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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Ottawa chapter.

Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve always loved reading. I couldn’t be found without a book in my hand and I was constantly haranguing my mom and dad to drag me to Chapters so I could buy even more books. My affinity for reading has never left me; today, I bring a book with me wherever I go, stuffing them in bags and the too-big pockets of my jackets. The big difference now is there’s less time for books between school, my social life, work, and technology all vying for my attention, and I’m lucky if I get to read a few pages at the end of the day.

A few years ago, to get myself back into the joy of reading, I decided to sign up for Goodreads and embark on one of their famed reading challenges. Every January 1st, readers all around the globe sign up for an individual literary challenge to see how many books they can read in one year and if they can meet their goal.

I was thrilled to start on this journey—logging 50 books, then 60, and so on—and when I saw that I was able to rise to the challenge, it became a great source of satisfaction (and comparison). However, as my university classes got more demanding, I wasn’t able to read as many books as I wanted. I would look in abjection at my number on Goodreads, pitiful in comparison to some of my friends who were already at 75 out of their 100 book goal. My hang-up on numbers was starting to impede my enjoyment of the books I had time to read; I would rush through reading, pick certain books that I knew would help boost my numbers, and avoid choosing long novels even if I really wanted to read them (The Priory of the Orange Tree is one example).

It wasn’t until this year that I started to become aware of a more nefarious aspect of the reading challenges. I saw a post on Instagram in which a girl professed that, after reading 100 books in 2023, her goal this year was going to be to read less and enjoy each book more. I set my challenge to 20 books—knowing that I would probably go over it anyways—but if I didn’t, who cares?

My relationship with reading got so skewed when I was invested in completing my reading challenges; I was more focused on meeting an arbitrary number rather than appreciating the work of an author who laboured for months, maybe even years, on their novel, just for me to try and gobble it up in less than 2 or 3 days. Looking back on my reading challenge in 2023, I struggle to remember the plot of most of the books I read, much less if I enjoyed them or not. The pressure I was putting on myself to reach this goal sapped the joy out of reading. My mind was always on the next book before I’d even put down the current one.

This is not meant to be an indictment of reading challenges in any way. They boost book sales for authors, encourage people to read more, and, for some, are a delightful way of reconnecting with their love of books through a bit of healthy competition. My hat goes off to people who are naturally able to read 100 books in a year! My goal this year, however, is to dial back the intensity of my reading and to emphasize reading for pleasure, even if it means I only get through 10 books. In a world where acceleration and speed are often prioritized over slow, mindful ways of living, reading is one of the most important pastimes we can maintain.

Hello! My name is Grace and I'm currently in my 4th year at uOttawa in the political science program. I work in a really fun restaurant doing hosting and serving (and sometimes bartending!) and in my spare time, I like to make music with my punk band Passenger Princess and do freelance translating and voicework. I am passionate about psychology, politics, literature, books, and music. I love reading (especially a good thriller with more plot twists than I can count) and learning more about different languages, cultures, and countries. In the future, it is my dream to work in the field of diplomacy and to directly engage with Canadian politics at a geopolitical level.