Last year, I set a seemingly impossible goal for myself: to read one hundred books in 2019.
For a long time before that, I averaged only 30 or so books a year. Starting in 2017, I wanted to improve that number. So for the first time ever, I set a Goodreads goal. That year, I surprised myself by reading 45 out of 40 books. In 2018, I did even better: 70 out of 50 books. So in 2019, I decided to push my goal to its absolute limit.
I never thought that I would actually be able to read 100 books in one year. But I made it—barely. In fact, I even managed to surpass my goal by one.
I read 101 books in 2019, but it wasn’t easy. In fact, looking back on it, most of the year was rather stressful. I was constantly trying to “game” the goal by strategically picking books I knew I could finish quickly. It’s not that I only read books I didn’t want to. But it did mean that there were some books I wanted to read that I deliberately didn’t. I shied away from some longer books, or books that looked interesting, because I was constantly thinking about meeting my goal.
Although I did read The Brothers Karamazov, so there’s that.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m extremely proud of this accomplishment, and I absolutely understand why people set goals. I mean, look at me: I more than tripled the amount of books I read in just three years. There’s no way I would have done that without setting a goal.
But I also realized that, for me at least, setting a goal took some of the fun out of reading. I shouldn’t be stressed about making a certain page count every day. I shouldn’t be picking books based on my goal, I should pick them based on what I want to read.
So I set myself a new goal this year: to have fun reading. That’s it. I’m taking a break from setting a book goal, and I’m already much less stressed and enjoying reading more. I can read a book at my own pace. I can choose not to read if I’m not feeling it on my commute or on my lunch break. I can listen to some podcasts instead of audiobooks if I want to (tip: Slow Burn is amazing). It means that I might *gasp* choose not to finish a book if I’m not into it.
Some of that old familiar tension is still there for sure, especially when I look at all the books I want to read. But I imagine that will take some time to get over. I don’t begrudge anyone for setting reading goals—in fact, I applaud them. And who knows? I may try another goal one day in the future.
But for now, I know I’m just looking forward to taking it easy and having fun reading.