Hold it there! I’m not saying I don’t love reading, or that I stopped loving reading at any point. I’ve been a book-lover for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, I heard the phrase ‘She’s always got her nose stuck in a book’ at least once a day, and that’s not even an exaggeration.
However, in 2016, I put too much pressure on reading. It became all about how many books I could finish each month, regardless of whether I was actually enjoying them. What’s worse, I became overly critical of those I did finish.
Partly responsible for this was the Goodreads reading challenge, which I don’t think I’ll ever do again. I’ve never counted the books I’ve read each year before – I just read them, and didn’t really think much about it. Reading was sort of like second nature to me; I just did it, because I wanted to.
However, this year, I set myself the challenge of reading 100 books. To be honest, I probably normally read close to 100 books each year anyway. But because I had set myself this challenge, I started to worry about not getting enough books read each month. I read short books, and avoided the brick-like tomes I didn’t mind before. My reading habits had become about quantity, not quality.
But then, quality had been messed up for me too!
Lord, those 5-star ratings. I’ve given up on them now. Basically, I’d read a book, really enjoy it, and then I’d judge it unnecessarily harshly when it came to rating it. For example, I loved Faceless by Alyssa Sheinmel, but I gave it a 4-star rating because the writing wasn’t quite up to the same standard of the other books I’ve rated 5 stars. So what? It felt like a 5-star read, so that means it was a 5-star read for me!
When it comes to rating books, I always compare them to my all-time favourites. So, along with Faceless, I was comparing books like Cinder, Paper Butterflies, Ready Player One and Nina is Not OK to what, at the beginning of the year, I had considered to be the best books I’d ever read:
- Wonder by R J Palacio
- One Day by David Nicholls
- We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
But just because they aren’t as good as my all-time favourites doesn’t mean they’re lacking! I’ve realised now I don’t need to have a ‘criteria’ for how good a book is. If I think a book is great, then that’s it. Just because it didn’t make me cry or the writing wasn’t perfect doesn’t mean I enjoyed it any less. No one’s going to argue with me and say, ‘No, actually, Emma, you didn’t like that book, you only think you liked it.’
Besides, you can’t compare books like that, unless they have similar themes or storylines. Sure, I can compare Faceless to Wonder, but why on earth would you compare Ready Player One to To Kill a Mockingbird?
Hence why I’ve given up on the star rating system now.
My blog has been a huge part of this change in attitude to reading, just because I’ve never paid so much attention to what I’m reading before. This isn’t a bad thing – it’s made me think more about how diverse my reading habits are, for example – but it has definitely put a lot more pressure on it, and at times has taken away from the enjoyment of it.
I’m therefore going to use this year to revisit some of the books I’ve previously enjoyed (re-reading was something else I avoided in 2016 because it wouldn’t go towards my reading challenge) and remind myself that reading is a pleasurable hobby, not a duty or a job. More than that, it’s something I love, and I think I just need to rediscover that love.
Has anyone else discovered the ugly side of book blogging? Have you found yourself shying away from long books, or not re-reading your favourites, just so you can post more new books in your monthly wrap-ups? Have you found that you’ve become more negative about the books you are reading?