It was at the beginning of last year that I first joined the Goodreads Reading Challenge and set myself an official target of books to read in the year. It’s not like I need extra motivation to read, but doing this encouraged me to get through as many books as I could and gave me a sense of accomplishment when I achieved my goal. This year, I set up a Reading Challenge again, this time going for a smaller target – 35 as opposed to 40 – due to my Harry Potter re-read. But this week, I started thinking about whether this was really having a positive impact on my reading habits.
Last year, there were stories that I devoted time towards and got through very quickly because I enjoyed them so much, whether they were in text format like The Disaster Artist, or audiobooks like The Martian. Others, like Dune and The Grapes of Wrath, were more of a chore. Yet I still finished them: partly because I was at least interested enough to find out what would happen (which, in case of The Grapes of Wrath, was nothing satisfactory), and partly because having my target to think about left me less inclined to leave books unfinished. It didn’t feel like a book would count if I didn’t finish it. (I also wasn’t counting books I’d already read in the past.)
Coming into this year, I had built up a big backlog of books, and I’ve been working my way through them since the beginning of the year, focussing on them rather than finding new things to read. Yet even when these books were good, part of me was more concerned with getting through the story in a timely fashion than properly enjoying it.
This week, I started on a book which, after a few days, I just couldn’t get invested in. But I still felt I should finish it. On Friday, however, I took a break: when deciding what reading material to take to work for my lunch break, I brought the more comfortingly familiar A Short History of Nearly Everything. And after some thought, I realised that I had lost sight of some of the joy of reading.
So while I’m not going to forget about the target, I’m not going to focus too much on it either. I’m going to go back to a more relaxed approach. Some books in the backlog can wait till I’m in the right mood: right now, I’m just going to follow my heart. If I find something new I want to read, I’ll go for it. And if I’m not enjoying something, I’ll allow myself to let it go. There’s only so much time, after all.
Has anyone else ever encountered feelings like this?