It recently came to my attention through an article that the Goodreads Reading Challenge can be and is sometimes construed as bad. Instead of being seen as a positive in the reading community, and a challenge to true book junkies everywhere, the author of this article infers that it’s 1) demeaning to those who are illiterate, and 2) only serves to market books to readers by challenging them to consume more.
I had to mull over this article for a couple of days and let it stew while I considered the points made by the author, and for me, it comes down to:
- Find something to actually be offended about, the annual Goodreads Challenge isn’t it
- Duh, but only a little, come on, dude
Crying and op-ed’ing pieces about how a reading challenge is an insult to illiterate people everywhere is, well, an insult to literary junkies everywhere. Especially the kind who find themselves spending a lot of time on Goodreads ticking the boxes and using the platform the way it was envisioned: a social network for book lovers. Yes, publishers have nothing to lose and are completely in bed with Goodreads. The Reading Challenge is a complete win for them, but who cares? True book lovers want to consume books whether it exists or not.
We know that literacy correlates with better social outcomes, that literary fiction can improve our understanding of others, but despite the best efforts of the boffins, literature is one of the few areas of modern life where it’s not all about the numbers. Of course figures matter to bookshops, publishers, writers and even libraries, but if we enjoy reading – if reading is in some sense good – it doesn’t make any sense for the reader to say that if you double the number of books you manage to get through in a year, it will be worth twice as much.
I am naturally a competitive person, and my competition in reading is – myself. Each year, I want to read more. All of my friends who read want to read more. It’s not necessarily the numbers that matter, but we want to know the stories. I have often joked that if I could “read” a book via osmosis, I totally would. If I could get paid to read all day, every day, I would. The Goodreads Reading Challenge provides the hardcore bibliophiles a way to track our progress throughout the year. Some stay true to their progress and don’t adjust; others notch the numbers up or down, depending on their reading volume. And yes, it’s possible that if we doubled the amount of books, it could be worth twice as much – as long as they are good books! Of course, we are always taking that chance, right?
It starts right there in the name. Since when was reading any kind of challenge? Isn’t it supposed to be fun?
Goodreads and the challenge isn’t meant for people who can’t read or people not interested in consuming mass quantities of books. Reading can be fun and challenging at the same time, those two are not mutually exclusive. At the end of the day, reading should always be a challenge, whether you are learning your consonants and vowels or pushing yourself to read more. And reading more…that will never be a bad thing.