My #1 Goodreads Hack

I've been using Goodreads to keep track of my reading for several years now, and one thing I always notice on the site, as well as in online book communities in which people are very visible about what they are reading and when, is that people end up feeling pressured with their reading. Everyone throws around numbers and long TBR* lists, and there is this implicit sense of competition. Maybe you're not good enough of a reader because you've only read [insert number here] books this year.

One particular elements that drives some of this stress is the Goodreads reading challenge component. Everyone can type in their desired number into this profile module and then enjoy a growing percentage bar as they work towards their goal of books read this year.

Now, I like this feature a lot. It's a quick and easy way to see some stats about my reading progress, and I love having these figures for previous years to compare against. I like getting a quick look at how much other people have read so far. It's interesting. The problem is when there's a sense of pressure to read a certain amount of books that gets stressful for people, and gets in the way of their enjoyment of reading. Most of us have probably forced ourselves to finish a book we didn't like. because hey, you gotta finish what you start, right? But that can be made worse with a goal system like this that adds a new element of gamification to your reading, giving you an incentive to increase that number rather than actually enjoy yourself, It can turn a leisure activity into a race.

I decided this year to change the way I fill in the reading challenge. I set my goal to one book. And there, it's already done. Quick as a flash. My plan is to change it right around the end of December to the closest number (ending in zero or five) to the amount of books I've read. That way I get the record of the approximate amount of books I ended up at, but without an initial goal number to aim for and distract me while I'm reading.

I don't think people are less accomplished for having read fewer books in a year. I care about what they read and why. I care about where they were when they were reading, what they were surrounded by and thinking about, whether they cried, or laughed, or got biscuit crumbs on the most intense page because they didn't want to put the book down.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to read The Very Hungry Caterpillar a hundred times. Truly the greatest literature of our time.

*TBR = to be read

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