal in 2017. Since then, I set more modest goals. I still plan on trying to achieve that goal, as well as take part in other reading challenges that I may stumble across. If I fail it’s not a tragedy.  Reading is fun. That should always be our ultimate goal whenever we read no matter what.