Reading Goals and Pressure

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?

15 thoughts on “Reading Goals and Pressure

  1. Great post, we definitely put way to much pressure on ourselves to read a certain amount of books each year which I have noticed can take the fun out of reading when you hit the end of the year and are just trying to read as much as you can to reach that goal

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  2. This is a really interesting topic, Maria! Actually, for the first time ever, it looks like I’m probably not going to make the goodreads goal I originally set at the beginning of the year – my master’s thesis ended up stealing quite a bit more reading time than I was expecting 😅 – and I’m not going to pretend that the more competitive and perfectionistic part of me doesn’t feel slightly like dropping everything and trying to read the missing 20 books before the year is over… 😂 But the pressure also isn’t strong enough to make me actually do it – I’d still rather reach for what I am in the mood for (a.k.a. mostly ginormous 1,000-page fantasy clonkers 🤩) than reading a whole bunch of short, mediocre books just to reach an arbitrary goal I set 12 months ago. I’m probably just going to lower my goal instead, so that I won’t feel bad about not completing the challenge 😁 So I guess, yes, those kinds of reading goals do put pressure on me, but not enough to actually force me into anything I don’t want to do. At the end of the day, they’re all in good fun, and I like using them to see how on track I am with my reading compared to other years. If I’m very behind schedule, it’s always a nice reminder to myself that it’s okay to take breaks from uni and get some relaxing reading time in!

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    1. I like that outlook on it, using it as a reminder to take a break! I’m much like you, and I’ll lower my goal if necessary, but I can’t lie and say there isn’t some level of pressure to accomplish it, especially when everyone else is reading sooooooooooooo much. But yeah, it’s something I gotta work on more.

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  3. Great post! I used to feel a lot of pressure about my Goodreads reading amount, because so many of my book blogging buddies just tore through one story after the other, but I’ve now settled on always setting it my challenge goal somewhere between 30 to 40 books and adjusting it, should I have difficulties. I’m not the fastest reader and my average page count is somewhere along 350, so that’s really a range where I feel comfortable in. I just really, really like looking at reading stats, so for me personally, there’s not exactly pressure involved with things such as page count or most recent release. I just love having an overview of what I read at the end of the day.

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    1. Oh, I love seeing the stats too, there’s something about them that just brings me joy. But I kinda “messed them up” this year with the amount of comics I’ve read. Which is a ridiculous thought if I think about it but yeah. I also should add that because we’re in the book community we kinda have a warped view of what it means to read a lot.


  4. Great post, Maria! I also try not to set my Goodreads goal extremely high because it ends up stressing me out instead of challenging me in a healthy and productive way. I’m going to aim for 45 this next year and see how things go! 😊

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  5. Discussion posts are my favourites these days, so I love that you always write some insightful posts. I really enjoyed this one as well.
    I’m glad you figured out a system that works for you! 🥺 I would be lying if I said I’ve never compared myself to other readers, I think when you share online what you read and you see others’ stats, you do it unconsciously.
    I get you with that graphic novel dilemma, I felt that way too. But you read it, it doesn’t /shouldn’t/ matter how long the book itself was.

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  6. I try to be relaxed about my reading goals, I put my Goodreads goal at a number I think I’ll reach and I don’t mind the idea of lowering it if life gets in the way. I do feel that reading pressure sometimes though. Especially in the bookish community it feels like there’s a never ending pile of books to read and there’s always someone who can read more than you. I try to get myself excited about the books I’m going to read next instead of focusing on reading because I ‘have to’, I mean it’s about having fun in the end of the day, however much you read at whatever size, as long as you’re enjoying it that’s all that matters

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