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  • Writer's pictureKit Eyre

When Reading Challenges Become Marathons

When I set up my reading challenge on Goodreads for 2020, I was determined to beat last year's total of 77 books. I'd set myself the challenge of reading 70 books in 2019 and I exceeded that goal, in the same way as I did in 2018 (59 read, target 40) and 2017 (33 read, target 20). My optimistic target for 2020 was 100 books, and I thought that was eminently achievable.

Then the pandemic hit and I found myself downloading loads of books on to my Kindle, almost stockpiling for lockdown. It was a silly thing to do given that ebooks are one thing that's consistently available, but it made me feel as though I was preparing to do something useful with my time. Along with that, I upped my reading challenge target for the year from 100 books to 150 books. Surely, with all that time on my hands, it'd be easy, right?

My problem is not that I'm too ambitious. I think it's that I set myself difficult targets because I don't like meeting my goals - I'd rather be grouchy about failing and work all the harder the next time. I also don't factor in other considerations as often as I should. So, while I was indeed reading some short, fun books at the beginning of the UK lockdown like Amanda Radley's Death Before Dessert and Frances Brody's The Body on the Train, I was interspersing them with non-fiction like Coalition by David Laws (600+ pages) and All Out War by Tim Shipman (650+ pages). Every time I engrossed myself in a long book that was usually half for research as much as enjoyment, I felt myself falling further behind on my challenge. It was an added stress factor in an unusual situation.

This week, I took the bull by the horns finally and revised my challenge target back down to the original 100. Instead of being way behind, I'm suddenly a book ahead of schedule, and it feels as though a weight's been lifted. This was a weight I put on my own shoulders at the beginning of lockdown because I felt like I needed to. Maybe I did. Maybe having the target in place gave some purpose to my reading that I wouldn't have had if I'd already known I was "on track".

I set myself reading challenges every year because I need the relaxation of reading. If I didn't set the targets, I'd probably get bogged down in everything else I have to do and forget to do one of the things that brings me the most enjoyment in my life. So, I'm not going to stop setting reading goals, although I might make a personal rule that I'm not allowed to revise them in the event of circumstances changing throughout the year.

Next year, maybe my target will be 150 books. But it (hopefully) won't be a target emerging from panic during a pandemic.

You can find me on Goodreads by clicking here if you want to connect and find out what I'm reading.

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