Celebrate What You Read This Year, Not What You Didn’t

For book bloggers and other bookish influencers, the end of the year means round-ups: lists of what we loved, lists of what we didn’t, lists of what we read in total.  This should be a time of joy and reflection, a look back of all we experienced this year, both as individuals and as a community of readers.  But often it’s a time of disgruntlement and jealousy, when we look around and wonder, How did everyone else read so much more than I did?

So let this be your annual reminder from me that reading is not a competition, and even if it were, we’re not all playing with equal resources on a level field.  We should all be happy about what we read this year, whether it was a little or a lot.

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Most Americans only read an average of 4 books a year

In 2016, Pew Research reported that:

Americans read an average (mean) of 12 books per year, while the typical (median) American has read 4 books in the last 12 months. Each of these figures is largely unchanged since 2011, when Pew Research Center first began conducting surveys of Americans’ book reading habits.


More recently:

Roughly a quarter of American adults (23%) say they haven’t read a book in whole or in part in the past year, whether in print, electronic or audio form, according to a Pew Research Center survey of U.S. adults conducted Jan. 25-Feb. 8, 2021.


So if you’ve read five books this year, you’re already ahead. You don’t need to have read 50 or 100 or 365 to be a reader or even an “avid” reader.

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Everyone’s Circumstances Are Different

Not everyone has the same access to books or to time to spend reading. When I see people who claim to have read 300+ books in a year, I try to remember their circumstances are different from mine. “How much” one reads can based on a variety of factors including:

  • how many hours they work, if at all
  • if they can read while commuting or while at work
  • whether they have caretaking responsibilities
  • whether their health allows them to read
  • whether they have easy access to a library or purchased books to read
  • whether they are passing on other hobbies to spend time reading instead
  • how much time they need to spend cleaning or maintaining their home
  • whether they are reading short or long books, simple or complex ones
  • . . . and so much more.

No reader should feel bad they have not read as much as another reader if there are circumstances that simply do not make extensive reading possible for them.

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People Count “What They’ve Read” Differently

I also find it useful to keep in mind that everyone “counts” their reading differently. For instance, I’ve read over 100 books this year, but many of them were picture books. Clearly, these books take much less time to read than novels, and there are many people who will not add picture books to their Goodreads challenge at all. Similarly, some people read a lot of graphic novels, which are faster to read, while others don’t read them or don’t officially “count” them in their reading goal.

There are also some people who count DNF’ed books as books “read,” whether they stopped reading the book 5% through or 95% through. Clearly, someone who is reading 15 pages of a book and deciding it’s not for them, then adding it as a completed book to their Goodreads goal, then doing this for dozens or even hundreds of books, is going to look as if they’ve “read” much more than they did. (This legitimately happens, and while I am a firm believer people can count their reading however they like, I also think it’s relieving for others to realize that, no, this person did not truly read 600 books in 12 months.)

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Focus on What You Want to Get Out of Reading

If you feel like you need to recenter and remember the joy of reading at the end of this year, try focusing on why you read rather than on how much you have read.

Do you read to learn things? To be entertained? To relax after a hard day? To find books that make you think? Or books that stick with you long after you’ve closed the covers?

If you had fun reading this year, if there were books that made you laugh or cry or see things in a new light, if there were books that you truly enjoyed, that’s what really matters. What you got out of them. Not how many of them you read.


23 thoughts on “Celebrate What You Read This Year, Not What You Didn’t

  1. theorangutanlibrarian says:

    Love this! And completely agree! I always think it’s such a shame when readers get disgruntled or disappointed or sad they don’t feel like they read enough! It doesn’t matter if you read lots or not much at all- it’s a hobby!! My mum has read 3 books for the first time in years and is so excited!! I also don’t count dnfs anymore, but I used to when it was only a couple (and I’d get further in before giving up) so even my own stats have had some changes over the years! I hardly think it makes sense to compare with someone else’s!


    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      I agree! It’s so heartbreaking when someone’s sad they “only” read 50 books this year because someone else is walking around saying they read 450. 50 books is basically a book a week! That’s a lot of books!

      That’s so exciting she’s started reading again! My parents don’t read much at all, so sometimes I think it’s kind of interesting I do since everyone is always going on about how the most important thing you can do is model reading for your children lol.

      Yes, my stats get weird sometimes, too. Like, occasionally Goodreads will count a book I read twice or something, but I don’t really worry about it because ultimately the specific number doesn’t mean anything.


  2. Siena says:

    This is a great post and I completely agree with the points you made! It’s more important to enjoy what you read and gain something from it than to make sure you read a certain amount of books. I decided to put less pressure on myself this year for how many books I read, to just be happy with what I’ve read.


  3. mistysbookspace says:

    Couldn’t have said it better and I completely agree. I’ve never compared myself to others because I know everyone circumstances are different so it’s not really realistic to compare and I never get down on myself when I don’t complete a challenge. I always say the fun is in trying.


  4. riv @ dearrivarie says:

    This was so wonderfully written and I agree 100% – this was the first year that I had to lower my Goodreads Challenge and while I felt a bit guilty about it, looking back at the books I did read made me realize that I enjoyed most of my picks and that made the reading year leave a better impression on me than when I read 50+ books! It definitely puts things into perspective and makes me more excited to continue reading 🙂


    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Yes, every year I see people upset they didn’t read a lot, and it’s unfortunate they feel like they need to read as much as other people! My real disappointment with not reading “enough” is that there are just so many books I want to read and it’s hard to get to them all lol.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Katie | Doing Dewey ❤️ (@DoingDewey) says:

    I have to admit, I’m feeling a bit sad about how few books I read this year, but that’s not because I’m comparing myself to other readers. I’ve read less than I typically read. However, I think your point about circumstances still applies, as I’ve been busier doing things I think are worth my time this year than I have in many previous years. Still, I’m going to try to shift the balance of how I’m spending my time back a little more towards reading and blogging in 2022!


    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      The one thing that always disappoints me about not reading as much as I wanted is that there are just so many books I want to read! How will I ever get to them all if I don’t read tons and tons of books?! :p


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