I have been doing a reading challenge pretttty much every summer since I started school. On the last day of term, I would collect a stamp book from the library and run my fingers over the shelves until I came across something that appealed to me. I’d then walk home, almost weighed to the floor by a bag twice my size full of as many books as I was allowed to withdraw. Those were the good old days. I always try and set a reading goal, just to see if I can read more than I did the last time I set a number for myself to meet.
This year I decided to do the ‘Goodreads Reading Challenge’. At the start of the year, I set myself a goal to read 50 books. So far, I have read 20 books. This summer, I have a new-found hatred for reading challenges.
When I sit down with a good book, something I’ve been waiting to have the time for, to have the energy for, I want to enjoy myself. Reading has always been something I have done for fun. And whilst I’m looking forward to a time in the future when reading, in part, is what I do for a job, it will always be something I do because I enjoy it. At present, I’m sitting down to read, and after every page I’m checking how much I’ve read. It’s not even because I’m scared to finish such a good book. It’s because my mind is subconsciously worrying that I’m not reading fast enough, not reading enough books in the time I’ve got available.
Just like we often feel pressure to have a certain body type, or a certain amount of designer clothing, I’m suddenly feeling a pressure to meet an amount of books that I must read, in order to call myself a book lover. But how do you define someone who likes books? Can you quantify the reading experience? It just seems like another capitalist ploy to keep people consuming, rather than enjoying. I love Bookstagram, and the idea of an online community discussing books, because they are amazing. It’s great to hear people being so enthusiastic about something which is often branded lame or boring. But when the thing I enjoy most becomes a competition to see who can read the fastest, I can’t possibly enjoy it to its full potential.
Not to mention the exclusionary nature of the very idea of consuming the largest amount of something which a) costs money and b) costs time.
Books aren’t expensive when viewed singularly. You can get a book cheaper than a coffee, you can even borrow one for free from your local library (as long as the Tories haven’t closed it down). So you’re cool. You’ve got a stack of books, whether they’re brand new hardbacks or a mixture of second-hand and a few library rentals for good measure. BUT, who has the time to read hundreds upon hundreds of books? Earlier this year, I watched a video on youtube captioned ‘The 137 books I’ve read this year!’. HOW!?
So naturally I watched another-
‘How I read 120 books this year’
And do you know how this video went? It pictured a man recommending I skip out every other chapter and every other sentence, to increase pace. sKiP ! cHaPtErS !
Imagine being an author. Spending weeks, months, sometimes YEARS of your life writing a book, for an influencer to recommend your target audience, the appreciators of your art, to skip out half of it in order to gobble it up in a shorter amount of time. What kind of madness is that?
Props to the people who manage to read such a huge amount of books. They’ve got stamina! They’ve got the power! But I just can’t physically do it. When you’ve worked 40 strenuous hours a week, its hard to have the time or energy to fit in reading so many books. Especially when reading those books has become a necessity in order to prove yourself as a True Fan™ of reading as a lifestyle. Reading is for everyone. Whether you read one book a year or fourty, you’re doing life right. You’re appreciating something amazing that somebody has made with their own blood, sweat and tears, and contributing to an amazing industry.
Stop comparing how much you can read to others. The amount you read does not define you as a reader.
U do u dude !