The Problems With Reading Goals

by Lexi Cooper, Editor

For the past several years, I’ve been perhaps a little too invested in my yearly reading goal. Every time I’d finish a book, I’d get so excited to go on Goodreads and mark it as finished. As the years grew close to their ends, I’d either rush to finish a few more books to meet the goal (disappointed if I couldn’t finish them in time) or get a satisfied feeling when I had already accomplished it well before December 31st.

Goodreads can be great to track reading and more than that the reviews left on Goodreads can affect readership. Check out our blog where we discuss how reviews affect readership.

This year has been a little different. While the year is far from over, I’m not sure if I’ll meet my Goodreads goal, though it depends on how you define “meet”. I’ve been reading many unpublished books for my job and for my friends who are writers, but there’s no way to mark these on Goodreads.

The website now tells me that I’m behind on my goal, even though if I count everything I’ve read, published and unpublished, I’m actually ahead.

Problems with setting reading goals

Reflecting On Reading Goals

All this has caused me to think about reading goals more generally and the problems with reading goals. As an avid reader, I’ve had reading goals for years. They’ve been very helpful to me in making sure I make reading a priority for myself, and it is very satisfying when I do accomplish the goal.

However, sometimes I stress too much about the goal. One year (both for a class and for my goal) I read three graphic novels at the end of the year to meet the goal, but if it hadn’t been for that, I probably would have only read the first one, or I would have read another book instead. But because I wanted (or needed) to reach my goal, I read those graphic novels because they were short and easy, not because I really wanted to.

Rushing through reading goals

Reading For The Number Or The Pleasure?

I know many other readers do this at the end of the year. Instead of reading because we love it, we read for the numbers. And do we really enjoy those last few books we rush through? Is this the best way to make sure we’re reading? Should we count unpublished books and fanfiction? Do short stories and novellas still count as books? What about poetry? Or about books that are a thousand pages long, should they count for more? What if you read half of a book and put it down after not enjoying it?

I don’t want to try to tell anyone how to read, but I do think we need to be a little more lenient with ourselves and recognize their are problems with reading goals. The important thing is that we’re reading. It doesn’t really matter what we read (novellas, short stories, poetry, unpublished books, fanfiction, etc.). The point of reading isn’t to say, “Look how many books I’ve read this year.”

problems with setting reading goals

What “Counts” As Reading?

Reading, though is a little different for everyone, its about getting lost in a story, or listening to someone else’s perspective, or learning something new. It can be merely for the fun of it, or it can be an intellectual journey.

As for what “counts” as reading? All of it. If you love reading fanfiction more than you love reading the actual book, series, tv show, or movie it was based on, read it. If you have a friend that cranks out a book or two every year but never plans to publish them, read them. No, you won’t be able to mark them on Goodreads, but perhaps there’s a better way to keep track of reading.

time to set reading goals

Moving Past Setting Typical Reading Goals

Yes, there are other platforms and websites to try that perhaps aren’t so focused on the numbers in the reading goal, but I suspect we may run into similar problems with them if we’re reading anything that isn’t officially published.

I’m not sure what the best way is. Personally, I’m going to keep track of my reading in a journal this year. While Goodreads will say I’ve failed my goal, I’ll know that I really haven’t. Even if I don’t reach that number that I initially set for myself in January, I’m going to try not to be hard on myself. Even writing this right now and thinking of looking at Goodreads in future years with this year’s goal unmet gives me some pain, but I want to move past that. I want to focus on the act of reading rather than the numbers.

If you do want to challenge yourself to read more books then join Goodreads 2022 book reading challenge.

For me, instead of looking at the numbers, I want to look back at all the things I read and decide whether I’m satisfied with the books themselves. Did they teach me something? Did they challenge my intellect or perspective? Were they entertaining? And most importantly, did I enjoy them? If I can answer yes to most, if not all of those questions, I want to be satisfied with my reading.

Join our summer reading challenge and find things to read besides your normal novel.

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