Bookish Musings: I Want Reading to Stop Being Stressful and Start Being Fun Again

 
 

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.


Speed Reading

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.

Goodreads Goals

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.

Neverending TBRs

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.

Final Thoughts

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 :-)

 
 
 
 

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  1. Greg

    I read slow sometimes for the same reasons. Often I just want to savor the writing, or particular scenes, or sometimes I’m just not in a hurry lol. I have noticed my reviewing frequency has gone down over the last couple of years, and I think that’s a direct result of me not stressing over volume anymore or having to get reviews out, or read books super fast. I just read em whatever now. So I pretty much agree with all of this. :)

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yeah, I just wanna bask in it sometimes! I think that’s great to not worry and just read and review what you feel like. That’s what I’m trying to do now too!

  2. Maxine

    I have finally come to accept that I will never read all the books I own or all the books I want to read. I am a massive book hoarder though, so I haven’t stopped purchasing them. My husband doesn’t understand that buying them brings me just as much joy as reading them, so I drive him crazy.
    Once I started my blog I found the amount I read per year has become less. Several years ago I was hitting 150 consistently, this year I’m at 40 something so far and who knows how many more I will get to. I found feeling like I had to review everything took the fun out of reading, so now I review what i feel like and try not to get to caught up in the guilt if they are late.

    This is a fantastic post and a great reminder that reading and blogging are meant to be fun.

    1. Kristen Burns

      It’s hard to accept that we won’t be able to read everything, isn’t it? But it makes for less stressful reading. Nothing wrong with buying books though! Even if you don’t read them, you’re helping authors and publishers with the money and making yourself happy!

      I can definitely understand feeling like you have to review everything sucking out the fun.

      Thanks!

  3. Roberta R.

    I loved how you worded this. I have to say that I never felt any pressure to do anything…not only when it comes to reading…because I’m a “Mary Mary quite contrary” 😂 – but I see lots of people struggling with the “bigger, faster, more!” mindset. And if you don’t mind me sharing an unpopular opinion, what good is to change speed when listening to audiobooks? To me, it feels like my idea of torture LOL. (Not that I do audiobooks, but still).

    As for me, I only speed-read when I reread a book for reviewing purpose (I try to always read a book twice before I review it) because I want to have my review up for a certain date. Then again…I just mean that I read a bit faster, or more pages a day – not that I force the book down my throat. What would the point be?

    1. Kristen Burns

      That’s great that it never influenced you! I definitely more pressure in some ways than in others, but I think it was more pressure from my own self. I have to admit, I just don’t understand the desire to listen to audiobooks sped up anything beyond a normal human speech speed (unless I’m really disliking a book and just want it to be over, like skimming). If you’re gonna speed it up that much, you could just buy the ebook and listen with TTS and save money, since the narration would sound the same at that point. But eh, if people want audiobooks, it still helps the authors/pubs/narrators make money, and the popularity of audiobooks means more and more are being made, which ultimately helps for people who need them!

      That’s commitment, to read a book twice before reviewing. I can definitely understand speed reading in that case though!

  4. Becky @ A Fool’s Ingenuity

    Thank you for writing this post as it certainly is too easy to get yourself down with the comparisons we can make with other readers. I’m quite a quick reader, but only when I want to be and that’s only because my attention span is so rubbish lately if I don’t read fast I lose interest. Same with audiobooks, I like to listen in a couple of sittings so tend to speed things up, but that’s my preference and I don’t listen as fast as most as you’re right, I like to still hear the emotions.

    Goodreads goals I’m totally over. I set mine to 12 now because one book a month is totally achievable but I hate the pressure that site puts on me to read more.

    I think it’s time to take the pressure off of reading. I used to feel bad I’d wasted a day reading fanfic but not anymore. It’s about enjoying ourselves and blogging took that away for a little while.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yeah, I think a lot of people have been feeling this or feel it at some point. It’s so weird with the GR goal because it’s like, you could put it to 100 and just ignore it, but somehow it still stresses you out to see that you’re behind. So the lower number really helps. Exactly! We shouldn’t feel bad for using our time how we want just because we’re not constantly reading books!

  5. Angela

    Reading definitely needs to be fun, and it’s such an individual hobby that everyone should do what they’re comfortable with. Reading 5 books a year, or 50, or whatever – it’s all reading, it’s all good! I can see where some of the competition feelings come in, either people reading a lot or always reading ARCs or the newest releases.

  6. Sam @ Spines in a Line

    I love all of this! It definitely gets difficult being in the book community when reading seems like such a competition, but I’ve done the same thing with my Goodreads goal and I like the idea of a “potential” TBR rather than a to-do

  7. Lola

    I definitely think it’s so important to read in a way that makes you happy. I really struggled with these things a few years ago, until I finally found a way that works for me. Nowadays I try and request only review copies of books that I know I can review within a reasonable time frame and I try and read more books that I bought.

    I didn’t even realize people sped up their audiobooks until I heard other bloggers mention that. It doesn’t work for me, so I just read at normal speed, although I recently had a book that was pleasanter to listen to when sped up a little bit.

    It’s hard to not compare yourself to others sometimes. I also try to just read what I am in the mood for, but also try and prioritize review copies when I can. I think I’ve found a good mix most of the time, but sometimes it still goes wrong. I ended up getting behind on my review copies and realized I requested too many of them in the same month, sometimes that still happens. Great post! And I hope you can find a way to make reading fun again for you!

    1. Kristen Burns

      It seems like a lot of us have struggled with this. I haven’t been requesting review copies at all for like a year (except like one from an author group I’m part of), and part of me doesn’t really want to go back because it’s so much less stressful lol.

      Yay, someone else who listens at normal speed! There are some books that are super slow and are better slightly sped up, like 1.05x – 1.15x if the player allows that kind of fine tuning. I’ll sometimes do 1.25x if I’m not really into a book and just want to be done.

      It’s good when you can find a balance of mood reading and ARCs. Thanks!

  8. Suzanne @ The Bookish Libra

    Great post, Kristin. I cut way back on my blogging and reading goals this year, and on challenges, for this exact reason. It was becoming stressful instead of enjoyable. This year I’m only doing the Goodreads goal and then one backlist challenge to keep me moving on those books that have been sitting on my shelf and kindle for way too long.

  9. Karen Alderman

    Yes to all of this! And this is the second post today that said the same thing.

    I do read fast naturally (or I used to) but everyone has their own pace. I listen slow on audio and so what?

    I used to read 200+ books per year because it was fun and I wanted to. It wasn’t because I had to. Then reading became less fun (because of arc’s and obligations) & I read less and it felt like a failing on my part when my totals were under 100.

    I cleared out my TBR last and this year because so many were review arc’s. Now I have my cart filled with about 50-ish books and I don’t care. They’re just mine to read whenever and it’s such a relief.

    I think there’s so much pressure now for what books to read, how to read, how to review and it’s driving everyone away and that’s sad. I decided to just step back and read/blog however I want this year and it’s been great. I’m not as active but I’m happy. And I’m glad you’re finding your own reading groove too.

    Karen @ For What It’s Worth

    1. Kristen Burns

      I haven’t seen the other post, that’s cool someone else is talking about it too!

      Exactly, I’ve never felt bad about my reading speed, I’m in no hurry. It makes me sad to think other people do feel bad or feel like they have to learn to go faster.

      I think that’s one of the problems with number goals, that if we read less one year than we did a previous year, it can feel like a failure. But it shouldn’t, cuz we’re just reading for fun.

      I’m also glad you’re finding your reading groove :-)

  10. Laura @BlueEyeBooks

    I absolutely love this, Kristen. Part of the reason why I dropped off the grid for a year and a half was because of all this unspoken pressure to be endlessly productive instead of actually enjoying reading. And I wanted to enjoy reading again. I hadn’t thought of setting my Goodreads goal to 1 book but I love that idea. It’s a continual source of stress for me to go onto Goodreads and always see that I’m so behind on my goal. I wish you all the best in lowering your stress and thank you for lowering mine!

    1. Kristen Burns

      I’m glad you’re making reading more enjoyable again too! I definitely recommend the one book GR goal. It sounds like it wouldn’t work, because you can just put any number and choose not to worry about it, but somehow it does help!

  11. Dianthaa @ Dianthaa Dabbles

    I’ve got a tendency to over-plan, because I just love spreadsheets and organizing my TBR, I’d meant to take it easier this year with lighter goals but I ended up reading even more than last year because of staying home.

    1. Kristen Burns

      It’s interesting how the pandemic is affecting everyone’s reading differently. But whatever works for you is great! I don’t use spreadsheets for my TBR, but I do use them for other bookish things, so I agree they’re great!

  12. Mary Kirkland

    I get this so much. I stopped reading everything that was emailed to me because some books just weren’t for me but I felt obligated to read them if someone wanted me to. Now I read what I want, review it and if others like it, cool. If not, that’s ok too.

    I read fast, I always have. But hubby reads slow and there’s nothing wrong with that.

    1. Kristen Burns

      I’m glad you found your way to make reading fun again :-) No one should feel obligated to read certain books just because people want them to!

      Exactly, nothing wrong with fast or slow reading speed, as long as it’s the right speed for you!

  13. Molly @ Molly's Book Nook

    I am a verrrrry slow reader. If I read fast, I don’t remember a thing. On the other hand, I listen to audiobooks at like 2 – 2.5x speed lol I just can’t do 1x because it’s sooooo slow for me that I end up getting distracted. >.< Also, yes to a TBR not being a to-do list! Ever since my blogging hiatus, I don't view it as a to do list anymore but I sure did a couple years ago and it's so stressful! That's also why I stopped requesting arcs and don't agree to time-frame reviews most of the time.

    1. Kristen Burns

      That’s interesting that you read slow but listen fast! But whatever works for you :-) I haven’t been requesting ARCs either, only occasionally accepting books form authors I’ve worked with before, and it’s so much less stressful. It means I can’t get all the books I want, but honestly idk if I ever want to go back.

  14. Eline @ Lovely Audiobooks

    You make really good points here! Sometimes, when I learn someone listens to twice as many audiobooks a year as I, it does make me want to step things up :-D But competitiveness really doesn’t improve the book experience. I recently listened to an audiobook right after release that was kind of a big deal. So I wanted to make sure I could say a few things about it and so on… Well… I actually ended up skipping parts of this book because I simply wasn’t in the mood for a story like that. And it was such a shame because I know that at other times, I would have enjoyed this so much more. Instead, I pressured myself into reading it right away and that made it only feel like a chore.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Thanks! It really can be hard not to feel the pressure. Mood reading is so hard, and it really does affect enjoyment to read a book when you’re not in the right mood.

  15. Sam@wlabb

    Sorry you feel this way. I only felt a bit of pressure in the beginning, when I used to worry about engagement and that usually came with featuring the “right” books. Now I read what I want. I have been requesting less review books, so I could have more freedom with my reading. I am not about the speed reading. I like to sit back and enjoy my book. I do happen to read books that “read fast”. They are not dense or overly long, but they are the genre I like to read. I am about the reading challenges though. I have many ongoing challenges that I participate in, but I don’t stress if I cannot check of the category or whatnot. I need goals and like the structure.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yeah, engagement can be another added pressure. As long as you’re happy with the books and speed you’re reading, then it’s great! See I don’t think I can do that with reading challenges. Or maybe I could, but then I’d just end up completely failing all the challenges cuz of mood reading and there’d be no point, haha. I’m glad the challenges work for you though!

  16. Ronyell (a.k.a Rabbitearsblog)

    Awesome post! I also tend to read slowly myself because that’s the speed I’m most comfortable with and I can get into the book much better without rushing through anything. Also, I’m thinking about adjusting my Goodreads goal to read less books each year in order to not cause any stress to myself.-

  17. Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    I never thought about the fact that talking about listening to audiobooks faster might come off as me chastising people for wanting to listen at normal speed. Personally, I can’t handle the slow reading unless I’m trying to fall asleep, but I hope I never made it seem like that was the “right” way!

    I love your attitude about Goodreads goals. I set mine at a reasonably low number (for me) and then let myself feel happy when I pass it. :-) I also recently read on another blog about someone who was stressing over whether or not to mark a certain book read and count it towards their goal and I gave them the same advice you said here—basically, you do you. No one’s keeping track of your Goodreads goal and worrying about whether your books should have been counted or not (or at least they shouldn’t be!).

    And as for my TBR, it’s way out of control and I just don’t even pretend that it’s a list of books I’m actually going to read. It’s like a suggestion list—a maybe someday list.

    Great post!