gail schimmel

The blog of writer Gail Schimmel: A bit of writing, a bit of parenting, a bit of thinking and some book reviews

Reading – it’s not a competition


I have been playing with the idea of, this year, keeping track of what I read in some way. I thought of blogging a review of every book – but there are two problems with that – the first being that I don’t like giving negative reviews. Being a writer is hard and if someone hates my books, I would rather they shut up about it, so I do the same for others. Also, of I blog a review of every book I read, there’s going to be a lot of blog posts that say very little. Not sure how many times people want to read, “Oh that was a good book”.

On twitter, I came across a conversation about tracking reading. Some people use Goodreads, and some people keep a written list and some people use spread sheets. My gut reaction, which I tweeted, was that reading is for pleasure and it’s not a competition – so why track it? I mean after all, what are we going to do next? Keep a spread sheet of how often we had sex, in what position and how good it was? (Listen, if you already do this, you’ve got a problem, okay? Just quietly close this blog and make an appointment with a therapist. . .)

Then there’s the competitive thing. I am really, really competitive about reaching targets, so I would get all obsessed about numbers. I’d compete with myself (and according to twitter, other people do this too) and try to out-read previous months. And I would panic if I had a reading slump – although for a reading addict like me I think that it might actually be quite healthy to sometimes go a few days fully engaged in real life.

So I’ve compromised in my own mind. I am going to try to be better about noting and sharing the good reads of my year as they happen – either here, or on The Good Book Appreciation Society over at Facebook, or on Twitter.

So I will quickly tell you that I read Diane Chamberlain’s Silent Sister yesterday and it was such a rollicking read that I finished it in the day. She is an under-rated writer here in SA and few people have heard of her. But her books are always gripping reads in the style of Jodi Piccoult. They are sometimes a bit predictable – none of the twists in Silent Sister caught me by surprise – but it’s so well written and well-paced that you don’t really mind. And she has a wonderful long list of books so once you discover her, you have a whole list of books to add to your To Be Read list. For me, she is the perfect anecdote to those days you need a good read that is not too taxing but is also not marshmallow for the brain. I will remember her as the answer in my reading slumps this year!

Do you keep track of your reading? And does it make you feel good, or does it make what should be a joy into yet another task?






6 thoughts on “Reading – it’s not a competition

  1. Hi! I am an avid reader I do keep track of my reading. I use Goodreads but I do slack off sometimes. I think that keeping track of my books serves as reminding myself of the books I’ve read as I have a large pile of TBR books. Keeping track of my reading makes me feel happy because I can see that list grow and I can share my list to my friends if we wanted to exchange books. Anyhow, I believe that keeping track of reading for the sake of competing takes the joy out of a passion and the reader would lose the chance of actually experiencing the book.

  2. I keep a list of books I read every year, I’ve been doing it since 2010. Not on a spreadsheet but in my Moleskine. I love writing the book title in when I’ve read it. I started doing it so I could remember books I’ve read. You know when you’re with friends and you chat about what you’ve been reading then you just can’t bring the books to mind? So I’d whip out my book and it would jog my memory. Not a competitive thing. In fact, one year when I’d read over 70 books, I gave myself a goal to read less the following year cos I felt as if I was on a treadmill of meaningless reading.

    I know what you mean about giving bad reviews; it’s a tricky thing especially as reading is so subjective. I did that thing of writing a review of every book this year and what I tried to do was rather express what sort of book it was rather than simply appraise it. So a reader could rad the review and figure out it was there kind of book or not. That was the intention anyway.

    As for GoodReads, I like recording my SA Fiction reads there as a way of spreading the gospel.

  3. I think with a project like your SA reading, tracking becomes more meaningful. And I do like the udea of an easy “what I read” list. . .

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