What I Learned from Reaching My Reading Goal in 2020

Reading has always been my greatest passion and favorite pastime. While my relationship with reading has changed and evolved as I have, one particularly memorable moment of change I went through as a reader was in 2016. I decided to challenge myself to read 30 books in one year. Now, this may seem like a lot to some people, or it may not seem like many books at all. However, it was a lot to me as a freshman in high school who was also trying to balance my schoolwork, my rigorous ballet schedule, and my personal life with friends and family. The point is, I felt out of touch with reading and I wanted a way to inspire myself to pick up a book. 

Thus, the reading challenges began. Ever since 2016, I set my reading goal in January. In 2017, it was 40. In 2018 and 2019, I dropped it to 20 because school was more taxing. Then in 2020, I thought I’d go for what felt like the ultimate challenge: 50 books. This was daunting because I’d struggled in previous years even to get to 30 and 40 books. I was worried that reading roughly a book a week would be too much of a commitment. But I set the goal anyway and in October I reached my goal! I read 50 books and even had two months to spare. 

If you’re wondering, I don’t know exactly how I did it. But I do think there are a few factors that helped me reach my goal. The first was that when the pandemic hit, I figured reading would be a good way to pass the undetermined amount of time I had at home. I also started using audiobooks and ebooks from an app called Libby, which allows you to borrow any ebooks or audiobooks available from your public library. This way, I had access to virtually any of the books I desired to read. I didn’t have to wait for books to come in the mail or to choose a book solely from my collection at home. Additionally, before the Spring 2020 semester ended, I was in an American fiction course that required me to read a novel a week. It was a great class, and I loved that it was also helping me reach my goal! 

I won’t lie and say it was all fun and games, though. Having this goal definitely inspired me to keep reading, even on days I didn’t want to. Sometimes, the thing I loved to do felt a lot more like a chore. I remember barreling through loads of books and after finishing them thinking, wow, did I even enjoy that? Or looking back at my Goodreads list and thinking, did I even process what I read? Because I don’t remember most of that book now. Granted, this was during a global pandemic and I think everyone’s memory is a little hazy from the full-on quarantine days. 

Still, I realized that maybe it was time to slow it down. During this process I learned that I didn’t need to read all of the eight books I’d put on my "To Be Read (TBR)" list for the month. I was setting myself up for disappointment and leaving no room for error. Before, I thought that if I didn’t get through my "TBR" that I somehow failed a miniature task inside my larger one. Lastly, I realized that no one was putting this unnecessary pressure on myself but me. I needed to slow down.

I saw how I was turning something I loved into something I was beginning to hate. I wanted to change that. So I put aside my lists and decided to read what I felt like reading. I decided that if I chose a YA rom-com over a fancy, adult book, that was okay. I decided that if I read three books a month instead of 10, that was okay, too. When I finally reached my goal of 50 books, I felt an immense weight lifted off of my shoulders. I also felt very proud! But mostly, I felt that I could finally ease up and read at my own pace. Since then, I’ve had a blast reading. I pick up a book when I want to and I don’t feel guilty when I don’t. I know you’re thinking, well geez, why did you go through all that in the first place, then? And I guess I don’t totally have an answer. Sometimes I think it would be best if I didn’t put these large reading goals on myself, but then I think about 2018 and 2019 when I told myself that "quality was better than quantity," but I didn’t read as much as I wanted to and I wasn’t really pleased with most of the books I picked up, either. I think the key is finding a healthy balance, of knowing that it’s important to set goals but that the way I go about reaching them means something, too.