Don’t check, don’t check. You’ll just make yourself crazy.
My thumb hovers over “Reading Challenge” in my Goodreads menu.
I have to know.
This battle between my mind (don’t do it) and heart (c’mon, do it) happens every time I open my Goodreads app. My heart wins every time.
My reaction is always instant and visceral. If I’m on track or ahead, it’s a mental yessss. If I’m behind, I start to panic: What’s the shortest book on my “Want to read” list? Can I knock it out this week?
All of this started with a notification that my friend Nici had started a Goodreads challenge. I perked up: A challenge for reading books? I didn’t need to think twice—I wanted in. Because if there’s one thing I can do, it’s put down some books.
At first, I hardly remembered I was in a challenge. I was just doing what I always do—reading with the urgency of “so many books, so little time.”
But then, one day last fall, I suddenly felt a craving to reread Curtis Sittenfeld’s Prep. I tried to ignore it—I couldn’t spare the time if I was going to hit my Goodreads Challenge by year end. I tried to read one page to satisfy my urge, but like with a bag of chips, I couldn’t stop at just one. Nor, as it turns out, could I stop at just one reread. I found myself craving and rereading even more books.
By the time December rolled around, I was behind in my challenge with less than a month to go. That’s when I pulled out all my tricks. I got an audiobook so I could multitask. I read the shortest books I could find—turns out single short stories count as whole books. I even finished reading a book I wasn’t enjoying because it would be faster to do that than start a whole new book—and that was when a little part of me died. When did I start prioritizing hitting a number over blissfully wandering inside a story—new or old—that I love?
I ended up meeting my goal, but the victory felt cheap. So when it came time to set my goal for 2018, I cut way back: Two books per month seemed doable. But it turns out I had opened a can of worms with the rereading*. I missed the days when I used to read what I wanted, when I wanted. Even with a more attainable goal, I found myself making reading decisions based on a number rather than based on my heart, which was a surprisingly sad realization.
So I did it: I quit my Goodreads challenge and got back to the business of loving books. For me, it’s not “so many books, so little time”—rather, it’s “so many books I could fall in love with, so little time to meet and re-meet them.”
These days when I open my Goodreads app, I skip right over the menu and get right to good stuff: hunting for and discovering potential gems and keeping track of my journey through pages—new and old alike.
Have you quit a reading challenge? If you’re feeling anxious about it, take a deep breath and check out this Book Riot post immediately: Why It’s Okay to Fail Your Reading Challenge.
*Update: Rereads can now be counted toward your Goodreads reading challenge.