Discussion | The Pressure of Reading Challenges

It’s that time of year, folks, when we look back at our very optimistic reading goals for the year and cry a bit about how little of the year is left and how many reading challenges we still have yet to complete.

This year, I decided to ditch the overly ambitious goals and just participate in one big yearly reading challenge – Around the Year in 52 Books. Set up as it is, participants need to have a reading pace of roughly a book a week and since I tend to average higher than that, I always think Around the Year is a pretty manageable reading project that still has some challenging prompts. However, I also always find myself in this same position every year I take part: it gets to the final month and the year and my monthly TBR just becomes a set of “required reading” simply in order to finish a reading project. That makes December’s reading often a very odd set of books and doesn’t leave much room for deviation or mood reading or even taking part in a lot of the fun readathons that are going on. That’s no way to see out the end of a year, is it?

Reading shouldn’t be about pressure. Regardless of our own personal reasons for reading – whether it’s purely entertainment or an exercise in empathy or educational as we learn about subjects or viewpoints that aren’t our own – reading ought to be a hobby that is an escape from any other pressures in life. It shouldn’t dominate your free time if you don’t want it to and, for my money at least, it shouldn’t make you feel like you’ve been transported back to school and you’ve just been handed a list of set texts for that term. But that’s what December always feels like for me because of the pressure of finishing reading challenges.

At heart, I’m a completionist, and I can’t deny that part of this is related to anxiety. I like having things finished and completed; the prospect of having almost completed something actually makes me feel worse about myself. In what might be quite a twisted logic, I’d actually prefer to have definitely failed spectacularly to complete something rather than almost got there. So I’d rather have only completed half the challenges of a reading project than be two off having done so. Like I said, the logic is flawed, but it’s kind of how my brain operates.

(This is also why NaNoWriMo this year kind of gutted me… but I’m sure there will be more on that in a later post.)

So reading challenges, even when they’re meant to be fun and when I pick a relatively low-key one, cause a strange sense of pressure for me around this time of year. As the dark nights have well and truly settled in and there’s a mad scramble to buy gifts for one’s nearest and dearest, December is definitely the last time of year when you need added pressure in your life. And yet, with a culture of goal setting and reflection, it comes as little surprise that December actually ends up being pretty pressured and stressful for some people, even if “all” they’re focusing on is finishing up their reading goals for the year.

This year, I’m trying not to be quite so put out when I don’t reach my reading challenge goals. It’s pretty unlikely I will complete Around the Year in 52 Books because of the number of slightly tricky challenges I have left and the fact I’m not really feeling like reading every book I’d need to read in order to finish the project. But do you know what? I’m trying to work on that being ok, I really am. Because the world’s not going to stop spinning just because I missed a couple of reading challenges from my yearly goals and I’m still pretty damn pleased with the amazing books I did read this year.

Have you taken part in any reading challenges this year? How are you doing? Like me, do you feel the pressure (self-inflicted though it might be) to complete something once you’ve pledged to do it and then find yourself deflated when you don’t? Chat to me in the comments!

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Taking Stock & December TBR

Well folks, somehow it is December already – when did that happen, right?! I’m pretty sure I blinked sometime in September and now it’s the last month of 2017. December means that it’s almost the end of the year, which means that it’s high time to panic about meeting reading goals so this year I thought I would pause for a second and take stock of where I’m at with each of my reading challenges and use this to partially dictate my December TBR. I don’t really do monthly TBRs because I tend not to stick to them, but I thought it could be useful as we enter the home stretch and those finish lines are in sight.

Goodreads Challenge

I nearly always set my Goodreads Challenge at 52 books, 1 book for each week of the year, and 2017 was no exception. I often surpass this goal, but not by very much, so I never aim for the loftier target of 75 or the nearly impossible (for me) target of 100 books. I am continually amazed by those readers who consistently hit 100 books a year – how do you do it?! However, when I realised I’d surpassed 52 books quite comfortably, I did up my target to 75 books and, as of today, I’m sitting pretty at 78 books – I did it! Whilst I feel pretty confident that I’ll be able to add a few more to that number, there is no way I’m going to hit the next ‘big’ number of 100 (especially since I’ve read most of my graphic novel stashes) so I’ll just leave it as it is and celebrate the victory now.

Book Riot Read Harder

It’s no secret that the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge is intended to stretch your reading comfort zone and push you to try new things and things outside of the mainstream, especially when it comes to diversifying your reading. For this very reason, participating in the Book Riot challenge always feels like constructively trying to think about what books and authors you read and how these are perhaps not the most diverse, if you’re not being conscious of what novels you’re choosing. I fully respect and appreciate the Book Riot challenge for this noble goal. Unfortunately, I struggle most often with the Book Riot challenges, and this year is no exception. Right now, I’m sitting on 12 out of 24 challenges completed. There is no way I am going to finish this challenge, even if I binned the books I want to read before the year is out and only allowed myself to read things that would fulfil the challenge prompts. Because of this, I’m going to accept now that I’ve failed the Book Riot Read Harder challenge and come back next year ready to focus on it as a priority.

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