The new year is upon us, so it’s time to write our reading goals, right? Well, for me personally, establishing goals for a hobby is an unnecessary pressure, so for the last couple of years I’ve tried to steer clear of it. I’m sure that I’m not alone if I say I feel pressure to read a certain amount in this community. A self-impossed pressure, sure, but pressure nonetheless. Comparing yourself to others is part of the human experience so obviously us, as readers, will compare the number of books and the length of the books we read. This is obviously nonsense, but I’m sure most of us do it without even realising.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love setting my Goodreads reading challenge each year, but the truth is that for the last four years I haven’t really used it like a challenge. In 2018, after two years of not being satisfied by the amount of books I was reading and inspired by Ariel Bissett I decided to set it at 1 book. Why? Well, basically to take the self-impossed pressure off and read at whatever pace I felt like without stressing about a number that had no value beyond being self-congratulatory. That ended up being the right call for me.
However, for the following years I knew I didn’t want to be setting the number at 1 again because, after all, I do like seeing that number get bigger and bigger. So instead, I compromised: I didn’t want the pressure but I also didn’t want to have the challenge at 1, so I decided to settle for a number I knew I’d reach for certain and increase it in due time. So, in 2019, I started the year by setting the goal at 30 books, a number that I knew I’d reach with no problems and that didn’t feel daunting. Once I got close, I increased it to 50, then 70, and finally to 80. After many years as a reader, I’ve found 80 books to be my average but I don’t want to set that goal right away because who says I won’t have a slower reading year? I much prefer this gradual increase because, after all, reading is a hobby and I never want it to feel like a chore.
Now, another—perhaps more uncommon—source of pressure comes from the length of what I read. So, I like comics, manga, graphic novels, short stories, novellas, etc. You get the drill. And I would be lying if I didn’t say I don’t check and compare the number of those I read to how many books I read. I realise this is absolutely ridiculous but somewhere in my mind is the belief that that kind of shorter reading doesn’t count the same. I especially feel that way when I have to log single issues on Goodreads because well, those are usually around 20 pages, which is nothing, so certainly that can’t count like a 300+ page novel? For instance, this year is the first time I’ve read over 100 books, but this year I’ve also read a lot of comics—more than usual—, which are obviously, very short, and nothing like a novel. But then again, why should I, or anyone, even care about that? We’ve already established that reading is a hobby and not a competition, so all these worries—which possibly have to do with our use of social media, but that’s a discussion for another time—are made-up and irrelevant.
The end of the year is a time for reflection and these things are something I’ve been actively trying to get over, but I obviously still have some work to do. I think it’s going to take some time before I can get rid of this pressure completely, but in the meantime, I’m going to continue trying my best to read as I want to.
What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you feel this pressure? What are some ways you’ve found to help you get over it?