round the first of January in 2015, I received an email from Goodreads asking me to set a goal for a number of books to read through the year. I figured I’d go for it and it would prompt me to record every book I read. I thought about a second and declared, “100 Books!” No problem, I thought.
Hmm. After more thought, I realized that was roughly 8 plus books a month, and while I dip into way more than 8 books a month, I wasn’t sure if I actually read all of 8 books a month. And I set that as a condition–I could only count the books that I actually read ALL OF THE BOOK. Because I start a lot of books and don’t finish them. I also dip into a lot of reference books and read around in them but don’t even finish 50 percent. With that “rule in place” and the goal set, I was off.
The project started off great, as most new year’s resolutions do, and I pushed myself to be sure that I got in my 8 books a month through the first few months. But then summer hit and instead of having more time for reading, I found myself floundering. I went on trips and worked in the garden and hardly sat down except to do paid work. I went through the roughly three months of summer with hardly any books accounted.
By the time fall rolled around and I was back to reading, I was hopelessly behind. Friends who knew of the goal suggested I “cheat” and read a lot of short books. But that denied the spirit of the resolution–to see how many books I was reading over the course of the year.
Despite my trying to keep this thing pure, I found myself trying to knock out books as quickly as possible just so I could add them to my list. That’s no good. I read things and now, just a few months later, have barely a memory of them.
I ended the year with 71 completed books. A respectable number, I think, but no where near my goal of 100.
And what did I learn?
- that reading for a made up number goal is crap. I spent more time thinking about the number and the output than I did about the content in the books.
- that reading a lot is important to me but reading for content is more important. If I’m not recalling the information, what’s the point?
This year when Goodreads sent me that email asking me to set a goal, I said “thanks but no thanks” and clicked delete. Yes, I’m going to keep track of my reading on Goodreads. Yes, I’m going to read as much as possible and as widely as possible. But no, It’s not going to be a competition–even if that competition is only with myself. Goals are good but not when the objective becomes making the goal rather than experiencing the pleasure and knowledge of the journey along the way.