Do reading goals suck?

Ahh, the beginning of a new year. The time when resolutions, goals, and dreams come together as a to-do list. For some readers, this is the time when challenges emerge, TBR books get organized, and classics are dusted off, all to accomplish an end goal.

  • To read more classic literature.
  • To reduce their TBR piles.
  • To pick up more books from different genres.
  • To read more diversely.

And the list can go on and on. Of course, that’s just one side of the book community. The other simple receives the new year as a new date and continues reading whatever they want, whenever they want it.

Why is it some people love setting reading goals for themselves while others hate it? Do reading goals actually suck the life out of reading? I’ve seen myself siding with both types of readers at one point or another, so I thought it would be an interesting discussion topic for today.

THE PRESSURE OF READING GOALS

It’s completely understandable why some people hate setting reading goals. They add a certain pressure to which books you have to pick up or even how many. When the year (or your chosen timeline) is coming to an end, reading can become stressful.

You have to read 5 books by the end of December? How about you stress about it while watching Netflix instead?

You might feel like you can’t reach your goal and motivation leaves you entirely. Cue the reading slump. And the worse part? If you don’t accomplish your goals, you feel terrible and reading might be the last thing you want to do now.

THEY CAN MOTIVATE YOU

On the other side, reading goals can actually offer great motivation. In this case, the pressure I was talking about before becomes a booster and it pushes you to accomplish what you want.

Don’t you just hate when the Goodreads challenge says “You are X books behind schedule?” Don’t you want to prove it wrong? I know I do. I love seeing the “You are right on track!” message, I can’t help it. That doesn’t mean that I read just to see that little message displayed there, obviously. In the end, reading is what’s important here. (But it really does feel great to be right on track).

THEY DON’T ALWAYS WORK THE SAME

As I said before, I’ve been on both sides here. There have been times when reading goals inspire me. Then, other times, they’ve taken the life out of reading. That’s because they don’t always work the same and I think it depends on our attitude when we envision them.

  • We could decide to do anything to achieve them.
  • Or we could decide not to take them too seriously and don’t let them rule our choices.
  • We could set very specific goals, like a number of books to read for the year.
  • Or we could just have a general idea and never settle on a number.

I tried a challenge two years in a row where I had to read 25 books, each from a different category. It included rereading a novel from childhood, a true crime book, a non fiction one, etc. The first year was amazing and I was really motivated by it. The second year, I struggled with it. I never felt like reading a true crime book, but I wanted to achieve that goal so badly that I stressed over it. In the end, I read it, but it took a long time and it felt forced – like required reading. The problem was how I approached it.

GOALS CAN CHANGE

In the end, I love setting reading goals. I set a specific number of books I want to read on the Goodreads challenge, as well as having my own personal goals:

  • Read more own voices.
  • Read more books in Spanish, especially from Latin America.
  • Read more non fiction, plays, poetry, and short story collections.
  • Read from all around the world.

What’s important for me is to take them with a grain of salt. I won’t stress like the other time if I don’t accomplish them. If they change during the year, which is bound to happen, I won’t mind. Our reading styles change, not only relating to which books we enjoy or not, but to how many we can read, too. We might get busy unexpectedly or read more than ever. Either way, it’s okay.

So, do reading goals suck? Nope, they just work differently every time.


What do you feel about reading goals?  Do you have any for 2017?

84 thoughts on “Do reading goals suck?

  1. I was really stressed out last year and almost made my goal with 49 out of 50. This year, I set it to 55 to challenge myself but I’m not going to be hard on myself. If I can’t do it, I can’t do it. In the end, I think the only reason I like setting a goal is to see how many I CAN read. I’m hoping without the stress, I will get less reading slumps and who knows, maybe the stress keeps us from reading more!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! I love setting goals to see what I can do, too. I truly believe that depending on our attitude and how stressed we are, we actually read less because we become overwhelmed. Good luck this year with your 55! I set my goal for 50 again this year, but I want to surpass it if possible 😀

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  2. I think reading goals are awesome for motivation, especially the Goodreads goals that people set for themselves at the beginning of the year. I’m not really a fan of those challenges where you have to find books to fit different categories, they are good for getting people out of their comfort zone, but I think they take the fun out of reading. I would much rather have realistic challenges/goals that I know I can complete.

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    1. Yes, the Goodreads one is great 🙂 How many books did you set for yourself this year?
      I know a lot of people dislike them, like you, for that reason. But I can’t help but love them because I love reading as many different things as possible. I just love exploring genres and topics, so they work for me. But I completely understand why they don’t work for others. I mean, if they are going to force you to read a genre you hate, then it definitely sucks the life out of reading and I wouldn’t do them if I felt like that either.

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  3. I love this post! I like to set goals and participate in challenges and I used to get really hung up on not being able to complete them sometimes. Once I realised that actually it doesn’t matter if I don’t reach the target I really started to enjoy them. I find them really motivating!

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  4. I never set any reading goals tbh. My life is a series of aimless events.. Lol. Reading goals is not my cup of tea. I tend to let it go with the flow. As for 2017, I don’t have any. This semester’s uni schedule is going to be superb busy and exhausting, I don’t think I can manage to keep up with the goals. And a failed ‘goals’ will deteriorate me haha. However, I started the first five days of 2017 reading 3 books.. It’s a good start, I suppose, but no need any written rules here

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  5. Great post. I think it’s pointless to have reading goals that will suck the joy out of reading. Where’s the fun in that? I do have a number of reading goals this year, but they are designed so that I can achieve them by happily reading what I want to read.

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      1. Sure 😊 I’m doing the Litsy A to Z Challenge (I’ve used the book title for this but you can do that whatever way you want), the Australian Women Writers challenge (to help me read and review more books by Aussie women), and I’m also starting my Reading Around the World Challenge (inspired by Ann Morgan) to read a book from every country. My overall goal is to read as diversely as I can (so I’m also doing the Diverse Reading challenge hosted by Naz on his blog of the same name). All of these challenges feed into each other, so a number of the books I’m planning on reading this year will tick boxes on multiple challenges. Here’s the link to the relevant page on my blog if you’d like any more info 🙂

        https://doddyaboutbooks.com/2017/01/03/2017-challenges-bring-it-on/

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      2. Thank you 😊That’s awesome, it’s nice to find someone else doing a similar challenge. I’m probably going to end up reading multiple books from some countries, I’m finding such interesting stuff. And I’m not giving myself a time limit for that one. Are you keeping a list of books you’re planning to read?

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      3. Not at the moment, but I’m planning to do that soon so I can organize my reading. I have a list of recommendations I’ve received for some countries. Well… not so much a list because it’s only got two books, but I’m hoping it’ll grow with time haha. If you have any recommendations, please let me know!

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      4. You’ve got to start somewhere! I have a page on my blog where I’ve started to list the countries and books. I’d love to swap ideas though – I don’t have any books for Venezuela yet if you have any to recommend. Unfortunately I can only speak English though. I started off with An Ishmael of Syria for my Syrian book. It’s great, but heartbreaking.

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      5. Well, I was thinking about Venezuelan books I read in school but finding them in English is pretty impossible. I found an English version of Doña Bárbara by Rómulos Gallegos on Amazon, but it said it was littered with typos, which sucks. The safest bet will probably be a non fiction book, but I don’t have one in mind yet. I’ll look into it!
        I have to check that one out and your page so I can see your list 🙂

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      6. Thank you! I’ve had no luck finding a Venezuelan author translated to English so far, so a book with typos is preferable to one at all. Even if you can think of a couple of authors who may have been translated that would be great – don’t go to too much trouble. I appreciate your help!

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  6. I find myself pretty much exactly where you are: reading goals are great in moderation and can get to be too much. For me, a large part of the point of book blogging is setting reading goals and using the blog as motivation. Since I joined the Classics Club or various challenges, the quality of my reading has gone way up. It seems I need a little bit of a reason to pick up Herodotus besides the pure joy of improving my mind! Left to myself, I read too much fluff. With the goals, I still enjoy my fluff but also find the motivation to read more difficult books that give me more long-term satisfaction. (Hm, maybe I should apply this theory to my eating habits too!)

    The pressure can get too high. Too many ARCs or too many highbrow books that turned out to be less satisfying than hoped can really kill it. It’s good to take a vacation from reading expectations sometimes. It’s an ever-shifting balance!

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    1. Yes, I love how you put it! Blogging + challenges = better reading. That’s how it goes for me, too. And not necessarily in terms of “good books/bad books”, but related to the fact that I go for books I wouldn’t pick up otherwise and read more diversely, which makes my reading list less boring and predictable. That’s why I loved the way you structured the Reading ALL Around the World challenge. It isn’t stressful, but it still calls for me to read something different 🙂
      And now that you mention it, it sure must work for eating habits, too! Although that’s harder to control for me 😛

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  7. I like reading goals, but I really have only a basic one: read x books this year and so on and so forth. I like the idea of making it more specific like “read x diverse books a year” but I’m too lazy to actually count and divide my genres like that, haha. It puts pressure on my reading and makes me feel like I need to STRIVE, which is not what reading is about for me. Great post, Esther!

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    1. Thank you Reg ❤ I think that setting a number works great for most people because, like you said, setting more specific goals calls for more attention and it can almost feel like homework, you know? 😛 The important thing is to go with what works for us, so keep doing you 😉

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  8. Wonderful discussion post! (As always! 🙂 ) I set a broad number goal, and that’s pretty much it. My 2017 goal is 50 books. Any further challenges to add to that and I feel like I’m forcing myself too much and I will shut down. I learned that the hard way, lol. I recently just failed terribly at a readathon at the start of this year (DA Readathon) because the pressure was too much, I just flat out quit. I think it definitely depends on the type of reader you are and what type of things motivate you. I do well with loose guidelines, but it took me some time to learn that about myself. Again, awesome post!

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    1. Thank you Emily ❤ My goal is also 50 this year! I totally understand that pressure. They definitely don't work for everybody, so it's great that you decided to quit instead of forcing yourself to continue. I've heard of that readathon and it's so intimidating! It wouldn't work for me either because it's like a competition. I need more relaxed challenges or, like you said, loose guidelines.

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  9. Love this! I agree it’s all in how you approach it. I’ve started to embrace the whole mentality of “sure I’ll start this reading challenge” and then when I fail, I think about what I read instead and realize it’s really okay. Thanks for this post & basically putting my thoughts on goals into words! 🙂

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  10. Reading goals don’t suck the life out of reading for me because mine are literally just based on what I *want* to do, not anything I feel like I *should* do. For example, I really want to read books with less common types of supernatural creatures, so that’s one of my goals. My goals basically serve as a reminder or guideline to me, but they’re not strict or something I stress over. Of course some people do take their goals more seriously, and in those cases I can definitely see how it could be both a stressful thing but also a motivational thing.

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    1. That’s a great distinction you made! What we want and what we should do. I admit I’ve confused them and that’s why reading goals haven’t worked for me every time. I love your goal of reading less common supernatural creatures. Which do you have in mind? I would love to hear some book recommendations there 🙂

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      1. Oh, I don’t really have any specific books in mind yet. Check back with me at the end of the year, haha. I have no idea what your tastes are but last year I read Mud by E.J. Wenstrom which wasn’t quite *for me* but was still a good book and was the first (and only so far) book I’ve read about a golem.

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  11. I really love reading goals and challenges. They’ve been a huge motivator for me these last few years to read more and from outside my comfort zone and books that I’d never heard of before. I think that it definitely depends on how you approach it. If you’re too hard on yourself it definitely can suck the life out of anything, specially reading. I just use them as a way to keep my conscious of the things that I want to do. If I don’t have goals, I’ll never do the things I want to do because I’m very forgetful and a huge procrastinator, so if I have goals and I keep them at the forefront of my mind, they motivate me to do the things that I really want to do in the year or just to set up new habits

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    1. Exactly! That’s how I feel and how they work for me, too. You have a bunch of cool challenges for this year, which I saw on your post, so good luck with them 😀 Also, you’re a huge procrastinator!? I wouldn’t have guessed that EVER. I have a problem with procrastination, I really need to start being more focused haha.

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  12. I’m pretty sure your post is about me 😛 Every time I join a marathon, for example, I always find myself lost on youtube … or watching a tv show … or reading fanfiction (when I start I just can’t stop haha) but at the same time, goals can really motivate me. It depends on my mood too: if I’m working a lot at school, I’m more likely to spend my free time on my bed staring at a screen instead of staring at a page. :/

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    1. Hahaha, that’s so me. When I was attending university, I read mostly mandatory stuff. On my free time, I only wanted to watch TV shows to relax. Reading felt like homework 😦 But when I did pick up a book, I ate it up. I guess it was hard to picture myself enjoying reading when that was all I was doing for school, so I didn’t give it much of a chance. So I completely relate to that!

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  13. I just made an account on Goodreads and set my goal to read 10 books this year–I’m starting small so that I don’t stress myself out too much but I do think I need to read more often. Everyone is different though–no matter what, goal-setting is great as long as you don’t go too crazy! 🙂

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  14. Like Jean said: “Reading goals are great in moderation and can get to be too much.” I like them when help me to go beyond my habitual preferences and raise the quality of my reading. I do not like when they start to feel like an external source of pressure. When that happens, i change direction.

    One thing I never feel I have to challenge myself with is reading a certain number of books each year. I know I’ll always read as much as I possibly can, so i don’t worry about that!

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  15. As long as you have a realistic goal, track your progress, and keep on top of your reading, setting a reading goal doesn’t have to be stressful! So far, it’s working for me, but I can see how if I was behind, it could be demotivating. I suppose that is why I’m not letting myself get behind!

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    1. Yes! That’s usually the stressful part, when you see you’ve fallen behind and can’t seem to catch up. But I’m not letting even that bring me down this year, I’ll take it easy 🙂 I do think organization is great and what you said is so true. Keep track and things go better that way 😀

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  16. Brilliant post, Esther! I definitely see both sides of things. I don’t like putting too much pressure on myself which is why I always try and set as loose goals as possible and try and use them more as plans. I kinda need a little structure so I have some idea what I”m doing and to help motivate me, but I can’t have anything too specific because then I’m just like “nope!!!” haha.

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