Being well-read has always been viewed as favorable. It was once a status of wealth and education. Sometimes, it meant you were worldly.
I think its human nature to want to display your accomplishments. Its why we have trophies from competitions and framed pieces of paper from educational institutions. And its why people started building libraries or stuffing their studies full of books. It showed your friends and family your accomplishments. And maybe, it showed who you were.
In the digital age, we have a bigger platform. We post pictures from our fancy dinners and vacations to Instagram for a few likes. For those of us who are readers, we use platforms like GoodReads to show off how many books we’ve read and keep track of our reading challenges. Of course, that’s not its only use, but it is there.
A little disclaimer: I love GoodReads. I love to read the reviews people post, and it’s a great tool for finding new books. I also like to keep track of what I read because it makes me feel accomplished. Particularly, I love the reading challenge because I can keep track of my yearly reading habits. This is especially important because I’m trying to read more.
However, I don’t think this isn’t necessarily a good thing. Keeping a list of how many books I read sometimes makes reading a chore. It becomes a numbers game. How quickly can I finish this book so I can start another and add more numbers? Ridiculous.
Basically, I have pretty mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, I want people to read more. I want to read more. And platforms like GoodReads means exposure for books. That’s wonderful! BUT I hate when reading becomes a number. Sure, it’s fun to see how much you’ve read. And yes, it might be a good motivational tool to make you read more.
But at the same time, I think it can lead to reading more at a surface level rather than really letting yourself sink into a book’s pages. For me, it can sometimes mean I pick easier or shorter books just to get to a number rather than choosing to read the books that are a little more daunting. Sometimes I find myself skimming through a few pages just to get finished. But there’s a huge part of me that feels like that’s diminishing the reading experience for me, and that’s why I have to change my mindset.
It’s really something I struggle with. I’m a competitive person, and things like the GoodReads Reading Challenge quantifies something that really can’t be reduced to a number. I find myself comparing how much I’ve read to how much other people have read. In the back of my mind, I WANT to read more so I can have that higher number, so I can “beat” them. But I also know it isn’t about the number or about winning. It’s about reading what I enjoy, and it’s about experiencing the novel.
So really, I have to remind myself of something important. A number is meaningless. It can’t tell you how complex a book was, how much time you spent reading it, who the characters were, what it was about, the important themes. In the end, it’s that journey that matters, not the number.