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exceeding the goal

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Every year I set a goal for myself for how many books I’d like to read throughout the year. I started doing this in earnest in 2015, about a year or so after I had joined Goodreads. Goodreads encourages its users to set a goal and makes tracking your stats very easy; what books you’ve read, how many pages in total, which book was the shortest, which was the longest, the average length, etc. are all laid out in My Year of Books. This year, I my goal was to read 35 books. As of this writing, I’ve read 50. Nearly 11,000 pages. The shortest book I read was 15 pages. The longest, 461.

Currently I’m in the middle of reading four more books, none of which I’m expecting to finish before we ring in 2020, though getting to 50 books this year is a record for me, putting me in a category of so-called “extreme readers.” (Thank you, Tacoma Public Library.)

I can’t find an accepted definition for who or what is considered extreme as it relates to reading, but I think two things come to mind. First, people who simply read lots and lots of books. The TPL considers 50 or more a year to be extreme. Secondly, people who read *extremely* long or difficult books. (This article from Flavorwire has a great selection of these books, a good mix of the lengthy and the just plain difficult reads, if you’re looking for some inspiration.)

I’d love to be an extreme reader. I love the idea of reading that much, at that difficult a level. Bragging rights aside, I’d just feel like an absolute badass. But even having read 50 books this year, I don’t think my reading habits stand up to being called “extreme.” I’ve read the most books this year, out of any year I’ve kept track, and my next closest year was 2015, when I read 47. Aside from those years, the most I’ve managed was 44. So quantity is tricky.

And as for what I’m reading, it’s all over the map. I read books intended for all ages (particularly now that I teach phonics and reading). When I have a category in a reading challenge that I’m not interested in, I try to choose a short book so that I don’t have to suffer too badly due to the likelihood that I won’t like it. I also am firmly in the camp that believes that if you don’t like a book, you do not have to finish it. Period. I’m not going to waste my time just for the glory. (Sorry, War and Peace.) So while the average book I read tends to have a length of over 200 pages, it’s obvious that not everything I read requires a genius-level IQ (even if I did use Wikipedia so hard while reading Astrophysics for People in a Hurry).

Will I raise my goal for next year, seeing that I exceeded this year’s goal by 15 books? Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do when you reach your goals, set newer, better, bigger ones? I guess not for me. The number of books I read every year is essentially arbitrary. I read 24 for the Read Harder Challenge and then any number of books beyond that of my own choosing. And as competitive as I am, since I don’t compete against anyone in these challenges, I have nothing to prove, which I think means that I’m reading this much because I really just like reading. My goal isn’t about trying to see how many more books I can read in a year, or if I can increase the number of pages I’ve read from one year to the next. I set a goal and participate in reading challenges simply to make sure that I’m reading. I believe in it. It’s important.

William Faulkner famously said, “Read, read, read. Read everything.” So I try.

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