For me, reading is never the end goal. I read to learn, to change, to write, and to create. Reading is necessary, but is just a step in the whole creative growing process. I don’t want to read 100 books just so that I can tell people at the end of the year that I read 100 books. Why is that an accomplishment by itself?
I’ve tried these reading challenges before, and I have always failed. Around November, that panicky feeling would always set in. And for a couple of weeks I would push myself to close the gap, trying to carve out another chapter in every spare moment. But the futility inevitably set in. By December, I had to admit I was not going read 14 more books that year, or 22, or 46.
The truth is I’ve never read 52 books in a calendar year, or 100, or probably even 35. And eventually I stopped trying. Why go through the effort if I was only going to feel defeated at the end of the year?
But the thought occurs to me: why did I even try to complete those challenges? Why did I fail? And why did I feel so bad about failing? The answer: it wasn’t about the reading.
When reading is just a numbers game–accumulating posts on Goodreads–the books themselves cease to matter. On a “good” year, what do I remember about those books I finished? Not much. Of my most memorable reading experiences, which of them were had under pressure? None that I can think of.
And this is Samantha Zhang’s point: if you’re reading just to say you finished an arbitrary number of books, you’re not reading well. You’re not getting anything out of it because you can’t engage with a hundred books a year. There’s not enough time. There’s not enough energy. Whether you’re reading to learn, or be entertained, or be inspired–how much of that are you really getting?
My experience may not be shared by everyone. Nor may Zhang’s. But I suspect that we are not alone.