discussion

Let’s Chat // Re-Thinking Reading Goals

Hello everyone!

Today I thought I’d sit down and be honest, to myself and to you guys. A bit of a disclaimer before I get started: I don’t want to offend anyone with this post. It’s not my intention to say that this is the “right” approach or even that there is a right approach when it comes to reading. I am just spewing out my feelings.

Over the past while, I’ve been thinking about my reading goals. I read 55 books in 2017 and 51 books in 2018. My 2019 reading goal was 50 books, and I thought that would be very realistic because of my pattern so far, but…….. right now I am at a whopping 13.

And reality check. It’s the beginning of June, meaning that we’re almost halfway through 2019. Yep. It’s looking kind of abysmal right now. My chances of getting to 50 books is very, very low.

I’m the type of person who likes numbers. And that’s because I like to make progress so I can feel like I am doing something. I love setting word count goals for myself when I am writing, I get happy when my blog stats are looking good (and conversely, get sad when my blog stats look book.) I love it when I can say I read 6 or 7 or 8 books a month, and I feel pretty bad about myself when I can only manage 1 or 2.

But one thing that popped to my mind is… Why is the number of books I read so important to me? Is it about quantity? It occurs to me that I like numbers so much because it is an objective way to measure things. We can count the number of books we read, but it’s harder to measure how much we enjoy the book, or how much joy it brings to our lives.

But in reality, I would rather read one great book rather than two or more that I dislike.

I noticed that in the past, my eagerness to meet my own reading goals gave me some bad habits that maybe deterred me from reading some books that I would have otherwise enjoyed:

1) I stayed away from long books.

Knowing that longer books take a longer time to read than shorter ones, and that this would count as fewer books when it came to my word count goal, I reached more for the shorter books on my Goodreads TBR. (Although this was also because of my super short attention span and my need for fast-paced fiction.) Does this make sense? No it doesn’t! I could have totally been missing out on amazing books that were simply long.

2) I leaned more towards books that were easier to read.

Along a similar line of thinking, my need to read MORE books drove me to choose books that were easier and faster to read, which meant lighter books rather than ones that required more thought and time to digest.

3) I felt pressured to read more… and it made reading less fun.

There were days when I forced myself to read even when I didn’t feel like it, and isn’t this a sure-fire way to get into a reading slump? Reading is a hobby. It should be something we enjoy. Yet when I was trying to read more and more to achieve a numerical goal, it kind of felt like a chore.

So……. I gave it a long thought and decided to tone down on my reading goals.

Instead of focusing on the number of books I read per month or per year, I want to choose books that I really want to read for their content. I want to read long books if I feel like it, and I want to read books from different genres and with different writing styles. I want to read books when I feel like it and… take a break from reading if I’m really not feeling it.

Bottom line is, I’m not going to stop reading. (NEVER!) I just want to think about reading in a different way than I do now.

How do you decide on a reading goal? Have you ever let your reading goal influence your choice of books? Have you ever changed your reading goal?

Photo by Janko Ferlič on Unsplash

25 thoughts on “Let’s Chat // Re-Thinking Reading Goals

  1. Great post, Sophie! I think many people felt the same last year (or was it the year before?) and it caused them to set their goodreads goal to 1 book only. That way, they can see their goal is achieved and they can read more books they enjoyed, instead of being pressured by the numbers 🙂 I’d love to try it one day, but I always love goals too ahaha. I just love the feeling of ticking things off my to-do list. I usually set my goal based on my reading the previous year and the upcoming academic events/life goals in general. And if I can’t reach it, that’s alright! I’ll just lower it at some point. It disappoint me a bit, yes, but at the end of the day, what matters is I enjoyed all the books I read, instead of missing on some great books because of the goals I’m trying to chase 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Tasya! That’s an interesting idea to set the goodreads goal to 1 haha- that way you can’t really fail! I also like goals, which is why I’ll probably go with a realistic goal that is still a bit challenging for me 🙂
      Yes I think it’s good for us to not be too hard on ourselves when we don’t reach our goals! What matters is being able to enjoy the books that we read.

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  2. I read 35 in 2017, 50 in 2018, and so I thought I wanted to make my goal to read 65 books to keep a steady increase. Instead I made a reading goal of 30 books. I realized even if I managed to read 100 books in a year, only about 10%-20% would be my Top Favorite category. I want to start reading for quality, like you said. If I set my Goodreads goal high I start to feel like I’m falling behind. I think the pressure ends up causing me to either read less or not enjoy reading at all. I enjoyed this post, thanks for sharing 🙂

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    1. Hello! Yes I know completely what you mean 🙂 Reading more books does not mean that we will end up choosing better books! In the end it is better to set our goals lower if it means that we can enjoy more of what we read. I am so glad that you can relate to this post. Thank you 🙂

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  3. The length of a book jumps right into my mind when people talk about how many books they’ve read. It’s different if you read 100 pages vs 500 pages. And all your other points make sense, too.

    I think you made a great realization. Now go back to enjoying reading.

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    1. Absolutely! One can read 100 books that are under 100 pages, or 10 books that are 1000 pages, so we shouldn’t judge our progress based on the number of books that we’ve read! Thank you 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I do make goals, but I try not to be upset if I don’t make them. I keep my GR’s goal lower than the amount I usually read per year so I feel better about myself. Silly, I know. But it helps. I joined a lot of challenges for the first time this year and I’m just hoping I do ok on them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right that we shouldn’t be too harsh on ourselves when it comes to not meeting our goals. It’s a good idea to set a lower goal so we won’t end up feeling pressured 🙂 I only have one reading challenge so far this year. I tend to be a mood reader, so I don’t want to restrict my choice of what to read too much haha.

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  5. I also like to create goals for myself but I also find myself struggling and trying to power through towards the end of the year just to reach my goal. This year I’ve set a more realistic goal and I really am enjoying reading more. This was a really interesting post and I hope you get to read some truly great books now that you’ve changed your goals!

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    1. Hi Darina! That’s great to hear that you’re enjoying reading more this year. It’s good to dial back on our reading goals if it means we will be more relaxed and have a better time reading. After all, reading is a hobby right? 🙂 Thank you! I’ve definitely ventured outside of my comfort zone since I’ve changed my reading goal. Now I am reading a much more longer classic book which is different in a good way 🙂

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  6. I think your post is so important, especially for other book bloggers to think about. I think in an effort to produce a lot of content, bloggers are constantly placing enormous pressure on themselves to “outdo” their own stats from the previous week, month, or year. I know when I started bumping up my personal reading goals from 25 books a year to 50, and then to 100 – my enjoyment of reading starting to change as well.

    Sure, I had a sense of accomplishment from finishing that many books, but like you I can’t help but think that this drive towards quantity over quality can’t be totally healthy. I definitely miss taking my time with books like I used to when I was a kid. Getting lost in Harry Potter over the course of a summer break from school was not unheard of for me. Now? I would probably read one HP book in 1-2 days!

    It’s harder to remember characters and plotlines when I read so quickly, so I take a lot more notes now than I used to. And, like you, I found last year that I was avoiding longer books in favor of short ones that I knew I could burn through. I ended up burning out and taking a hiatus.

    It’s so important that we not forget what made us passionate about reading and reviewing in the first place: that love we have for books. I take my time now. I haven’t even set a reading goal for 2019 and while that feels really strange, I feel like I’m under less pressure now because of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Bentley! You are right that we have a lot of pressure as book bloggers to generate content. There are always new books that we need to read and review to stay up-to-date. When I see fellow book bloggers reading more books than I do, I feel like I need to do better.
      However you’re right that we should read books because we enjoy reading, and not force ourselves to read books just for the sense of accomplishment of having read a book. That’s awesome that you’ve decided to not set a reading goal for this year, and sounds like it’s working for you so far 🙂
      Thank you for your thoughtful comment!

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  7. This is a really profound post Sophie! I don’t judge people based on their reading habits but it would be a lie if I didn’t admit I felt so strong a connection here! You see, you have reached the same conclusions I did years ago and it is a sense of pride and satisfaction to see such a person like you, who I respect and admire, following the same line of thought. Needless to say that my reading became so much more fulfilling and broader. It will take some time to get used to this new approach to reading but it is my belief that you will enjoy it more!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Michael! I’m glad to hear that you can relate, and that you had been through a similar experience in the past. That’s great that you are enjoying reading even more now 🙂 Right now I am finding that I don’t feel as pressured about reading quickly and I am more willing to read outside my comfort zone.

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  8. I love this post so much! I feel like both setting a goodreads goal and being in the blogging community has made me somehow want to reach all of the reading goals and made me want to read more, which is both great and frustrating. I’m loving that I’m getting to read more, but… well I feel like sometimes I’m also rushing through it all? I’m trying to take it a little easier and, most importantly, to remember to enjoy reading and not lose the love for it all 🙂
    Loved this post 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Marie! I agree. I’ve read so much more ever since I’ve joined the blogging community and it’s a wonderful thing. At the same time, I’ve definitely felt like I am rushing through the books that I read and not taking the time to enjoy them as much as would like to. It’s a balance I think 🙂 Thank you ❤

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  9. Oh I really liked this post, Sophie! I totally feel you, as I sometimes catch myself getting a bit pushed by the numbers as well. I love the Goodreads Reading Challenge, as it motivated me to read more and get back to my love for books, but sometimes all the numbers can add pressured to. I have since given up very long, strict TBR’s and allow my reading to change with my current situation, that was really helpful to me 😊

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    1. Hi Caro! I’m glad that you can relate. Yes it can definitely feel pressurizing when we are too strict on our goals which can make reading less fun. It sounds like being flexible with your goals and TBR is working for you so far which is great 🙂 That’s definitely my approach going forward this year too!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Definitely 🙂 Goals are great and it’s awesome that the book community motivated me to read more than I ever did before, but it can create a pressure when I am too strict with my goals haha. Thank you 🙂

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  10. Wow, I loved your honesty in this post, Sophie! I don’t think anyone would be offended by your viewpoint, though, haha. Even without your disclaimer, you made it abundantly clear that you were talking about your own experiences, rather than expecting others to follow your reading style.

    Over the past several months, as you know, I’ve been focusing more on my quality of life, rather than on being brutally and relentlessly productive. Yes, I still feel sad that I don’t work as fast as I used to, but I’m also glad that I have a lot more respect for my health and wellbeing compared to before. I also put more focus on learning, rather than just on consuming and producing.

    Speaking of learning, I was concentrating on setting descriptions at first, since that is my main weak point. But then, I got distracted and started looking at character arcs, realistic character change, emotional tension, the emotional power that draws you through the whole story, etc. I suppose that it’s unrealistic to expect myself to stick to one learning goal at a time, and I do appreciate learning more about these things (characters and emotional tension), but I want to look more at setting description again, because I really need help on that.

    Plus, I find that rereading books can be very helpful, since I can pay attention to specific aspects I want to learn, rather than to be so sucked into the story that I barely pay attention to the author’s technique. I don’t have to read the whole book again cover to cover, but I can just read the sections relevant to my learning goals (e.g. just focusing on the setting descriptions). I had a lot of fun re-downloading a ton of books I loved, including French and Chinese books. It was eye-opening to reread them, because I’m now examining these stories with the eyes of someone who is far more experienced in writing than I was when I first read these novels.

    Being obsessed with reading quantity would probably discourage you from re-reading books, let alone re-reading only specific sections of these books, lol! I’m not judging anyone here, because my fixation on reading tons of new books, obstructed me from re-reading and re-examining old books too, which would have helped me a lot in learning about writing.

    Hehe on reading short books, did I tell you that some of the books I put on Goodreads are short stories and novellas? 🤣 But yes, it’s nice to permit yourself to read longer and harder books, now that you can let go of strict reading goals.

    For my personal approach, I still like to set a numerical reading goal (the Goodreads reading challenge), but I would set a realistic goal that matches my life situation. I am basically only working part-time, since I’m just doing my practicum placement right now, and I have no pets or family to take care of; so reading 50 books in a year is actually realistic for me. When I get a full-time job one day, I may not be able to read that fast, and that’s okay. I love numbers too, but probably not because they are an objective measure. I find numbers comforting: they’re like footholds and handholds on a rock-climbing wall to me. Without numbers, I feel lost and adrift. With numbers, I can anchor myself and navigate more confidently. (It’s like navigating in a place with street names, versus navigating in a place with no street names or any names at all.). But as an overly high goal is unrealistic and leads to unhealthy compromises, such as neglecting longer and harder books, setting a realistic reading goal seems to be the best option for me.

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    1. Haha yes, I love numbers too. It’s nice to have something to keep track of and to use to tell ourselves “hey we’re going towards our goal!” However unfortunately it’s discomforting when I fall short of my goal, which means that I have to re-evaluate things a bit 🙂

      I agree that it’s a good idea to reread books, not just for the story but to learn from it as writers! You’re right that when we read a book for the first time, we’re mainly experiencing the story and getting to know the characters, we’re not really focusing on the techniques of writing that the writer uses. I recently met a friend who is an English major who studies the prose in her favourite books (she also rereads books that she dislikes in order to find out why she dislikes them haha.)

      I’m still figuring out what I need to focus on when it comes to writing. I want to be a better writer in general but I guess I’ll have to be more specific with my goals hahaha XD

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