Is the Goodreads Challenge really helpful?

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Some of the books I’ve read in 2016 – full list here

I read 40 books last year. Hurray! I am sure that I owe this in part to the Goodreads 2016 challenge that edged me on until I reached my goal. However: is this really a good system for tracking your reading?

Every January, Goodreads challenges its members to set a goal for the upcoming year. Last year, I aimed for 20 books (having read only 9 in 2015) but doubled this when I met my goal early June. However, in December, as I was struggling to meet my goal, I realized that the challenge was also giving me a lot of unnecessary stress. Is this challenge helpful for me as a reader? Here are some thoughts:

PRO:

Goodreads becomes a catalogue of all the books you’ve read in a year. I enjoy a nice list as much as the next person, but I always forget to keep track of the books I read. It was very handy to have an app to do it for me :).

Especially in the last few months of the year, the challenge has encouraged me to read more than I expected I would.

It made me more of a completist. A book only counts towards your year’s goal if you have read it entirely. Whereas I’m generally more team “life is too short to read bad books”, this year I have finished every book I started. If I wasn’t doing the challenge, I probably would not have finished The Gaze or Go Set a Watchman. Those two were a bit of a waste of time, really. On the other hand, it was very nice to discuss Go Set a Watchman with my friend Anne, so maybe it wasn’t so bad that I finished it after all.

CON:

However, feeling the need to finish books is difficult in a whole other area: reading poetry. Voor de liefste onbekende, the collected works of Dutch poet Ingmar Heytze, contains approx. 400 poems and was therefore a bit much to read in one go. When reading poetry I like dipping in and out, reading a few poems by one author and then a few by another, opening collections to random pages or revisiting favourites. I hardly ever read a poetry collection from cover to cover. Though it has been an interesting experience to try it this year, I do feel it has resulted in me reading fewer poems than I would have liked.

Like I said, the end of the challenge was quite stressful. I started calculating ahead which books I could read to complete the challenge and planning time to read them. Fortunately, I managed not to get too carried away (“what does it matter whether I finish the stupid challenge anyway?!”) but it did make me realize that this is not how I want to read. It should be something I enjoy, not something I feel that I have to do. Part of the stress may also be induced by the competitive aspect of the challenge: all my friends can see whether I make it or not and I can see how far ahead of me they are (and some of my friends read crazy much). Plus, it feels unfair that big books don’t count double ;).

Goodreads still does not have a good system to mark re-reads, you can only rate books once or change your rating. In the end I managed to bypass this by simply changing the date on my rating of Persuasion to make it come up in this year’s list, but this does make it look like a first read and would remove it from previous lists&challenges.

Lastly, this year I completed my studies and started working. It’s so much harder to make time for reading when you’re in an office from 9 till 5! I was able to foresee this  a little, but it’s still very difficult to plan ahead for an entire year. Who knows what my life will be like in 2017?

Conclusion

Yes, the challenge is helpful, but not in every way. I’m glad I participated in the challenge as it was a very interesting experience, but I’m still debating whether I want to do it again in 2017. So far, we’re two weeks in already and I haven’t read a single book yet! Maybe the December stress did get to me a little..

Congrats to everyone who completed their 2016 challenge and/or read as many books as they wanted to! :) Please leave a comment about your experiences – I imagine it is very different for different people or that you may think that some of my issues can be easily resolved. I’d love to hear your views!

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4 thoughts on “Is the Goodreads Challenge really helpful?

  1. I used to list the books I read on some facebook thing, adding reviews as I went, but then that closed down all of a sudden and left me with a dilemma. I had mentioned the recent date elsewhere when I got to 100 books on that so armed with that – which I now call my end-of-book-reading-year – I just list all the books I read by year on a Word document. I don’t set targets, I suppose trying to read more than the year before, but I have noticed as well that there is added stress as the deadline approaches. I’ve got a fortnight-ish left so do I begin a big book now?

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    1. Oh, that sounds very annoying! Were you able to remember the full list? Indeed, maybe I should just keep my own list somewhere, so I can see it as a positive thing if I read more, but not stress if I read less. (Though I am conveniently forgetting my own competitiveness here, I might stress at the end of the year still.) And yes, that’s a dilemma: for which year does a book count – the year you’ve read most of it in or the year you’ve finished it? Thanks for your insight :)

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      1. I was able to download my reviews and I think this must have been just after my hundredth book so I was able to work out the books I’d read since that date. Reading shouldn’t be about stress. Each year, in the same document, I start numbering for a new year, add the stats to a list, and also put an X or an XX next to the titles that were good, or REALLY good.

        I do get a bit of stress at the end of the year, but then that’s with the thought I should be artificially enhancing the number of books read by reading shorter books. Saying that I’ve just started reading the 550 page novel Sunnyside – supposedly about Charlie Chaplin’s mass appearance in 1916 – so that puts an end to that. And I count books finished.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Sounds very wise :). I like the idea of having a little overview of the books I liked as well, so I think I might just copy your idea, thank you! 550 pages sounds like a lot, I hope you enjoy it :) Big books always seem like so much more of a hurdle at the start, but when they are good enough to invest your time in it can be so wonderful to have a lot of it.

          Liked by 1 person

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