Whether you’re a member of Goodreads, or other book-related websites and organizations, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve been asked or have come across various features that allow you to set reading goals each year. These goals can vary significantly, ranging from the highly specific “I want to read __ books in 2016” to something as general as “I want to read more historical fiction.”
But these goals, do they do more harm than good? Instead of prompting us to read with increasing frequency, do they actually discourage us from the pastime?
I just love logging into Goodreads and immediately seeing exactly how far behind I am with my yearly reading challenge. At the moment, I’m only a whopping 24 books behind schedule! In fact, by the time this is actually posted, I’ll likely be 25-26 books behind. Yay?
This isn’t anything out of the ordinary for me – it happens every single year, like clockwork. And true panic only begins to set in during mid-July when that number of books that I’m behind schedule spikes into the twenties. To avoid this inevitable onset of unpleasant emotions upon logging into Goodreads, I have three options moving forward:
- Stop logging into Goodreads altogether which, in all honesty, won’t be happening.
- Shamefully lower my reading goal to something more tolerable/realistic at this point in the year, simultaneously reducing the number of books that I am behind schedule. This would be even more embarrassing now that I’ve highlighted my original reading goal of 100 books throughout 2016.
- Completely demolish my social life, relationships, and general well-being in an attempt to maniacally make up for lost ground by reading every book within reach. This would likely involve copious amounts of coffee, very little sleep, and complete elimination of social interaction, equating to a fairly miserable existence. Picture Dewey’s 24 Hour Reading Challenge, minus the 24-hour time limit and the “fun” aspect.
I’m going to be completely frank and admit that none of these options are particularly appealing. So that brings me back to my original question: why do I put myself through the psychological torment of setting annual reading goals? Are my goals really that unrealistic, or does the issue lie with the actual concept of reading goals?
Personally, I haven’t been able to come to a conclusion as to whether reading goals are all that they’re hyped up to be, let alone whether their benefits outweigh their detrimental effects. Yes, it’s exciting to set a goal for yourself and watch yourself attain it, but then the question becomes do I push myself, or do I select something that I will definitively attain? If I hypothetically set my reading goal to one book, it’ll be completed in a heartbeat, but there will be very little satisfaction or personal gratification afterward. Conversely, if I designate an outrageous 10,000 books as my reading goal, I have no chance of attaining it, and a very pessimistic mindset can quickly ensue.
Therefore, I’ve found my reading goals to be most successful and beneficial when they consist of a healthy balance between these two extremes. Through trial and error, I’ve found there to be a very fine line between overestimating and underestimating, both of which can significantly impact your outlook on and enjoyment of reading overall.
I’m curious, what did you designate as your reading goal(s) for 2016? How did you formulate this reading goal? If you’re a Goodreads fanatic, how far behind/ahead of schedule are you (kudos to anyone who’s ahead, or even caught up!)?
What are your thoughts on annual reading goals in general? Do you find that setting a reading goal encourages you to read, or does it have more of a negative connotation?