Don’t Stress about How Many Books You’ve Read This Year

Don't Stress about Your Reading-min

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.

Briana

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40 thoughts on “Don’t Stress about How Many Books You’ve Read This Year

  1. bookescapadeblog says:

    Hi Brianna,
    Thank you for this encouraging post that every blogger should read. The pressure on statistics is too much nowadays that you forget to savor the small pleasures and pushes to aspire more. However, all hobbies are there to make a person feel more relaxed and not to add to the stress. Thanks for bringing this up.

    Cheers,
    Book Escapade

    Liked by 1 person

    • Briana says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post! Blogging in general can be stressful sometimes, especially when we start comparing ourselves to other bloggers, and I’d really love to keep the focus on having fun with both reading and blogging rather than on “keeping up” with stats.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Anj @ seaweed books says:

    Thank you for posting this, Briana. I haven’t completed my reading challenge yet and have got 7 more books to complete. This post has come to my rescue just when I was pressurising myself to read faster. However, I’ve realised that pressuring myself is not going to work anymore. I’m just going to read what I enjoy and enjoy what I read. Great discussion, as always!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Briana says:

      I mean, in the past I may have dealt with not meeting my Goodreads challenge by lowering how many books I was challenging myself to read, but let’s not speak of that…. 😉 Recently I’ve changed to picking a fairly manageable goal, however, instead of actually “challenging” myself to read more books in one year than I’ve ever had before. I’d rather set the goal to 100 and get to 120 or whatever, than set it to 150 and panic near the end of the year, so just picking a goal I’m pretty certain I’ll meet anyway has been good for me. It really does help me read what I want to read instead of thinking “I guess I’d better read 10 graphic novels this month because they’re short and it will help me catch up!”

      Liked by 1 person

      • Anj @ seaweed books says:

        Very true. One of my major goals at the beginning of this year was to read 5 graphic novels which I did! And one of them was about 600 pages. I think I’ll not be doing a challenge next year as I’m going to read whatever I feel like reading. Makes the experience vibrant and what’s more, I’ll definitely get time to review all of them 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Cam @ Camillea Reads says:

    This may sound odd but I feel guilty for reading too much! While I’m happy I’ve completed my Goodreads challenge and have read so much more withing a mont than I usually do, I feel as though reading has taken up too much of my time. I’ve lost focus with other creative outlets because I get so focused with reading, my blog, and bookstagram that I don’t give time/feel burn out to do anything else! So my goal for 2018 is to slow down with reading haha

    Liked by 1 person

    • Briana says:

      I actually think that’s fair! When I was younger and had lovely summer breaks off from school, sometimes I would go on sprees and read like a book a day for a full week. After the week was over, I would realize I had basically nothing BUT read for seven days! I like reading but…it does seem like a bit of a waste when it’s the only thing you do. I know a lot of people who write and have other hobbies do have to put a limit on their reading time. It’s easy to get sucked in and ignore other activities.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. La La in the Library says:

    What gets me is when the 400-500 books read people have young children and talk about all the television they also watch. Hmm. I think they must sleep two hours a night. I was talking to my sister about this a couple of years ago and she said most of the Romance paperbacks she has read are usually pretty short and easy to read, and she figured she could read one a day while working, or two to three on a weekend, but her kids are teenagers and she doesn’t watch very much tv. There is a big name blogger who reads around 400 books a year, but then is always saying that she doesn’t remember much of anything at all and that is why she is bad at reading series because if there is more than a year between books, she can’t remember anything about the previous story. She also downgrades ratings on books because they “never explained” this or that, or what happened to so-and-so, when the story did explain. Ugh. Once someone accused her of skim reading, but the blogger said no, she is a speed reader; but not in my mind because speed readers comprehend and retain and she doesn’t.

    I read 114 books in 2015. It was more than double the year before, but last year I only read 72 books and got really down on myself, but then I realized I had started a new job and my son had been sick for an extended period and that was why; like you said, life. I also like to socialize. Ha ha. Anyway, this year I set my Goodreads goal at one book and have been using it as just a counter. I am more interested in comparing page counts, because yes, a lot of GR members count picture books. There is a Goodreads librarian who says she reads around 700 books a year, but she counts children’s books and dnfs! Unpoked by a challenge goal I still managed to read eleven more books than last year. It will probably end up being fifteen. I dont think I will ever set a goal again. Ha ha. 🙂

    Like

    • Briana says:

      I count picture books, YA, and middle grade in my challenge, all of which I would consider “quick reads,” and I still only get to just over about 100 books per year! I really have no idea what these 400+ books per year people are doing! I think, even if I had a job where I got 6 hours a day to read because my “job” entailed basically getting paid to sit around doing what I wanted instead of doing active work, I STILL would not read that many books a year because I’d get sick of it! :p But good for them, I guess.

      I don’t know if we’re thinking of the same blogger, but I’ve seen similar. I’ve also commented on a couple reviews of such a blogger where I was like “Actually that was explained” or “You interpreted this book completely wrong because you missed x, y, and z.” (Hopefully I send it in a reasonably respectful way, but it wasn’t really taken well. I agree there is a different between people who can read a lot and understand it and remember it and people who are just whipping through books they might not be getting much out of. I do think if I read 400 books a year myself, it would be because I was skimming and not really getting the full experience of the book, so reading them fully and savoring them is a better goal for me.

      Liked by 1 person

      • La La in the Library says:

        One semester I was short half a credit of being full time, so I took two quarter credit classes. One was a note taking class, and one was a speed reading class. The speed reading skills were great for study purposes, but I would never want to read that way for fiction, especially pleasure reading, because it would take all of the pleasure out of it. :/

        Like

  5. saraletourneau says:

    Amen! I don’t do reading challenges mostly because I know I’ll pressure myself into not only meeting but exceeding my goal number – which would probably take the joy of reading altogether. Instead, I try to give myself 30 to 60 minutes of reading time every night, and that plan has worked pretty well. It helps me maintain a consistent reading habit without overdoing it. So I’m content with the fact that I’m on my 52nd book of the year, and I look forward to all the others I’ve yet to read. 🙂

    Like

  6. ashley says:

    I love setting a goal on Goodreads, and challenging myself. I always end up reading what I want. I’m already starting to think of my goals for 2018 and what challenges I’ll be doing. I also don’t stress about how many books I read either, doing that takes the fun out of reading. I also don’t compare what I’ve read to what other people read and that really helps too.

    Like

    • Briana says:

      Agreed! I think challenging yourself vs. comparing yourself to what other people are doing can work really well. Having personal goals for reading and blogging can be motivational as long as we’re not driving ourselves crazy with them. I’ve tried to be more conservative/realistic with my Goodreads challenge in the past couple years, but then I can always go over and that’s fine.

      Like

    • Briana says:

      I think that’s a great approach! I know that, for me, whenever I start feeling stressed about reading, I’m doing something wrong because it’s supposed to be a fun hobby, not a chore!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. jewelianawrites says:

    I knew a speed reader once. She wasn’t reading the words, she was skimming the pages. I like to set realistic goals but I don’t pressure myself too much. Reading’s supposed to be fun and relaxing, why turn it into a homework assignment? I like to take my time with a book, especially if it’s a really good one! You don’t want that world to end!

    Like

    • Briana says:

      The one time I looked into speed reading, it did seem like the idea was to get the “general gist” of the page by looking at it all at once instead of actually reading the words. I can see the value maybe for nonfiction and things like school assignments, but I have no idea why I would even want to do that for a book I was reading for entertainment.

      Like

  8. Laila@BigReadingLife says:

    Thanks for posting this. I set my Goodreads Challenge number higher than i’d ever read before, and now I’m kinda feeling the pressure. Usually I deliberately set it on the low end. I am bad to compare myself with other bloggers in terms of posting frequency and reading numbers, but this is a good reminder that we are all different and have different interests and responsibilities.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Briana says:

      I have been known to cheat and just lower the number near the end of the year. Oops? :p But I decided to fix that by going with a lower number in the first place this year!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Evelina @ AvalinahsBooks says:

    Great post 🙂 I agree about the numbers. 500 books a year… I’m not sure. Is that even possible 😀 that said, you are right. I am going to lower my goal next year because I also want to live life, not just read read read because I have to. Worst reason to read ever 🙂

    Like

  10. theorangutanlibrarian says:

    hahaha I think I’ll pass on the chart that will tell me how many books I can read before I die- sounds a little morbid 😉 Personally I’ve read more books this year than ever before (I honestly couldn’t say how- I mean, I did watch less TV, so maybe that’s it) but I’ve ended up in a slump the last month or so just because I’ve read so much- I feel like I got more stressed about how big my tbr is this year and wanted to read more because of that, but then I ended up feeling burnout, so I’d actually prefer to read *fewer* in the future. While I don’t consider it ever a possibility that I would get to 300 books in a year, I also don’t even see that as desirable to be honest.

    Like

    • Briana says:

      I think the chart actually underestimates reading possibilities for people who read a lot anyway because they’re assuming “a lot” is about 80 books, which clearly isn’t true for some people. But, yeah, seeing a limit on how many books I have left to read actually is kind of depressing! 😛

      I get reading burnout, too. I *can* read a book a day for like a week, but then I get sick of reading and won’t touch a book for the whole next week. I don’t want to read 300 books a year either!

      Like

      • theorangutanlibrarian says:

        Hehe well that’s good at least lol 😉 hahaha yeah I think I’ll still skip it lol. It just seems like it’ll be depressing.

        Yeah, I like having binge reading sessions, but after a bit I need a break. So yeah, it doesn’t seem worth it to read that many.

        Like

  11. Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight says:

    This is such a great post! I know so many people are upset because they won’t reach their goals, but you are SO right that really, reading at all is such a huge win! I also don’t fully understand the whole 500-books-per-year people. Now some I get, if they don’t have office jobs or kids or school or whatever. But like- some people just amaze me! I need to know their secrets! Last year, I let random.org decide my challenge number. It wasn’t very nice to me, I am hoping it’ll be a bit gentler in 2018 😉

    Like

    • Briana says:

      Exactly! I think people reading 300+ books must have very specific circumstances, like a job that allows them to read *while at work* or they don’t have kids or whatever. So I don’t think we all need to compare ourselves to that if we have other priorities that prevent us from reading one or more books per day.

      Like

  12. Jenna @ Falling Letters says:

    Hear hear! I’m 24 books behind on my yearly goal, but I’m not worried about it. Having a goal like that helps me remember to put my reading habits into perspective. It also gives me a bit of encouragement to read instead of wasting time online. For the most part, I just read what I can, when I can, when I feel like it.

    Like

    • Briana says:

      I do like the idea of a reading goal to encourage reading rather than mindlessly surfing the Internet (which I frequently do…). I thin the key is just making cure the challenge is for you and not to compete against what other people are doing, which you seem to have under control!

      Like

  13. DoingDewey says:

    I mostly don’t stress about the number of books I’ve read, but I completely share your mix of reactions when bloggers have read 300+ books. If they’re not just reading shorter books or skimming, I’m blown away by the amount of time they must find to read and/or the speed at which they must be reading. Like you, though, I am pretty happy with the balance I’ve found 🙂

    Like

  14. Charlotte says:

    I did the goodreads challenge for the first time this year, and set myself an impossible challenge because I am So Tired of having tbr books that have been around for years, and I also wanted to encourage myself to reread (those are faster reads because you know what’s happening without having to pay attention). Because of the challenge I’ve also been listening to audiobooks in the car on a regular basis, which has been nice for me! but sadly the tbr piles are no smaller, so it didn’t help with that. Too many new and shiny books!

    Like

  15. Books, Vertigo and Tea says:

    This post is after my own heart haha ❤ I did a reflection post, but chose to just look back at how I felt I grew as a blogger by assessing my "mistakes" (I say that lightly) and better decisions. I love participating in GR challenges annually, but I am not one for sharing numbers too often. We each have our own pace and that is more than ok. I happen to fall towards the bottom as a slower reader with eye problems who tends to just savor books 😉 So that "read"number is more for myself. But I agree, I do enjoy seeing the wrap up posts. Although, I never personally feel discouraged, but I guess I can seem how some might.

    Like

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