The Next Chapter: How I Stopped Worrying About My Goodreads Challenge Number

Don Levy

It’s that time of year again, the time when I decide what my Goodreads Challenge number will be for 2018. Will I keep it at 23? Will I go back to what I had it at last year, 20? I know it doesn’t mean much to anyone but me, but the challenge is a great way of tracking the books I read in a certain year. Still, is setting a goal every year a good idea?

Last year my goal was to read 20 books and I wound up reading 21. I know it doesn’t sound like a lot, considering that some people have goals of a 100 or 150 books. I was surprised that I surpassed my goal because I read Don De Lillo’s 827 page plus epic Underworld. It took me at least 2 1/2 months to read it, and there was a week where I took a break from the book and read Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger instead. I wound up reading short books so I could reach my goal. Some short books that I read that year included The Awaking by Kate Chopin and A Separate Peace by John Knowles and were excellent reads. Other short books were just meh, like the mystery novel Frog in the Throat by E.X. Ferris and The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank.

I had picked a goal of 23 books to read this year, but I was sidelined by my move. Looking for a new apartment and then packing as well as getting rid of books left me with little time to read and I accepted that. Still, I have read 19 books, although because of a giltch, Goodreads doesn’t acknowledge that I read Watership Down by Richard Adams and I will probably finish A Wrinkle in Time this week. I’m not stressing out about the challenge like I did last year.

My problem is that I can be a slow reader. It took me over a month to finish The Member of The Wedding by Carson Mc Cullers, which is a very thin book. I also read one book at a time. It was rare when I was growing up to meet people who read multiple books at once. The few times I’ve tried reading more than one book at a time, I wind up reading one and ignoring the other. I might even stop reading the other book.

When I read a book, I like to be immersed in it, as if I were in a bath. When I read the last 150 pages of Dickens’ epic Bleak House, I got caught up in the novel. I wanted to know how it was going to end. It would be hard for me to stop reading it right away and turn my attention to another book.

Too many of us like to multitask. We can’t just watch one show. We have to binge on a whole series in one fell swoop. We don’t like to browse for a CD or in a book anymore. We can just download everything in minutes. And if we don’t like one book to read, we can pick another. Reading shouldn’t be a competitive sport. I want to be a better reader, not a faster one.

In the end, it doesn’t bother me that I read one book at a time. I’m too old to change my reading habits. I won’t be a person listing 11 books on Goodreads on my reading currently reading shelf. I feel that I’d rather read 10 great books in a year than a 100 so-so novels. So good luck to my friends with a goal over a 100 or 150 books. I will be happy with a modest goal of 21 books. And if I surpass my goal, more power to me.

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