The Pros and Cons of the Goodreads Challenge

18/07/2017 Discussions, Reading 39

The Pros and Cons of the Goodreads Challenge

The Goodreads Challenge is something I’ve been aware of for a long time: after all, almost every book blogger I know of seems to do it. However, its only been this year that I’ve started taking part, and I really have no idea why it’s taken me this long.

I think the thing that finally made me decide to take part in 2017 was realising at the end of last year that I literally had no idea how many books I had read. Sure, I could take a look back at my book reviews, but I don’t always review everything I read, and often I review books way after the event, meaning I don’t know exactly when I read them. Therefore when I saw everyone else discussing what they’d achieved in terms of their 2016 Goodreads Challenges, I decided I would get in on the action, and properly keep track of my reading in 2017!

As I didn’t know the average number of books I read a year, I decided to play it relatively safe by choosing a target of 50 books, and so far I think its been going quite well! It’s only mid July and I’m on 30 books (so 60% of the way through), so I’m a little ahead of my target, which I’m very happy about.

However, despite my new found love of the Goodreads Challenge, I have also noticed a few problems with it too, so I thought I’d do a little pros and cons post (I do love writing those!). So here are my pros and cons of the Goodreads Challenge, and I’d love to know yours!

Pros:

  • It helps you keep track of your reading.

The main thing I love about the Goodreads Challenge is the simplest: just being able to keep track of how many books I’m reading, and what I’m reading. Goodreads in general can help you with this, but I like how when you open your Challenge page you can chronologically see what you’ve read that year, all nicely laid out in front of you!

I’ve been finding this especially useful for mixing up my reading, because I can look back at my recent reads and see when I’ve been reading a lot of a certain genre, and then I can try something different. So if I can see that I’ve been reading nothing but fantasy for ages (not that there’s anything wrong with that!), I can mix things up by reading that crime thriller that’s been on my TBR list since forever, just to get a bit of variety.

  • It encourages you to read more.

I can be kind of a lazy person, even in regards to doing things I love, so I find that setting myself goals is a really great way to motivate me to get more done. So in the same way that NaNoWriMo always helps me make way more progress with my writing than I usually would, the Goodreads Challenge has helped me read more than I normally would, and I’m now rattling through my ever-growing TBR list at quite a pace!

  • It keeps you updated on your friends progress.

I’m an incredibly nosey person, so one thing I love about the Goodreads Challenge is seeing how everyone else is doing! I like seeing people’s progress on their Goodreads Challenge widgets on their blogs, and I do like a good snoop every now and then on the ‘Friends Challenges’ page on the Goodreads app. Not that I have many Goodreads friends, seen as I’ve only started using it properly this year (so come and be my Goodreads friend! Then I can snoop at your challenge stats too!)!

Cons

  • You can feel pressured to read.

Whilst the Goodreads Challenge has encouraged me to read even more, it can also have the unpleasant effect of making you feel pressured to read when you don’t really want to. We all have slumps, and it’s bad enough when you want to read, but can’t really be bothered, or can’t find a book you enjoy, without the added guilt of thinking ‘I’m falling behind!’

  • You might find your reading is being guided by the challenge.

As I’ve previously discussed, I like big books and I cannot lie! However, I’ve found that the Goodreads Challenge is definitely pushing me towards shorter reads, and I really don’t like it!

I’ve heard a lot of people say this too, that when faced with a long book – even one they’re super excited to read – it can make them kind of nervous that they’ll fall behind on their challenge, and they tend to gravitate more towards shorter books that will bump their stats. For example, I know when I was reading Voyager by Diana Gabaldon a while back, I did start to feel a bit twitchy because it was just taking me so long, which took some of the enjoyment out of it.

  • It keeps you updated on your friends progress.

Yes, this was also on my list of pros, but for me, being able to see other peoples’ progress is also a con. As fun as it can be to have a little friendly competition, it can also make you feel bad when you see people who are way ahead of you in their challenge, or are easily meeting a target that you consider to be way out of your league. For example, I see lots of people who have set targets of over 100 books, and I know I could never even hope to reach that number, yet they are well on there way to smashing that goal. The Goodreads Challenge turns reading into a competition, and that isn’t always a good thing.

Therefore I think it’s important to remember that we all read at our own pace, and as long as we’re enjoying what we’re reading, it really doesn’t matter if you read 15 books or 150 in 2017.

So what do you like/not like about the Goodreads Challenge? How long have you been taking part, and how has it effected your reading?

39 Responses to “The Pros and Cons of the Goodreads Challenge”

  1. Lys

    Hum… I agree with you on some level. Reading should be fun and not something you have to do. I think it’s good to have a reasonable challenge that works for you. Every year I challenge myself to read 100 books but I don’t feel pressured (I know I can nail that challenge by reading lots of mangas haha) but I like checking it and see all of the books I’ve read during that year.

    • Laura

      I totally agree that it’s important to set a reasonable goal that works for you. I guess it shouldn’t end up being too stressful if you set a target that you think you can comfortably meet, yet you still get to keep track of everything you’re reading. Thanks for commenting! 🙂

  2. Lola

    I always join the Goodreads challenge if only to simply keep track of what I read in a year and to easily see how many books I read. Although I also started tracking my reads in a spreadsheet this year so I can also track more things like genre, authors, self published or not etc.

    I do agree the goodreads challenge has some cons too and I always set my goal on the low side as I don’t like the pressure with gr reminding me I am behind on schedule.

    • Laura

      That’s probably the best idea to set yourself a lower goal, so you don’t end up feeling stressed or pressured. The spreadsheet thing sounds like a good way of keeping track of your reading too though! Especially as you can track more specific things 🙂

  3. Greg

    I thought about doing the GR challenge but just haven’t yet? I don’t even know why lol. I normally don’t do many challenges although I did pick a few out this year. Great list of pros and cons though! I agree with all of those. And yes if I’m toodling along towards 50 books or something and someone else smashes their goal if 200 books I’d like WHAT??? Ha ha.

    Seriously though and yeah big books might get me nervous too! Still I might take the plunge in 2018. 🙂

    • Laura

      That’s the same with me – I had thought about it for ages but just hadn’t got round to it until this year. It’s definitely worth doing though, I’d just suggest setting yourself a reasonable goal you’re pretty sure you can meet so it doesn’t get stressful. I’m glad it’s not just me though who thinks 200 books a year is an insane goal! I thought I was just a slow reader or something! 🙂

  4. Caitlin

    This resonates with me. I’m doing the Goodreads challenge for the first time this year, with (for me) a conservative goal of 55 books. I basically looked at my reading journal from last year and added 5 more; I didn’t want to set an unrealistic goal!

    I’m enjoying it, but like you, I do find myself shying away from long reads. I have a 1000+ page Peter F. Hamilton doorstop I planned to read this year, but now I’m wary because I know it will take up a solid month of reading time. On the plus side, I’ve been burning through a bunch of graphic novels on my TBR list, since they only take a day or two.

    • Laura

      Adding 5 books to last year’s total sounds like a good idea! You’re upping your target, yet it isn’t an unrealistic goal. I may have to do that with my target in 2018!
      The challenge really does interfere with your plans for reading longer books though doesn’t it? There are definitely ways to make it up though, and graphic novels seems like a good idea! I have a couple of mangas that I’ve been meaning to read for ages, so I may just take the plunge with some longer books and then make up the time with them.
      Thanks for commenting! 🙂

  5. Lia

    I tried it once two years ago. I was in the middle of it last year when I began to feel pressured. Idk maybe it’s just anxiety acting up 😐 Thus I didn’t manage to finish the challenge. Every time I looked at it I felt annoyingly reminded of how I was behind in my reading! lol. I always feel like I’m behind in reading and I don’t need the challenge to tell me :’D

    • Laura

      The pressure really is a huge downside with the Goodreads Challenge, and it sucks that it made you so anxious! It can be a fun thing to do, but definitely if it starts to become stressful then it isn’t worth doing.

  6. Tanya Patrice

    I join the Goodreads Challenge, but I really don’t take it seriously. I mean, you can go in and change your goal at any time … so if you’re on track to read less books that you originally thought – just go in and change the number. I’ve done that before, so it doesn’t really seem that stressful to me.

    • Laura

      It definitely sounds like you have the right attitude to the challenge! I guess it only becomes stressful or makes you feel pressured to read if you take it too seriously. I didn’t actually know that you could change your target though, so that’s useful to know! 🙂

  7. Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity

    Either, it’s been a while since I’ve stopped by or I’m very unobservant but your blog has changed and I like it! Love this new look.

    Now, onto the actual topic of the post. I often see people saying that the Goodreads challenge is too much pressure for them as they fall behind and begin to feel bad, especially as it gets towards the end of the year. I don’t have that issue as I always give myself a 100 book target as I know that I am guaranteed to hit that mark (or at least, have done for the past few years) and so it’s the most relaxing challenge I take part in. I get why people don’t like it, though. I know when I’ve set a higher target for myself, and especially when I first did the challenge, I felt a need to read shorter books to boost my reading numbers but I think any challenge is what you make of it.

    • Laura

      I only just changed it this week! I’m glad you like the new look 🙂
      I think you definitely have the right idea in setting yourself a target that will be easy for you to hit, as that keeps it nice and low pressured! And I like the idea that ‘any challenge is what you make of it’! I guess it really is up to you how stressed you get with it, and as another commenter said, it’s fun as long as you don’t take it too seriously 🙂

  8. Victoria

    The Goodreads challenge definitely has its ups and downs. Like you I also enjoy keeping track of my reading but I’m a pretty slow reader, so comparing myself to others makes me feel super behind – even though I’m 75% of the way towards my final goal! I think the trick is to focus on your own progress and try to have fun with it, which is a reminder I have to give myself every now and then.

    • Laura

      I totally agree that you should just focus on your own progress and have fun with it! We all know our own reading pace and set our goals accordingly, so if you’re smashing your own target it doesn’t matter if anyone else has technically read more books than you.
      And well done on the 75%! That’s amazing! 🙂

  9. Lindsey

    I have a lot of fun with the Goodreads Challenge. I am one of those people who thrives on a challenge, although I rather rig it in my favor by knowing roughly how many books I read in a year… 🙂

    • Laura

      That’s probably the best way of doing it – set a goal you’re pretty sure you can meet. That way it stays fun and low pressured. Thanks for commenting! 🙂

  10. Tiziana

    I’ve done the GR challenge since 2011 and only failed it once when I dared to set it to 60 books. This year I set it to 50 books only because I was sure to read a lot of academic books (somehow I feel like I’m cheating by adding these since I don’t always read them attentively), yet I’m 9 books behind schedule. I’m sure to catch up soon as I have a humongous list of books to tackle for my thesis. 😛

    I agree with many of your points. I don’t think I’ve felt pressured to read, but seeing that “X books behind schedule” makes me a tad anxious and I certainly don’t like finishing the year with a failed challenge. What I like the best is clicking and seeing the variety of books I’ve read during the year. So satisfying. 🙂

    • Laura

      I’d say academic books definitely count! And that’s a good way to bump up your count, seen as you have to read them anyway. Good luck with that humongous list, and with your thesis! 🙂
      It really is so satisfying though to be able to look back on everything you’ve read in the year! 🙂

  11. Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight

    I agree with these completely! The Goodreads Challenge stresses me out a lot, but I also can’t imagine not doing it? I think I have been doing it since… 2012. I set my goals low at first, but then I started trying to outdo myself every year. This year, I let random.org pick a number for me, but it wasn’t very nice, so now I have to still keep up with it hahah. Great post!

    • Laura

      Wow, you have been doing it a long time! That seems like a good idea to gradually increase your target. I may up mine a little next year, and see if I can increase my reading even more.
      And that’s very brave of you to just go with a random number! I’d be alright if my random number ended up being small, but anything over 100 is probably out of the question with my reading pace 🙂

  12. Amber @ Books of Amber

    I’ve been doing the GR challenge for six or seven years. To be honest, I don’t take it too seriously. I really enjoy using it to keep track of what I’m reading. Prior to this year I would try to outdo myself with the number of books I was reading. It’s a fun challenge as long as you don’t let it get to you!

    • Laura

      Not taking it too seriously definitely seems like the key to enjoying the Goodreads Challenge! I think that’s been my problem up until now – I’ve been really serious about updating where I’m up to, and checking I’m not behind. I’ll have to try and not focus so much on that and enjoy it! 🙂
      Thanks for commenting! 🙂

  13. Fariba

    This is the #1 reason why I keep my Goodreads challenge at 50 books. I made it to 47 books last year, but I didn’t care that I didn’t make it to 50 because I got through Don Quixote. I’m able to not put too much pressure on myself to reach the 50 mark, but I keep the goal at 50 and no higher so I don’t feel overwhelmed. I can’t do buddy reads though because I always get distracted by other books I want to read more. I feel the most pressure there.

    • Laura

      It definitely seems to be a good idea to keep your goal at a rate that doesn’t seem overwhelming. My goal is 50 books, like yours, and it just seems like a good number. Not too many, but I still need to put some effort in to reach it 🙂
      I’ve never done a buddy read personally, and partly because of the reasons you’ve mentioned – I would feel too under pressure, and probably decide I really wanted to read something else instead!
      Thanks for commenting 🙂

  14. Krysta @ Pages Unbounc

    I think I just do the Goodreads Challenge because it’s there. I don’t really think about it or let it dictate my reading, though I will power through some picture books on Dec. 31 if I have to to win! 😉

    • Laura

      That sounds like a good idea! I’ve definitely been topping up my score recently with some manga, and I have a graphic novel to read too, which shouldn’t take long 🙂
      I think you have the right idea anyway, with not taking it too seriously or letting it dictate your reading.

  15. Helia @ Rose Quartz Reads

    I love Goodreads and taking part in the Goodreads Challenge, although I agree that seeing people reaching 100 books at this point in the year already can feel a bit disheartening. How do they have the time?! Also I have felt the pressure of trying to complete the challenge every year. Which is why I tend to pick a number of books that I know I can reach no matter what, and will always have me 10+ books ahead of where I’m meant to be :’D It’s probably not how I’m meant to be using the challenge, but it does cut the stress out and make me feel constantly good about my progress!
    Great post x

    – Helia @ Rose Quartz Reads

    • Laura

      I know, I really don’t know where those people find the time to read so many books either!
      I think your way of picking a goal sounds wise though. If you go with something you’re certain you can beat then you get all of the fun of the challenge without the stress! 🙂

  16. Rachel @ Chocolate and Chapters

    So true about seeing your friends’ progress being a pro and a con… It’s fun seeing when your friends read the same books as you or you can get ideas from them, but there’s nothing that can make you feel like a slower reader than seeing some of your friends’ numbers… I have one friend who has already read over a hundred books this year. I am no where near that! I try to ignore it, though, and be happy with what I’ve done!

    • Laura

      I have the exact same thing, where some of the people on my Goodreads have read well over 100 books, and I’m still slowly working towards my 50 book goal, and it makes me feel bad! But I’m going to try and ignore it too, and just focus on achieving my own goal 🙂

  17. Terri @ Alexia's Books and Such

    I use the Goodreads Challenge mainly as a way to keep track of the books I’ve read. I haven’t completed the challenge in years and try not to let it get to me, but sometimes it’s hard. Especially when your friends turn out to be speed readers and leave you in the dust! lol

    • Laura

      It is so hard when all your friends seem to be overtaking you! I’m going to try and not let it get to me either, because the important thing is enjoying all the books you’re reading, and Goodreads is just a fun way to keep track 🙂

  18. Jenna @ Falling Letters

    The con re: the challenge guiding your reading is a significant one for me. I’ve never been a fan of longer books, but even if there is one I think I might enjoy, I’ll put it off for ages in favour of reading more books.

    • Laura

      That’s definitely the big one for me too! I usually love longer books, but I’ve been avoiding them lately because I don’t want to fall behind.

  19. Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    I agree that there are positives and negatives to the challenge. I tend to want to up my goal a little bit each year, but that gets unsustainable after a while (my goal is at 200 this year, but that’s because I’ve been listening to more audiobooks and reading some manga—both of which raise my read number more than is typical). I honestly find myself watching that goal number daily, which probably isn’t the healthiest, but it also gives me something to shoot for, which I like during those weeks when I’m feeling slumpish. 🙂

    • Laura

      Wow, 200 is an impressive goal! 🙂
      I think I’ll probably try and up mine a bit next year, seen as I appear to be well on track for my 50 books a year, and I’ve definitely been boosting the numbers with some manga and some short nonfiction books recently! 🙂
      I have definitely found myself watching the number frequently too, and it’s maybe not that healthy, but it definitely helps me when I get in a slump too. Sometimes I don’t know what I feel like reading at the time, but not wanting to fall behind forces me to pick, and just keep on reading 🙂

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