According to Goodreads, I joined in 2012. I vaguely remember I was living in Maryland, had just finished my first year of grad school, and was trying to get at least a part-time job, but the fact that I lived in one state and went to school in another state, well, I was probably a bit unrealistic for many reasons. With the academic year winding down, I was a little bored, so, just like with NetGalley years and 2 kids later, I signed up for Goodreads. I also entered a few giveaways and won one. I really liked the book (South of Superior by Ellen Airgood), but have yet to win another book (it would probably help if I actually entered any).
Anyways, every year, I get a message from Goodreads to set a reading challenge, to choose how many books I want to read that year. It’s been almost a decade. I have never done this. I have never seen a need or desire to do this. I have only vaguely wondered why people want to set a certain number of books to read each year.
Always a Reader
My mom will tell you I’ve loved books since before I could read. I have no idea how many books she read to me, and, later, how many books we read together when I learned how to read. I fondly remember getting my mom all to myself for 15 minutes when she put me to bed. We either read a book together (usually Nancy Drew) or played word games. We did this until right before I started high school and I realized I couldn’t keep my regular, earlier bedtime because I had a literal mountain of homework every single day. By then, I was regularly carrying books to school with me (it started in 8th grade because of a bunch of annoying boys, but maybe that’s a story for a later date), so was reading about a book a week, in addition to all my school reading (one of my teachers asked so that’s the only reason why I know that).
Reading has always been just a natural part of my day. Not having an unread book around was unthinkable. I couldn’t even fall asleep without spending at least 15 minutes reading at bedtime (habits die hard, I guess). Even in college, when I literally read every word assigned (I wanted to prove someone wrong), I had pleasure books to read before bedtime (it was a really strong habit broken only by the exhaustion having a breastfeeding baby could break). I couldn’t move into a dorm, or even travel abroad to study, without a pleasure read. I’m still not even sure how I packed up the books I bought in the UK and Denmark to bring them home considering one is about 2 inches thick. The one time I faltered was when I was in grad school, mostly because I lived an hour and a half away from my school for 2 years, so spent at least 3 hours a day driving back and forth. Any free time I had went to my husband. Even then I remember getting in some pleasure reads during those 3 years.
When my oldest was born 7.5 years ago, I started reading when I was up every 2 hours like clockwork every single night (until he was about 19 months old, caught a cold, and suddenly started sleeping through the night). Then, when he was still a baby and then a toddler, I read to him to put him down for naps and bedtime. And then we had a second baby, and I still read to her at quiet time and bed time every day (she’s 4.5 years old). I haven’t gone a day without reading in almost 8 years, and really can’t tell you how many books I read each year. I just need to have an unread book on hand all the time.
The Reader I Choose To Be
A couple of years ago, I started making the shift into book blogging from…whatever it was I was doing. I started following more and more book bloggers and noticed a lot of them setting out how many books they wanted to read each year. For the past couple of years, I’ve followed their journeys to reading X amount of books, but have never felt inclined to do the same. Of course, this set off an introspective look into why (as an introvert, my favorite conversations are with myself, so they happen quite regularly about everything).
It really comes down to I have no real reason to do so. Why does it matter to me if I read 100 books or 50 or 500 a year? Does that make me a better reader? A worse reader? And what does that say about the quality of the books I’m reading, or how long they are? Sure, I can count all the picture and MG books I read with my kids and will therefore have a ton of books counted as read, but I need my reading to be more meaningful to me. Mostly, though, I don’t want to find myself picking up shorter reads that I probably won’t enjoy (because I really love the long, complex, extremely layered fantasies) at the end of the year just to meet a silly goal I set out in January. Prior to book blogging, reading was nothing more than an absolute pleasure to fit in whenever and wherever I could. It was just something I did because I love it and it’s a part of who I am. As a book blogger, I don’t bother counting up until December when I do my favorite reads of the year, when it’s kind of helpful to know how many books I’ve read in a genre. But, even then, it’s not accurate, because I end the year in mid-December, but will read several more books before the end of the year. I count how many reviews I’ve done, not the number of books.
I’ve been wanting, for a really long time, I mention my 11th grade English Honors teacher and what she taught me. The assumption was that we would all continue on into English AP for our senior year, so she pushed us and challenged us. At the very beginning of the year, we had to write an essay on one of the books we read over the summer from a list provided by the school for English Honors and AP students. After that one, well, I could tell she wasn’t really impressed with us. She taught us to ask “so what.” Very simple. Why does it matter? Why did we feel the need to mention it in an essay? What did it matter? So what?
I apply that to everything I do these days. If there’s no good reason for it, I just don’t bother. Like with setting out how many books I want to read each year. So what? What does it matter to me? What would be the purpose? I know those who do decide to do this have a reason. Personally, I don’t have one. It’s just something that will hang over my head if I do (it’s enough that my kids literally try to do this). I have enough hanging over my head. I’m up to over my head in things hanging over my head. I don’t need something like keeping track of how many books I read in a year hanging over me.
Nope, Not For Me
So, no, I don’t and will never track how many books I read a year. I personally don’t see the point. I just want to enjoy reading, not feel like I’m pushing myself to read so many books. With all the responsibilities I have in my personal life, not to mention here, I’m lucky to get some time to read each day. Some days, all I get are 2 minutes when I’m putting my daughter down for quiet time and about 30-40 minutes at night when I’m putting her to bed because she will not fall asleep unless I sit with her. Having a goal to reach is just too anxiety-provoking. Some nights it’s stressful enough just trying to pick out three picture books she wants me to read to her.
Instead, I do more low-key challenges that make me a little more thoughtful about what I decide to pick up. Last year, I embarked on an indie reads challenge. I wanted to have about half of all the books I read in a month to be an indie one. It made me say yes to more review requests and I found myself dismissing some books on NetGalley that were published by the Big 5 that were interesting, but maybe not the perfect read for me. I enjoyed all the reviews I read for those books I decided not to request, but I don’t regret my decision because it made more room for indie reads, specifically self-published ones.
This year, I have another challenge: to read books with more diversity and more accepting societies. I don’t know yet how it’ll make me consider the books that come my way, but I’ll be thinking about what I read and what I have to say about what I read in a different way.
One thing I know for sure: I’ll never set a number of books to read in a year each January. It’s not for everyone, and it’s definitely not for me.
Do you set a goal? What do you love about it?