When you get involved in the online book community, it’s easy to get mired in this feeling of competitiveness, productivity, and efficiency. Not only are you made aware of so many more books that sound amazing, there’s so much focus on reading more, reading faster, reading everything. There are goals and challenges and, on occasion, people being shamed for reading a certain way.
I don’t know about you all, but reading wasn’t always like that for me. Reading used to be just fun and enjoyable. And while there’s nothing wrong with schedules or goals or trying to read all the books, I’ve realized that, for me, it was sucking the fun out of reading.
I hesitated to share this post after writing it because I worried people might think I was trying to tell them how to read or making my way out to be the best when that’s the opposite of my intention. But I’ve seen more people lately bring up this feeling of reading being like a competition, and how some people aren’t happy with that, so I thought it would be a worthwhile thing to discuss, for anyone else out there who’s been feeling the same way.
To be honest, I never did jump onto the speed reading and speed listening trains, but I thought it’d still be a good thing to touch upon since I know many people do do these things. And that’s fine if it makes you happy! But I sometimes see slower readers feeling bad, or those who listen to audiobooks on 1x speed getting criticized for it or pressured to train themselves to up their speed. But no one should feel bad about wanting or needing to go slow. Reading isn’t a race.
I read slowly and always have because I like to imagine scenes playing out in real time in my head. Sometimes I even like to pause and embellish scenes a bit myself if they’re vague or if whole conversations are skipped over. I like to really marinate in the emotions. That’s just my reading style. That’s how I enjoy books.
And with audiobooks, not only do I want to imagine it in real time, I also want to hear the performance of the narrator. Hearing the emotion in their voice helps me to feel it, and some narrators are incredible and really bring a story to life, making it even better than if I had read it myself.
I definitely got caught up in the pressure of Goodreads goals for a while. Not only did I stress about reading a certain number of books a year, I would stress about whether things like short stories and webcomics “counted.” And what about webcomics or things that aren’t even on Goodreads?! I think I sometimes avoided reading certain things because I knew I couldn’t “count” them. I also sometimes avoided long books, because it would take me too long to read one book when I could’ve read four.
A few years back, I realized this wasn’t making me happy. So I started setting my goal to one book each year. That way I could still track books and have that fun little graphic at the end of the year, but without the stress! And having my goal at one book, surprisingly, was a good reminder to myself and helped me change my mindset.
Side note: Yes, I do keep putting “counts” in quotes, because counts for what? Reading isn’t a competition. There are no rules. You can count whatever you want.
The next thing I need to tackle now is my mindset toward my TBR. By that I mean: I want to start thinking of my TBR as potential rather than a to-do list. I want to be excited and grateful for all the options I have rather than stressed by a need to read them all.
Trying to read more, more, more, use every free second to read, never take a day off, force myself to read x amount per day does get me through more books a year, and yet, it doesn’t make me happier. It makes me enjoy the books I am reading less and still doesn’t make me feel any better about all the books I haven’t gotten to yet. Because there are always more. If I let that stress me, it’s always going to stress me, no matter how much I read.
I need to accept that I will never be able to get through all of the books I want to read. But as long as I always have *a* book I want to read that suits my current mood, then I’m good. I’m going to try to just let my reading mood take me where it takes me and adopt the attitude of, “Whatever books I get to, I get to.”
Having to mostly rely on library books makes this harder, because I know specific ebooks and audiobooks could become unavailable at any time, so I feel like I need to force myself to prioritize and rush. It’s hard to not feel FOMO. But I’m trying! I’m choosing what I want based on my mood, trying not to worry about what might or might not be available in the future.
It’s ok to read fewer books a year. It’s ok to read picture books and short stories and comics and fanfic. It’s ok not to have a Goodreads goal. If you do have a Goodreads goal, it’s ok to count whatever you want to count. It’s ok to read slowly or listen to audiobooks on 1x speed. It’s ok to not read popular books. It’s ok to read a 900-page book, even if it means you could’ve read four other books in the same amount of time. It’s ok to not get to every book on your TBR.
It’s also ok to read 300 books a year and set 17 different goals and speed read and only read books under 200 pages.
So let’s all let others read in whatever way makes them happy, but let’s also make sure we’re reading in a way that makes us happy. In my case, I needed to take a step back and reflect and consciously change my reading-related habits and mindsets in order to do that. And honestly, I feel like I’ve been enjoying books more again!
If anyone reading this has also started to feel that reading has become stressful or not as enjoyable as it used to be, my suggestion is to do the same. Find what makes you happy because reading is supposed to be enjoyable :-)