The Reading Race: Are Reading Goals Really Worth It?

If you spend any time in the reading blog or bookstagram worlds, you’ll find that everyone seems to have a reading goal. I’m not alone in having monthly, quarterly, and annual goals for how many books I want to read. Some people exceed lofty goals, while many of us struggle with modest targets. During August, for instance, I set a goal of reading NINE books. (Am I crazy? Spoiler- probably not going to make it)

But, how important are these goals? Is reading really a race to see how many books you can cram into a certain period of time? I admire the people who are able to read and enjoy 100 books a year, but I don’t think that will ever be me. But there’s a certain caché that people earn when they read enormous amounts of books in a set period of time. And if you’re in the book world, it seems like everyone is reading at lightening pace. So where does that leave the average reader?

My name is Amy, and I’m a slow reader with a huge TBR pile (plus all my e-books waiting). I want to be able to read tons of books a month, and I even set aside reading time, but I read slowly. Probably a realistic goal for me would be more like four or five, not the nine I was convinced I could smoosh into this month. It’s already the last week of the month and I’m on books three and four of the month, and one I finished was an audiobook and not even on my original list. (Note: I consider audiobooks real reading, not cheating, because you invest a lot of time into an audiobook.)

There are a lot of bragging rights if you’re one of the people who can zoom through books. I’m married to one of those people and it irritates me to no end. He’s always rereading books because I just can’t keep him in new books that interest him because he reads so fast. Any of us slow readers would change places with his reading pace. Imagine actually getting through your TBR in record time. That would be pretty awesome…I guess.

So where does quality fit into the equation? Should you read a lot of short books to bump up your totals, or do only Harry Potter-length books count? In the end, unless you’re in school, there’s no one keeping track of what or how many books you read each year.

In the rat race that is competitive reading, us slowbies can say we definitely get our money’s worth out of our books. Some books go at a faster pace, but I can definitely take a week (or even two) to get through some books. The end of books seems to go at a fever pace, one where I’ll rearrange anything I can to finish a book that’s grabbed me. So I get my money’s worth, but I always feel behind. Add to that some deadlines for reviewing books, and I feel pressured to find extra time to read. Occasionally that takes a little bit of fun out of reading. Deadlines mean pressure for some, motivation for others.

I am nothing if not organized about my reading life. I schedule reading time each day (mostly so I can get other stuff done and read guilt free), and I have a Trello board (It’s a free list making app; see here) with all the books I’ve read/want to read and when. If I have a book set for one month and don’t get to it, I shift it to the following month. For September, I’ve got 12 listed and that doesn’t even include the new ones I have for review. (Definitely some shifting going to happen).

My reading goals are sort of like New Year’s resolutions. I start the month will grand dreams and a lot of gusto, then get bogged down in a long book and a busy schedule. Maybe that’s part of the reason I love cozy mysteries–they move quickly.

Reading is having a renaissance during the COVID-19 pandemic. More people have more time to read and book sales are skyrocketing. So whether you read quickly or slowly, you have lots of company. The ultimate purposes of reading are to learn something and to enjoy a good story. Racking up big numbers on your total board can be fun and rewarding, but I think not at the expense of enjoyment. Able to do both? You are Wonder Woman and my idol.

When you read a book just to check it off your list, where’s the fun in that? Now, I’m a completist. I like reading every book of a series, in order, until I’m caught up with the author and anticipating the next installment. But I have so many series going that I don’t know if I’ll ever complete the task. But then again, who wants to be “done” reading? It would leave life pretty hollow. Thank goodness people keep writing more books.

How do you approach reading? Are you a zoomer or a slowbie or somewhere in between? Do you set reading goals? How does it feel when you don’t reach those goals? Comment below with your thoughts.

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