I upped my Goodreads Reading Challenge from 20 to 25 books and felt pressured the entire year to reach my goal.
“You’re 2 books behind schedule,” the progress indicator on the Goodreads Home page noted whenever I logged in—as if my life isn’t stressful enough already.
I might as well add that dismal statistic to the list:
You’re 10 pounds above goal weight.
Your department is over-budget.
The average bounce rate for your website is above 70%, which is officialy classified as ‘disappointing’.
Good grief, who wouldn’t want to just turn on Netflix and binge for the next twenty years?
I have friends on Goodreads who are reading machines. They must be professionals or something. One woman had a Reading Challenge of 150 books, and she sailed past that with more than 200 before the year ended. She wasn’t alone with this kind of goal and outcome either. Compared to those readers, I felt like a total failure with my measley 25-book goal.
The thing is—I love reading. When I go on vacation, I take at least 4 novels and devour all of them, often while in transit. It’s not unusual to arrive at my destination with half of my books already consumed. Reading is a joy, not a chore. It’s a guilty pleasure. If anything, I put it off until all my other must-do activities are done for the day, so that by the time I finally sit down to read, I often fall asleep within 10 pages.
This could be part of the reason I’m falling behind.
So how does a Goodreads Reading Challenge help me stay on track?
I’m a competitive person. If I set a goal, I’ll pour everything into achieving it. This hyper-drive competitive force is a recurring theme in the characters of my own YA novels. A girl decides she wants to be Valedictorian of her class, and nothing will stop her. A girl decides she’s going to lose weight for the prom, and nothing will stop her. A girl decides she has to attend MIT, and nothing will stop her—including an unplanned pregnacy.
If my Goodreads friends can meet their goals of reading 150 books in a year, I can meet my modest challenge of 25. Nothing will stop me. I will not sleep until the work is done. Please pass the caffeine.
2. Visual progress reminder
I’ve made a habit to check Goodreads daily to update progress on my book, so the Reading Challenge progress indicator is right there for me to see. Either I’m “on track” or behind schedule. When I’m racing against a clock, there’s nothing like a stopwatch to kick me into high gear.
The Reading Challenge progress indicator lets me know every day whether I’m still on target to meet my goal—or I’m behind.
And by the way, the panel above also shames me with the books that I’ve started and failed to make any progress with for the past 6 months. They just sit there… waiting, mocking, daring me to finish them. The indicators point out that I could meet my Reading Challenge goal if I’d simply finish the two books I’ve already started. They make it seem so easy and achievable with their little graph and numbers in nice fonts.
Why am I still sitting here on the computer when I could be reading?
3. Congratulations for Success
To motivate me further, when someone else meets their goal, Goodreads posts a banner in my feed so I can celebrate with them.
I celebrate with Jennifer and am simultaneously humiliated by my pittiful progress on 25 books—which I still have not yet completed.
Plus, Goodreads celebrates everyone. Dave isn’t even my friend.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m happy for Dave. Yeah Dave, congratulations! He’s amazing. But his celebration only serves to remind me that I’m still not at goal—and the clock is ticking down to the end of the year.
I need to pick up the pace.
If I wasn’t overwhelmed for being behind in my Reading Challenge before, when I start seeing other people complete Reading Challenges with 5 times more books, I definitely start feeling the heat to complete my own goal.
While setting a reading goal and tracking progress on Goodreads is great, I also see how the Reading Challenge can distort something lovely into a thing of pain. Reading is meant to be a joy to be savored, not a checklist to be rushed and forgotten. Reading is that pleasure best enjoyed on a rainy afternoon with a warm cup of tea or on a beach lounge chair with a cool drink. A good book is as wonderful the second or third time time through as it was on the first.
I never want the challenge to create such anxiety that I dread reading; a 150 book challenge would do that to me. In fact, my challenge for next year will be fewer books.
I’m already excited about my reading list for next year. There are several titles I’m eager to pick up, and this means a trip to the bookstore to wander the shelves for an hour or so—another guilty pleasure of mine.
What about you? What are your goals for next year’s Reading Challenge? Are you going to cover the classics or explore some new authors?
Start today with 4 YA novels about troubled teens turning corners.