In 2013, I wanted to participate in a reading challenge on Goodreads, but I knew I had trouble with quantity of books read. I made a goal of 25, and as I mentioned, had read 19 books by the end of the year. Never having kept a record of how many books I’d read in previous years, this felt like a huge improvement over an unmeasurable value.
I don’t quite know how I’ve managed it, but at the time of writing, I have read 35 books in 2014. That is only four books off of my “expected” goal (according to Goodreads) and is 16 books more than I read last year! My jaw just dropped doing that mental math; I literally punched the numbers into a calculator because it seemed so unlikely.
In spite of not reaching my goal by December 31st, in the new year I knew I wanted to attempt the 50 book challenge. Half way through the year, with a wedding to plan and, you know, participate in, as well as the upheaval of moving house a second time in just over a year, I realized I was sorely lagging behind on my reading goals. In January, I shared a list of reading goals which I felt were ambitious, but not overly daunting. While I have not stuck to some of my particulars (likely due to the fact that I did not bother revisiting said goals since writing them), the overall theme of reading more, reading often, and reading with discipline has been paying off.
Here are a few things I’ve noticed about this year’s reading challenge:
1. Audiobooks are no longer “a good idea” but are actually acquired, loaded onto my ancient iPod, and consumed during my commutes. No more tweaking of the radio dial in hopes that a passable song or radio show will be playing! Huzzah!
2. Due to their size, I have read a lot of children’s books.
3. Due to their format, I have read a lot of graphic novels.
At first I felt guilty and underwhelmed at my tendency to gravitate towards children’s literature. With so many books on my To Be Read pile, both in my possession or on a library shelf somewhere, I wondered why I couldn’t keep up with the pace I wished to be at. Then, as I gobbled up several graphic novels, I realized why it was that I was picking out these texts. Sure, I was cognizant of their size and quick format, but at the heart of it, these books are all texts I want to read. I’m not picking up Clifford the Big Red Dog with the sole purpose of plugging it into my Goodreads challenge five minutes later. I’m reading Matilda, The Little Prince, and Heidi. I’ve read the entire Worst Witch book series (based solely on my enduring love for the television show I watched as a child). I’m reading classic children’s literature that has shaped the literary landscape which I admire so dearly. I consent that they are children’s books, and therefore shorter and technically well below my reading abilities and therefore “easier” books to read “quickly.”
But if my goal has been to double my reading goal from last year, is it any wonder that I have chosen these texts? On their own, to read within the week or the month, these books are not difficult. But try reading eight children’s books in the span of four weeks. With everything else we have on the go, this is still a challenge in itself! Because my goal has been to teach myself the act of reading often, I am coaxing my crooked old habits into a gentle change.
I don’t advocate for quantity over quality. I don’t believe that we should participate in reading challenges merely to read books we are not interested in, but choose strategically to increase our page count. I do believe that challenges are exactly what we call them: a challenge. They are meant to make us act in the ways we wished we behaved, and they have the ability to force us to walk through the world pursuing our dreams through actions, not only words and wishes.
If you wish to read more, challenge yourself to do so. How this manifests does not really matter, as long as you are genuinely enjoying the content you consume. If you wish to read more often, be aware of what sort of stories you can stomach day in, day out. Some tales require digestion, while some stories invite quick successors. Ultimately, your reading challenge is just that: yours. Do with it what you will, but remember to reflect on whether or not it is taking you where you want to go.
What are your reading goals for this month, or this year? Share in the comments how you’re making them a reality.