Raise your hand if you participated in your library’s summer reading program as a kid. Read the books. Get a certificate and a coupon for a McDonald’s Happy Meal.
Those were the good ole’ days. No one gives us french fries in exchange for reading anymore.
This year, I returned to my reading challenge roots. I vowed to read 15 books, which you know is an unambitious goal if you’ve spent any time on Goodreads. But it’s a start.
We are now five months into the year. I’ve read 12 books, if you’ll allow me to count audiobooks. I wish I could say it’s been an entirely positive experience. But we’re friends. Why lie?
While I see the value in setting reading goals, here are a few negative surprises I’ve discovered along the way.
Pressure to Finish Bad Books
I have an aggressive vetting system. Unless the book is a classic, comes highly recommended from trusted friends, or chases me around all day, I don’t go for it.
Occasionally a not-so-great book gets through. The old me would look the other way while said book mysteriously finds its way under the bed. Now I finish books that I don’t really like.
If I’ve invested any amount of time in the book, I want that notch on my bookshelf.
So, I unhappily power through.
A Bad Case of Reading Goal Envy
According to the Pew Research Institute, roughly a quarter of American adults say they haven’t read a book in the past year. Not one book.
The Washington Post reports the percentage of American adults who read literature — any novels, short stories, poetry or plays — fell to a three-decade low in 2015.
My 15-book goal should be looking pretty good right about now. I mean I have a full workload, home, family, volunteer work, and a growing addiction to the Smithsonian network. Fifteen books is totally respectable.
Yet when I see people reading 100 books in a year, I’m plagued by reading goal envy. How on earth are they doing this?
Three Signs You’ve Got Reading Goal Envy
I can neither confirm, nor deny, that I do any of the following:
- You make up snarky reasons for why they have so much leisure time to read
- You criticize other people’s book lists (e.g., that’s hardly a book, it’s a glorified pamphlet)
- You increase your reading goal just to spite them
Quotas Can Make Reading Feel Like a Chore
I love reading. Always have. I don’t get to do it as much as I used to, which is the reason I set the goal in the first place.
At times, my reading goals feel like an ambitious octopus with its sloppy arms stubbornly wrapped around every other thing that might hold my interest.
You want to go for a walk on your lunch break? No, you should be reading.
You want to finish writing that blog post? No, you should be reading.
You want to see if you can really make microwave popcorn in a paper sack? No, you may burn the house down. And you should be reading.