Goodreads and Reading Goals: In Two Parts

Wikipedia Retable_de_l'Agneau_mystique

Retable de l’Agneau mystique, by Jan van Eyck

Part the First: Goodreads, yay or nay?

If you’re on Goodreads, or used to be, or are thinking about it, I’d be interested in what you think of it.  As I mentioned in my last post (Me Versus My To-Read Shelf), I’ve been challenging myself to read more by posting a Goodreads reading goal for the last three years.  It’s a great system of public accountability for me, and it turns out that fear of humiliation is an excellent motivator for me.

I also enjoy reading my Goodreads’ friends ratings and reviews of books, and getting their comments on mine. And if I’m considering a book, I’m more likely to believe Goodreads reviews than, say, Amazon’s.  Because frankly, any old schmo can review on Amazon, and the people on Goodreads tend to be more serious readers.  (Okay, not always.)  Plus you can follow authors, and see their posts on certain topics, so that’s cool. I might not be getting everything possible out of the platform, but I’m not sure what else I’d really want.

In short, my overall impression is that it’s fun, and it doesn’t take a lot of upkeep.  So if you aren’t on yet, give it a try.  And if you are on it, come be my Goodreads friend!

Part the Second: What’s up with those high Goodreads challenges?

goodreads challenge stats 2018 small

When I first started on Goodreads, I felt like a loser newb for setting my reading goal at only 20.  It seemed so low!  The statistics Goodreads showed at that time indicated that the AVERAGE goal was somewhere around 60 books (I don’t remember exactly).  SIXTY BOOKS.  Wow.  That means a ton of people set goals much higher than that.  That is crazy beans.

But this year I noticed that Goodreads shows the completion statistics for the challenge too.  That’s the banner at the top of this section.  Again, we see 61 books on average.  How intimidating!

However, I calculated two statistics it doesn’t show.  How many books were actually read, on average (given the total books finished and the number of participants)?

Only 13!

And what percentage of participants completed their goals?

Only 1.1%!

Wow.  That’s terrible!  That’s worse than the success rate for NaNoWriMo!  Whew!

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not happy that other people failed.  But my guess is that the average number of books pledged appears to be so high because a lot of people either radically overestimate how much they can read in one year (70+ is a lot, my friend) or because a lot of people set their challenges and then don’t bother to come back.  This makes me feel relieved, that my more modest goal isn’t a sign of being a loser newb, but a sign of setting realistic goals that I’m more likely to achieve.

And I’m pretty confident that I can, because I’m pacing myself.  To summarize from the last post, in 2016, I pledged 20 books and read 23.  In 2017, I pledged 30 books and read 35.  And in 2018, I pledged 40 books and read 60!  I’m positive that setting the Goodreads reading challenge goal–and having it be publicly on view online–helped motivate me to read more than I otherwise would have. (Side note for those who didn’t read the previous post: this year’s 60 was seriously pushing it for the last 5 or so books, and motivated by a desperate attempt to read more books than I’d acquired.)

For 2019, I’ve set my goal at 45.  I’m still debating whether to raise it to 50, but I don’t want to push myself to read at the expense of writing, and I didn’t get nearly as much writing done in 2018 as I wanted to.

Extra bonus part: Your turn

Do you have a reading goal for 2019? Having reading goals helped you in the past?  I’d love to hear about it!




42 thoughts on “Goodreads and Reading Goals: In Two Parts

  1. I set myself informal goals. I’d like to avg 2-3 books a month this year. Though I know life can interrupt me. What will happen to me is, if I find I’ve been on a book over a month I’ll get irked and buckle down and starting reading it more. That does push me along.

    While I alternate what I read, heavy to light, from one subject to another, I admit sometimes I’ll look at a book I do want to read and factor in its length. “That’s a short one, I could knock that out in 3 days and add to my total…” I feel bad doing that since it feels like I’m gaming my own system. Though these are books I’ve wanted to read anyways. I’ve never bought a book just because it’s short.

    But yes, my “internal” goals have helped me in the past. I was always one to eat my lunch at my desk at work, then during my lunch hour go out to walk and read. That gave me some dedicated book time. Helped to keep the push going…

    Thanks for your analysis of the Goodread community goals. Very interesting… I think it’s what you noted. Many set an unrealistic goal (more wish than goal) then never check on it again.

    Good luck with your goals. Be interesting to see how we all do by the end of the year.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I find that I’m not as diligent about informal goals as formal ones, but if they work for you, more power to you! I hear you about the “cheating” with reading short books. I did a little bit of that this past month to get myself up to 60. ((blush)) I also picked up a bunch of books that were half-finished and just finished them — ta da!

      I tend not to alternate, but to get into the swing of something. Like, I’ll start reading heavy classic sci fi and just keep doing that, or start reading short cozy mysteries and then read all of those that I have. I went through a Jane Austen/Elizabeth Gaskell/Charles Dickens/et al. phase a few years ago that lasted almost a whole summer. The only thing that’s hard to do that with is epic fantasy. When I finally get to book 4 or 6, whatever, I am DONE with epic fantasy for at least a month!

      Good luck with your reading goals too! I’ll check back in 12 months… 🙂


  2. Nice post. You know, most of what you say you like in the first part is available on Amazon. You can follow authors , and while there are certainly sham reviews (as with Goodreads too) the one bonus to Amazon is seeing the verifired purchase. For me , I do my reviews on Goodreads for two main reasons. One, it gives me a centralized platform for my reviews as my author identity, and two, it is very easy to copy the reviews onto my blog. The latter is the primary reason I do the reviews at all, since they are mostly older books.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s the friends on Goodreads that makes it more interesting to me than Amazon, and also the fact that I more often see longer, more thorough reviews. I only follow authors on Amazon if they’re new writers that I want to support. Otherwise, there’s no real point . But if I follow them on Goodreads, I see all the special posts they make, and that can be interesting. I try to post reviews on Amazon too, but only for new or at least living authors who need the support. I feel pressured to write a shorter review there somehow, and that means extra time cutting down the one I posted on Goodreads. And if someone already has hundreds of reviews, I just don’t bother; maybe just a rating. But I try to always post reviews on Goodreads (except in special cases like last week when I was super time crunched, and who needs yet another review on the Hunger Games?), to build up my identity there. I hear that if people get to like my reviews over time and see that I appreciate the same books they do, they’re more likely to consider buying my book when I finally publish one. Or maybe they’ll come check out my blog.

      But mostly I write the reviews for myself, to improve my own writing (or rather, the copious notes about what I thought worked and what didn’t, most of which is only briefly summarized in the review, if at all).


      • I don’t know that I listen to the “verified purchase” anyway — or rather, the lack thereof. I mean, it only indicates if you purchased it from Amazon, and I buy my books other places, too. If I remember correctly, you have to buy a certain number of books from Amazon per year for them to post your reviews, though.


  3. I have failed at my goal, three years in a row. I start off so well,then comes summer and my work schedule is ridonkulous and it takes me a friggen month to read a book of merely 250 pages. It’s pathetic, I know.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I sympathise, Dale. There are some times of year – usually between December and March – where work is very busy and I can hardly find time to write let alone read much. I just plod along in my own way and as long as I have a book I’m reading I’m happy enough.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I happened to have a conversation about this the other day, and it turns out that getting paid to read books is not as fun as it sounds, because someone else gets to decide which books you read, whether you like them or not. Yuck. Always a downside, dangit!

        Liked by 1 person

      • I can imagine. I don’t want to think that this is what writing for a living can be like, that you can get stuck fulfilling contracts you don’t enjoy, churning out stories that are expected of you but that you don’t really want to write. Let’s hope not

        Liked by 1 person

      • I hear that’s true, sadly, depending on what kind of writing job you have. But hey, writing what someone else wants pays the bills while you work on your own projects along the way. It’s that pesky “paying the bills” thing that always gets in the way, though!

        Liked by 1 person

      • How true! And you’re right, working on other stuff and your own on the side – in some ways it’s no different from working a normal day job and doing your own stuff on the side. At least it’s all writing I guess. But those bills insist on being paid, dammit!

        Liked by 1 person

      • With my research work, I end up doing an awful lot of writing all day long, too. I have some control over it, in terms of input into which research projects we propose, but not much. I do notice, though, that after writing all day at work, the last thing my brain feels capable of in the evening is writing (or thinking) for fun. It makes me wonder what it’s like having a job where I worked with my hands instead — where I could be daydreaming about my novel all day long while I work, and then dive into writing when I get home.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I can imagine that, not having the creativity to write fiction when you’ve been doing it all day. At the flower shop, I find I don’t think of my writing at all, but then I am constantly running up and down stairs, serving customers, talking to colleagues. Perhaps a factory assembly line is what we need to let our minds wander 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    • There is no shame in lowering your goal to something that works better with your schedule, Dale! Setting goals is supposed to challenge you to do a little bit more than you otherwise would, not defeat you. Sounds like you’ve identified your down time, so adjust your overall goal accordingly, and try, try again. Good luck with your 2019 goals!


  4. Hi Joy, this is interesting. I am technically on Goodreads but never really found the time – with juggling writing, the blog, Linkedin, facebook (not that I do much on there) – to commit properly to it. Though I do get notifications when you post an update! It’s another part of social media that takes time and I seem to be a bit rubbish at consistently connecting with any of these platforms aside from the blog, though if there’s one I’d like to work harder at it is Goodreads.
    As for reading goals, I’ve never set myself any. I know my reading stats are pitiful compared to many – 60 books in a year? I’ll be lucky to reach 18 – but we do other things together in the evening and on my days off I’m doing family stuff or writing. I always have a book ‘on the go’, usually have a TBR pile to look forward to and enjoy reading, which is the main thing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know what you mean, Lynn — all this social media somehow sucks up more time than I would ever have guessed. But one thing I really like about Goodreads is that it doesn’t actually take *that* much time. I guess because I’m not doing that much. I mean, i post my ratings and reviews of books — but as I said above, I’m mostly writing the reviews for myself, to process through what I liked and didn’t, to become a better writer. And then to summarize it (and at some level, to understand in advance why people might write terrible reviews of my own future books, even if they’re not terrible people). So this is just the public face of that processing, and also the public face of me keeping track of my reading goals. The only thing really “social” about it is that I do like to read the reviews my Goodreads’ friends post. But that’s no more than reading Sammi’s reviews on her blog; same thing.

      As far as reading goals and totals: as I said above, my first year I set my goal at 20 because I was pretty sure I’d read less than TEN the year before. So you aren’t doing that badly. Setting the goal gave me the oomph I needed to take it more seriously. But I do think it’s easier to read when you live alone, because I can read whenever I want to and not feel like I’m ignoring my loved ones. People living with partners and/or kids end up watching TV/movies or playing games or whatever, and that obviously cuts into your reading time. 🙂 But then, there’s always the traditional “half hour of reading in bed” (that turns into more, if you aren’t careful). That can be tricky if you have a spouse who wants the lights off, though.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I have read that some authors use Goodreads to connect with their readers and publicise their work, though I’m not sure if that’s true or if it works. Seems to me the only social media that gets you sales is an email list but that only works if you have something to sell.
        Bedtime’s when I usually read, which as you say could be ten minutes or half an hour, depending how engaged I am. Sometimes it’s a pain to have to stop reading, knowing I have to sleep as I have work in the morning. If it’s the weekend I’ll sit in bed and read with a cup of tea before I get up – hmm, bliss.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I forgot about early morning reading: what luxury! I’m a morning person, so that’s when I’m most productive. Which is why I get my reading done in the evening: my brain isn’t good for much else by that point.

        I don’t know how authors connect to readers on Goodreads except, like I mentioned, posts to their sites (which are basically like blog posts). I get the feeling that there’s more to Goodreads than what I’m using, but as you say, there’s only so much time for social media. And I’m getting all that I want, so I’ll stick with that.


  5. BTW, love that image! As a birthday treat for me last October we travelled to the National Gallery in London to see van Eyck’s Arnolfini marriage and his other works there including a self portrait. I wrote a dissertation on gender and the Arnolfini painting when I was studying for my art history degree – love his work.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love it too! I didn’t know it before I found it for this post; how interesting that you do! I was searching for an image of a woman reading, and this one made me think, Yes, that’s how wonderful reading makes me feel!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I love his work. She’s a panel from the Ghent altarpiece, though I can’t remember which saint she is. I remember mentioning this in my dissertation, how the figure of Adam is clearly painted from life (he has very realistic musculature and tan lines!) and Eve is idealised, painted from van Eyck’s imagination as there was no such thing as a female life model in those days. Just gorgeous


      • You inspired me to look into the Ghent Altarpiece more, and I agree, it’s gorgeous. She’s supposed to depict Mary, with Christ in the middle panel and John the Baptist on the one opposite Mary.

        I read about that a while ago, that many of these Medieval painters were painting women from memory/idealism, or from male models (sometimes quite muscular ones) that they literally just stuck breasts onto. Which helps explain why so many of them look so odd!


  6. I’d take a guess and say a large part of that discrepancy comes from folks joining full of enthusiasm, setting their target …. and never returning. I agree with Lynn, that to be active on Goodreads requires a certain amount of time. And for me, as with her, my writing has priority. Well, that and photography.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree — I imagine a lot of people start off with pie-in-the-sky plans and never follow through.

      For me, thoughtfully processing what I read and writing up reviews is a crucial part of becoming a better writer, so that’s a priority for me. And that’s the only thing that actually takes much time on Goodreads. The only other thing is reading reviews, and that’s part of buying books, which is another important writing/reading priority. I probably spend less time on Goodreads total than I spend on your blog, for instance! But I know what you mean about social media taking up time. That’s why I’m not on Twitter or Instagram or any of those other platforms. Talk about being sucked into the vortex, no thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Reading your last two posts raises a question: how do you juggle your reading and writing goals? Do you make conscious trade-offs, does one take a back seat to the other, to what extent are they integrated, etc.?

    I’ve set myself some writing goals for the year, but I don’t yet dare set any reading goals. I’m not sure what I’ll have to read to support my writing, and there is reading I MUST do to support teaching courses.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hmm, that’s an interesting question, thank you for asking. I don’t consciously make trade-offs between writing and reading, which probably shows that I’m not organized enough, hmm. Now that I think about it, I realize that the times that I usually write (mornings and during the days on weekends) are not the same times that I read (evenings, when I’m too emotionally/mentally spent to write). So it’s more a trade-off with other activities. If I have a lot of social activities in the evenings, I get less reading done. (But then, I’ve been trying to do housework and errands in the early evenings to clear up weekend space for writing, so that can affect writing time, too.) For the past two months I’ve been very stressed at work: going in early, staying late, and working on weekends. That wipes me out for most of my writing time, but at the end of a harrowing day I need some way to unwind, and end up reading more.

      The reading I do to support my writing is threefold. Most books I read are fiction, and at least half of those are in fantasy, the genre I’m writing in. The primary benefit for my writing is that I’m soaking up (and actively analyzing) what works and doesn’t, what keeps the flow going, what engages me, what makes me want to throw the book across the room… But I also pick up on what’s become trite, can understand the classic and new examples others use, am looking for “comps” for my work, etc. I also read outside my genre to get fresh ideas and perspectives, since most of what works about writing fiction isn’t unique to any one genre (and just for fun, of course!). A smaller percentage of the books i read are writing craft books (fewer this past year than last year, when I went a bit crazy soaking up the wisdom), and about an equal percentage are resource books (e.g., history, mythology, castles,anthropology, etc.), to help me with world-building.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well, don’t feel too bad about being disorganized. I don’t even have set times for doing my reading and writing. And somehow, “when the spirit moves me” is not a substitute for organization. (sigh)

        Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t really have set times either. It’s just that my brain is best in the morning (well, after a cup of coffee or two) and gets progressively used up over the course of the day. And I need a lot more brain to write than to read, it turns out. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Uffdah, that’s a tough statistic! while I totally get using fear of humiliation as a motivator (Lord knows I’ve used it before), I can’t bring myself to set a reading goal. I think it’s because I never know what my time budget will be from one month to the next. Still, it probably wouldn’t hurt to make sure I read SOMEthing every month…

    Liked by 1 person

    • The first year I set a reading goal, I set it pretty low, because I was afraid of the same thing — what if I have a really busy month and get behind? But I found that just getting into the habit of keeping track of what I read helped motivate me to read more: it reminded me that reading was a priority, too. Like, I was giving myself CREDIT for it, the same way I got credit for working hours at work or for writing words toward my monthly writing goals. It’s worth trying. Maybe start with a goal of 12 per year, and if you don’t get anything read in one month, you still have time to catch up in the next month.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: Me Versus Reading Priorities | Tales from Eneana

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.