Guest Blogger

#WW: Pros and Cons of Reading Goals


Normally, I have guest bloggers on Mondays, but today is an exception. (Shannon accidentally overbooked her website for March). That being said, today’s guest blogger is discussing a topic I’m sure many book bloggers and bibliophiles can relate to: reading goals. We’ve all seen them, the 2015 reading goals, the reading challenges, the reading lists. CL Mannarino is an avid reader who has found herself facing many of these lists, and her enlightening discussion brings up the question of why we read in the first place.

Pros and Cons of Reading Goals

Last year, I had a goal to read 35 books. It was going to be brilliant: I had a whole list of books/series that I would tackle for that year. Each one was designed to either clean out my bookshelf (10 unread books for every 1 book I’d already enjoyed), or round me out into a more aware, well-read person.

Didn’t happen.

Instead, according to Goodreads, I read…maybe 19. There were a few books listed that I didn’t finish. So let’s say 15. That’s generous.

In the past, this would’ve torn me apart. I would read lists that appeared on Facebook saying, “How many of these classics have you read? Most people read less than ten” and hurriedly go through to make sure I’d tackled at least ten listed. After I could check off at least fifteen, I would smirk to myself and sit back.

Those kinds of things made me feel so well-rounded. Until I followed who would review James Baldwin and Jack Kerouac and I would feel guilty. None of those kinds of writers ever interested me. I was never an Austen person, and the only Bronte novel I enjoyed was Jane Eyre. But because I’m an English major, any post or person, no matter how off-base or high-horsed, telling me “well-rounded people read classics” made me feel guilty for not reading more of them.

It’s why I set my Goodreads goal. These other people – smart bloggers, who enjoyed deep literature that didn’t speak to me but I felt like ought to because I considered myself fairly intelligent – set lofty goals. Read more this year, they said.

They had plans. So I planned, too. And I planned a plan for someone else’s dreams instead of mine.  That, and I’d read about 30 books in 2013, so I thought I could duplicate my success.

I thought I’d be more broken up about it than I am. I thought I’d feel guiltier about reading so much more slowly this year than I do. More than anything, though, I feel relieved.

I didn’t meet the goal, but I didn’t become a less-rounded person because of it. I tackled some pretty important literature, but I also read a lot of duds. And I didn’t finish everything I started. I’d just decided I didn’t want to waste my time with something that didn’t hold my attention.

Don’t be afraid to not finish something, by the way. Often, you’ll wind up coming back to it in the future, when you’re ready to read it.

I think a big part of this guilt-free feeling is that I know more about my ability to fulfill resolutions than I did before. I know my desires better, and I’m not going to beat myself up for not being the kind of reader I expect myself to be. (Or the kind I expect myself to be based on others’ outspoken expectations of “good readers.”)

This year, I’m going to tackle my bookshelf. I’ll widen my horizons a little bit. I’ll read a few things I’ve bought. I’ll read some stories from places I’ve never read from before. Above all, I’ll go where my literary desires take me and keep the pressure off.

Reading was fun for me. It should be, still.


CL Mannarino is a fantasy and realistic fiction writer and personal essayist. She works in Massachusetts as an editor while she writes, reads, walks, and bakes on the side. She’s trained in line-editing, extreme shoveling, and home improvement. CL can be found on her blog, her Facebook, or her Tumblr.”

Want to be a guest blogger? I would love to have you on! I am accepting original posts that focus on reading and writing. A picture and a bio are encouraged. You do not have to be published. If you qualify, please email me at


19 thoughts on “#WW: Pros and Cons of Reading Goals

  1. Yeah I get that. I’ve been feeling a bit down about my reading this last year. It was my first year in college, and I didn’t realize it would kill my ability to read for fun. I’m looking forward to the summer when I can get back into it. I read six books in six days last summer (only stopped when I hit the second to last Harry Potter book. That one took me two). I’m gonna try to make it seven this year!

    Great post!

    1. Thanks very much! Summertime is the best time for reading, I think, with all that extra time from the longer days. 🙂 I definitely felt the same way you did during college — with all the required books, there was hardly any time for what I wanted to read, and then reading for analysis just made it a chore! I hope you make your goal!

  2. Whey does it seems like too many things have to be a race, contest, or whatever else requires speed. Always thought reading was just a low key activity, so the goals seem rather odd. Then again, I’m an infamously slow reader.

    1. Thanks for commenting! I think it’s the demand to get more done faster: if you have a goal, you have a target to hit and can track your own progress. I’ve become -much- slower at reading now, but I’m glad for it. I feel like I pay more attention to the stories that way.

      1. I’m horrendously slow. The last book I read took over a year because I kept doing other things. That and I have a son who loves interrupting me when I’m reading.

  3. Great comments. I like looking at those lists, but sometimes they make me tense. It’s good to be grounded and remember that most of us are reading for enjoyment. When there’s pressure to finish, there goes the fun!

    1. Thanks for commenting! Yes, that’s exactly how I feel. To some odd extent, I feel like my worth as a reader is getting judged by what I’ve tackled on those lists. Not true, of course. I’m learning to remember why I love reading in the first place: to enjoy it, as you said!

  4. I especially liked your take on feeling free to not finish a book that just isn’t doing it for you. At age 60 I have come to realize that I have only so much time to commit to reading, so I want to read only those books that I truly enjoy. Honestly, not counting the required reading I have to do for my job, I probably will only get a chance to read a half dozen (or so) books this year for pleasure.

    The exception to the ‘feel free to not finish’ rule is in the case of young readers, who I think have to be taught early in life to finish what they start, but that’s another matter all together.

    I enjoyed your blog!

    1. Thanks very much, and thanks so much for sharing! I think young readers being taught to finish what they start is -definitely- the case here. It’s the reason a great many of my friends read books they don’t like in their entirety. Like you said, we only have so much time to read, so why not read what we like and feel drawn to? 🙂

    1. Thanks very much! I hope you get to read what you really enjoy, even if you don’t get to meet your goal. And if you -do- end up reading as much as you hoped, that’s great, too. 🙂

  5. I found myself depressed by the reading challenges that I’ve been unfortunate enough to be dragged into; first in school and later on GoodReads. Not due to any failure on my part (though I believe I missed my 100 books from last year, primarily due to pretty much not visiting GoodReads anymore and having too many other things on the blotter), but mainly because too many people were “gaming the system.”

    For example, one year in school (mind you, this was about 25 years ago. Ouch.) they were awarding a new bike to the child who read the most. Me being me, I read what I wanted to read, since there wasn’t an “approved reading” list; among other things in that grab bag was The Hobbit, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Cujo, most of the Ramona books, and The Stand. (I was eclectic, even then.)

    I received a stern talking to about some of my material (Tolkien was considered “unchristian” and King was “too mature,” and were disqualified. I still had read a goodish amount of “acceptable” material, however) but the winner was a kid who had gone into the “early readers” section of the library and had gone through every one of Clifford, Curious George and god knows what else collections. You know, those 15-20 page deals that are 95% pictures. But, hey, he read 200 books, so I guess that’s something. (This was in 4th grade, by the by.) GoodReads had a repeat performance. I was doing well, or so I thought, when suddenly someone on my friends list was up to 400-something. They were adding individual comic book issues to the library and counting them as read. Some of them 40-50 years old.

    I stopped reading challenges after that. When it becomes a competition and people start cheating, it’s not fun or interesting anymore. I read because I want to, whether for entertainment or education or both, and having arbitrary numbers and “cheaters” getting involved is a sure way to make me not want to anymore.

    Not even going to touch the “Have you read these?” types of posts; all too often they cause people to panic (“Oh god, I lose my ‘Smart Card’ if I didn’t! Aieee!” And yes, I’m guilty of this.) or just seem like an excuse for someone to feel superior because they cracked open a dusty tome like they were Indiana Jones or something.

    Ahem. I’m ranting again, aren’t I? Sorry. TL;DR: Reading challenges hurt me inside. Entertaining post, though! XD

    1. Thanks for sharing! The reward system for “best reader” (here meaning number of books read) was definitely in place when I was in school, too. They publicly handed out plastic awards that looked like something you’d see at the Golden Globes to the kids who did “extraordinary things,” and reading 30+ books was one of them. It’s definitely gaming the system and there are definitely plans set in place to “entice” kids to read. I think if people just let kids read what they want, especially during down time or on trips to the library, kids might not need the enticement of that fake award. I feel like it turns reading into something you have to do to achieve worth, instead of turning reading itself into a reward.

      I agree — the challenges are silly if you don’t enjoy them and reading for pleasure should be embraced, even if it’s not a certain kind of literature! 🙂

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