It’s December, which means a lot of readers are getting their Goodreads challenges and making note of how much they’ve read this year. Some of us are checking quietly, and some of us are celebrating with large wrap-up posts on our blogs, Youtube channels, or Bookstagram accounts. Personally, I love seeing wrap-ups and getting an overview of how other bookworms spent their reading year. However, the downside of this sharing is that sometimes other readers feel discouraged by how much (or, rather, how little) they’ve read in comparison to others. Hopefully we can find ways to turn this around and focus on our love of reading and what we have accomplished instead.
I admit, I always get a bit wide-eyed when I see other readers proclaiming they’ve read 300, 400, even 500 books in the past calendar year. Who, I wonder, has time to read more than one book per day? Is it real? Were they all picture books? Do these people have jobs or any responsibilities at all? Are they actually reading the books or just skimming them? Basically, I vacillate between being impressed, jealous, and slightly skeptical. (My apologies if you are someone who has truly read 400 books this year; I don’t mean to doubt you.) After experiencing this roller coaster of emotions, I try to refocus on what I’ve read this year, how, and why.
It turns out that, once I reflect on the matter, I don’t want to read 350+ books a year. I love reading, but I also love doing other things. (And I also have to do plenty of things I don’t really want to, like clean my apartment or go to work.) If I read a book or more a day, I don’t think I would have time for much else in my life. Frankly, I also think I would get bored. I read a lot of books each year as it is, and I’m happy with the amount. I don’t need to double my reading consumption just to feel “on par” with other people.
The reality is that if you read books and like reading, you are a reader. It doesn’t matter if you read 12 books this year or 120 books or more. In fact, you should probably keep in mind that polls over the past few years seem to consistently indicate that about 25% of American adults do not read any books at all each year. (Here’s an article, for instance, from 2014.) If you read one book this year, you’ve read more than about one quarter of of the US population. And in 2015, Iris noted that:
The average number of books each person read over the course of a year was 12…but that number is inflated by the most avid readers. The most frequently reported number was 4 books per year.
So if you read 5 books this year, you’re above average. You’re basically a super bookworm.
(Do keep in mind, however, that reading correlates pretty consistently with education level and household income–the more you have, the more you probably read. Also, people in countries besides the United States frequently read more than Americans. So the average number of books that people in your exact demographic read may be different than the average for American adults.)
The point is, I hope we can all find joy in the books we have read this year and try to refrain from comparing ourselves too much to others. Reading is a very personal experience, and you should always feel confident about having read books you like in an amount that fit into your lifestyle (not that we all probably wouldn’t like at least a little more time to read….). However, if you’re really worried about tackling that towering TBR pile, you can always check out this chart that purports to predict how many books you’ll have time to read before you die. Plan carefully, friends.