Don’t Feel Ashamed of Your Year in Books!

By Shannon Kazmierczak

I am an unabashed list maker. . . nothing gives me those ASMR feels more than my black Paper Mate InkJoy 0.5 pen putting a precise little tick in a box of to-do’s or a firm black line through my grocery list items.

Everything is a list in my life, including but not exclusively: what is for dinner that week, what I want to watch on streaming media, where I want to visit in my lifetime, and of course, what I want to read. For the past few years I have set a reading goal for myself and it’s just too easy since I keep track of what I read or want to read on Goodreads. By reading on a Kindle Paperwhite, it’s even easier when I get to the end of a book and that automatic rating and review page pops up. When I can see that the book that was in my “TBR” is in my “R” column, I get that same gratification as I do when I check something off my list.

Earlier in January, I received an email from Goodreads about my year in books and there it was, that feeling of accomplishment, I achieved my reading goal last year!  (I do owe it all to my newfound affectation for graphic memoirs which seem to read a little quicker than the novels and regular memoirs.) I reveled in those titles I “crossed” off my list and felt like all was right with the world. . . if just for a moment.

The feeling faded after reviewing what I read, and then looking at what I still wanted to read or didn’t get to in 2019. Needless to say, I got a little overwhelmed.  (You know that same feeling when you are packing for a trip, for instance, or making a list of what needs to be done before hosting a big event.)

I’m reading as much as I can, when I can and my family isn’t interrupting me or I’m watching Little League games/working/cooking/cleaning/sleeping (and while having a very short commute to work is a blessing, it provides little time to listen to an audio version of something).  I’m reading books across different genres. I’m reading books in #ownvoices. I’m reading things that challenge me that I wouldn’t normally pick up. I’m reading things on the backlist of current popular authors and read-alikes so I can recommend titles when there are a gazillion holds on the hot copy of the minute. I’m reading professional articles, blog posts, and things that keep me up-to-date on pop culture, the world and the library world. Meanwhile I’m trying to read things I really want to read so I can talk passionately about them.

Then it dawned on me: I have been treating my reading too much like I treat my to-do lists. It has become a to-do list that I will continue to be able to cross off but for every title I cross off, another item or two or three appears, for we are never short of amazing things to read. If I continue to treat my reading goals like this, I know I will never feel accomplished or satisfied and rather than reading for the pure enjoyment or pleasure of the act of reading, I’m treating it more like a job (wait, I mean, reading is part of the job; I should say like a task). In fact my reading goals or lists can’t be a finite thing. A reading list is like laundry or shopping list, you will always have more to deal with, even after you have folded it all or have restocked your pantry.

Reading in and of itself should be the goal. A few years ago we changed the way we track our Summer Reading Goals — from pages/titles and putting a numeric value on it, to just “Read Everyday.” It took the pressure off of the readers who devour books and take their time, it gave value to the tome that one person invested in over the summer, or even the person that reads voraciously and feels like they should just get more prizes for that (we do have a reading program for that). I should be heeding the advice of our Summer Reading program goal and just put value into reading every day.

While I will still keep track of what I’m reading on Goodreads, and maybe still feel giddy when and if I reach my “reading goal” I will find value in what I did read and maybe try to find those items that I didn’t read on someone else’s list and ask what they thought about it!

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