Since I joined Goodreads (the popular book reviewing site known to most readers) in 2014, I’ve done two reading challenges – one in 2016, a year during which I had plenty of time to read, and one in 2017, a year during which I had to fight hard to squeeze in time to read.
In my experience, a reading challenge has its advantages and its disadvantages for any reader, but especially for busy ones. I’m somewhat hesitant about doing a reading challenge this year because I didn’t enjoy the experience in 2017 (though to be fair, there were a lot of things I didn’t enjoy last year, so my reading goals may have been collateral damage).
As I sat down to draft this post, I thought to myself: What are the reasons to participate in a reading challenge or to refrain from so much as pledging a single book? Note that this is a spontaneous compilation of pros and cons. I’m sure there are plenty more arguments for pros and cons than those I’ve mentioned. You’re more than welcome to share your own thoughts in the comments!
Reading challenge pros 👍
- Quantity. Pledging a certain number of books at the beginning of the year made me want to read more in quantity, as is suggested by GR. This is certainly helpful for people who wish to maintain their amount of reading by making a commitment of sorts or for those who have thus far read fewer books than they wanted.
- Friendly competition. Seeing others set their goals for the new year with regard to the quantity of books they want to read can serve as a source of motivation by sparking some friendly competition among readers. It also spurs conversation between readers as can be seen by many people commenting on other people’s challenges.
- Fight the slump. Last year, I would’ve certainly not reached my reading goal without the constant reminder on the homepage of GR. I was both busy and not always in a great place, which are perfect conditions for reading slumps. My reading goal made me force myself to read when I was on the verge of a slump, which can be viewed as positive or negative, really.
- Tracking progress. I like the tracking feature of the challenge which gives you a good overview of the books you’ve read, potentially influencing your picks for future reads (for example, if you want to diversify the literature you pick).
Reading challenge cons 👎
- Unfriendly competition. Competition is something under which some thrive and others crumble, so for me, there’s two sides to this coin. Personally, I dislike the sense of competition the reading challenge creates on GR. Though competition is a huge motivator for me in my academic life, I cannot stand it in regard to leisure activities which are supposed to be voluntary and fun. Readers will feel bad for reading “only” 20 books a year compared to high-performing readers who gobble up 200 books, and the latter group will just as easily be accused of cheating and so on. Hence, challenges may create a negative atmosphere among the community. This may or may not affect you personally, depending on what pushes your buttons in a good or bad way.
- Neglected quality. A personal issue I had with my reading challenge this year was the decrease in quality of my reading. Unfortunately, pledging to read a number of books rather than anticipated books on the TBR can ruin the quality of the books you choose, as I’ve had to experience this year.
- Comparison to better reading years. Doing a challenge every year allows for you to compare your reading with prior years. If you’re reading more and more, this can be a good thing. If the present year holds more stressful times, this can be the cause for negativity concerning your hobby. In 2017, I realised I wasn’t getting as much reading done as the year before and, in particular, that I was constantly lagging behind, even if I was somewhat confident that I was going to catch up in the end. It just induces negative sentiments when you constantly read “… books behind” as soon as you log in.
This year holds a lot of stress and uncertainty for me (because yes, it can get worse than 2017), which is why I’m more undecided than ever whether a GR reading challenge is a good thing for me to do. I thought about pledging a significantly smaller number of books, but that’s where the disheartening comparison to earlier years factors in. I thought about pledging one book, which a lot of people do in apparent protest, but that seems kind of pointless to me, if I’m honest. If I’m going to boycott something, I might as well ignore it altogether. I promised myself that I’d focus more on quality than quantity regarding books this year, so for now, I think I’ll steer clear of any challenges related to the amount of reading I do. If anything, I feel like a challenge regarding quality (such as pledging to read more books from a certain genre) makes more sense for me this time around.
You, the reader of this post, must obviously decide for yourself whether a challenge benefits your reading or not. For some, this is the ideal source of motivation; for others, it simply sucks the joy out of and induces pressure into this leisure activity. However, I will be frank with you and say that it’s the 7th of January and I haven’t read a single book yet and there’s no goal or challenge informing me I’m already “1 book behind schedule” to make me feel pressured or even miserable about my lack of reading. And hey, the good thing about the Goodreads reading challenge is that you can always come back and start one or edit your reading goals along the way!
Are you participating in the GR or any other reading challenge this year? Do you regard reading challenges as something motivating or demotivating? Let me know what your thoughts on the topic are in the comments! 🙂