To Goodreads or not to Goodreads?

It is like clockwork that on the 1st of January every year, I will log onto Goodreads and enter in how many books I want to read in that year, and it is like clockwork that mid-December I will decrease that number to a figure I am more likely to hit. There is this deep desire that I must complete this challenge, yet there is no desire to stick to the original number I set. Every year I think, this is it, this is the year I read 100 books and have I ever managed it, no. So, what’s my goal this year: 100 books. Don’t worry, I’ll probably reach about 70 by Christmas and change my target accordingly.

That’s the thing with the Goodreads reading challenge, the reason it has this reputation of competitiveness is all down to the comparability

I can’t recall the Goodreads challenge ever having a tight grasp on me in terms of beating my own tally every year. In 2021, I only read 47 books compared to the 77 I read in 2020. There’s a whole plethora of reasons for the decline: University work, the reopening of society post-Covid, I wasn’t bothered that my total had dropped so significantly. No, what really mattered is that I’d read 4 more books than my mum, that felt good. That’s the thing with the Goodreads reading challenge, the reason it has this reputation of competitiveness is all down to the comparability, seeing how other people are doing in their challenge and wanting to better that.

Since my first contact with the online book community back in 2014, the competitive nature of reading has only heightened. Goodreads may be a reading specific social media platform, but reading has perpetrated many other social media sites. I grew up watching people talk about books on YouTube and now we can see how much the reading community has grown on TikTok. Reading is no longer a solitary activity; it has never been more interconnected and with that grows the sense of competition.

Readers are applauded by others for reaching bigger numbers, and we become envious of those who can consume so many stories in such a short space of time.

Constantly as a reader you are exposed to individuals who have read 1000 pages in 24 hours or 7 books in 7 days. There seems to be a bigger emphasis now on quantity over quality. Readers are applauded by others for reaching bigger numbers, and we become envious of those who can consume so many stories in such a short space of time.

This is particularly heightened during readathons – a reading marathon in which people come together to read as many books as possible within an allotted length of time. They often involve themes and challenges that guide readers in choosing a specific TBR, and as they have grown, they have become more and more creative and connected. They can now involve individuals creating their own characters and being able to gain skills and abilities through completing specific reading challenges, with the competitive nature prevalent in trying to reach higher levels than others. Additionally, readathons often go hand in hand with twitter sprints and YouTube reading sprints, where individuals try to read as much as they can in a specific time frame. This means, in order to keep up with other readers, we reach for shorter, fast-paced books and disregard denser titles.

If anything, I think the Goodreads challenge is just a formality for most people, you enter a number and don’t think much of it until you fall really behind, and then you can always just change it.

I am guilty of this, yet to touch the new Cormoran Strike novel that I was so highly anticipating simply due to its vast length. Instead, reaching for a 300-page thriller that I know I will probably find bland and predictable, but hey, it’ll probably only take me a couple of hours to get through and that’s what matters. You think this would lead to some revelation that my reading isn’t for fun anymore, I used to give so many more books 5 stars that I do presently, but I don’t see it this way. The fast-paced nature of modern life, especially as I’ve got older, has made me crave these quick reads and being afforded the time to really sink my teeth into a big tome is a luxury I don’t often get. For me, the Goodreads challenge is competitive and does promote the tendency to reach towards smaller books, but I don’t think it’s the only reason for it. If anything, I think the Goodreads challenge is just a formality for most people, you enter a number and don’t think much of it until you fall really behind, and then you can always just change it. It happens every year, I will always participate, and I will always complete it, even if that means changing my target midway through the year, like clockwork.

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