In the last few months, and for the most part in 2017, I’ve overcome my reading-slump. As an English major post-grad, reading became more than just a casual hobby. Every novel you’ve read, you’ve automatically annotated and scanned for underlying themes. Over time, it was impossible to read a book without ‘taking it apart’. This, in combination with being forced to read novels one dislikes, has driven me into a reading-slump. In other words, I changed from someone who enjoyed reading to someone who had to force herself to sit down and read a few pages.
For the last three years, I tried to motivate myself to read more by following Booktubers and Bookstagrammers, by become more active on Goodreads again, and by participating in Goodreads’ yearly reading challenge. While all these measurements did help me to some extend, there were some down falls to this as well. However, I will post my thoughts on Booktube and Bookstagram in another upcomintg post.
So what is the Goodreads reading challenge?
In case you’re unfamiliar with Goodreads and its yearly reading challenge, it is basically a self imposed reading challenge. At the beginning of each year, you decide how many books you want to read. Let’s say, you read 20 books on average every year and you want to challenge yourself to read more, then you’d probably pledge to read 30 books for the Goodreads reading challenge. Then, throughout the year, you’d add the books you’ve read and thus track the number and type of books you’ve read in a particular year. For many, this reading challenge is a great motivation. You have a goal to work towards, an online community to interact with and to hold you accountable for.
Why I don’t like the Goodreads reading challenge
To me, this doesn’t work. Instead of being motivated to read more, I start to feel bad whenever I don’t read and whenever my reading progress is slower than anticipated. In a way, going public with a promise of how many books I want to read makes me want to stop reading. I guess, in my case, it goes back to my time at university where I’d drag myself from one reading deadline to another. In a Guardian article, writer Richard Lea summarizes the core of the issue I have with the Goodreads reading challenge: “All this talk of pledging, of targets, of tracking your progress, is just another step in the marketisation of the reading experience, another stage in the commodification of literary culture”. Joining the Goodreads reading challenge became not only a chore to me, but started to feel like a way to shame other readers. Browsing through Goodreads, and other book communities on the internet, the more seems to be the better. The more you read, the greater your reader-credibility it seems.
However, I know I’m not the only one who struggles with the Goodreads reading challenge. It was my friend Alice who gave me the idea to set my reading challenge to a symbolic number, 3 books in my case, with her blog post The Pressure of Not Reading Enough. There, she writes: „[…]why not lowering down my reading goal to a symbolic number? I would still get my stats at the end of the year and wouldn’t feel the pressure of reaching that number in time!“
As of now, I’ve surpassed my reading goal of 3 books by having read 19 (For some reason Goodreads shows the number as 20 by counting LOTR twice). Moreover, here are also 3 books I’m currently still reading. Ironically enough, 20-25 was the original number I had in mind for my reading challenge.
Why I use Trello to track my reading progress
As indicated by the blog title, I’m now using Trello to track my reading. Sure, I’m still active on Goodreads, but it is more for my friends than for myself. Goodreads is my public way of letting people know what I’m currently reading. Whereas, Trello is my private, actual way of tracking my reading progress. On average, I tend to read roughly 20-25 books every year. It is a lot less than many other read. Heck, there are, apparently, people out there who read 20-25 books in just two months. Yet, I don’t care. I’m not embarrassed or ashamed of this number. I enjoy taking my time and read books at a pace that are enjoyable to me. I have no pressure to read more, nor do I want to read a lot more.
The difference between the Goodreads reading challenge and my method is that I don’t have a certain number or reading goal in mind. Instead, I use Trello to track what I’ve read over the years. Each time I finish a book, I’ll add it on my Trello board and give the book my own color coded rating. Again, this is just a way for me to remember whether I liked or disliked the book.
On the left is my ‘to be reading’ – list featuring all the physical books I have on my shelf. Next to it is the list of books I’m currently reading. Whenever I’m done with a book, I’ll move it to the 2017 list and color code it. I used to have a list of books I’ve randomly heard of that I want to read some day instead of a list of my actual TBR pile. However, having this list of books I still want to own only increased my TBR pile even though I wanted to decrease it. Now, by knowing exactly what I still need to read every time I go on Trello, helps me to stay focused.
As for my color coding. I have the following labels (purple and dark blue remain unused):
With these easy labels, it helps me to remember how much I like a particular book and which genres I tend to prefer. As said before, my Trello method is a way of memory keeping, allowing me to look back at what I’ve read over the years, rather than a reading challenge. For example, I was surprised to remember that I’ve read “White Tiger” by Aravind Agida and that I wasn’t too excited by it. When I was younger, before university, I never tracked or written down which books I’ve read and now I no longer remember and now I wish I did track the books I’ve read.
What about your reading habits? Do you use Goodreads? If not, how do you keep track of what you read?