Do we read enough?

I ask the question because for the first time in my life, I feel like I don’t. I’ve always been a big reader. My mom taught me to read when I was very young and by the time I started Kindergarten I was reading books meant for third graders. I was always reading…but I never tracked what I read until I discovered Goodreads. I joined in 2010, and have been progressively more obsessive about tracking my reading as time goes by. Check this out:


It appears that by virtue of tracking, I’m reading more. In 2012 I set a goal for myself to read 52 books–one per week. When I’d already blown past that by April, I upped the goal to 100. I ended up reading 106 books that year, and so on the eve of 2013 I set a goal of 110 books. For no other reason than I wanted to beat my own score.

In the two years I’ve been doing this I’ve always been a little bit ahead of my goal. By a book or two. Once I dipped down to “on track.” But this was what I found today:

2 books behind

I’m BEHIND SCHEDULE. I’m a SLACKER. The judgmental librarian in my head is making tsk tsk noises.

You know what happens next.
You know what happens next.

And here’s the really bad part of being behind schedule. While my stats say I’ve read 59 books (18,711 pages) toward my goal, 5 of them are Kindle Singles and 6 are graphic novels! There not even full-length “books!”

So how did I get here? To the point where I’m not meeting my self-imposed arbitrary reading goal and feeling guilty about it? Maybe it’s because I wrote a novel this year? Sure, but I wrote one last year and managed to read 106 books. So that excuse seems invalid.

Maybe it’s because I’m reading fat ass books like the thousand-plus page A Storm of Swords. BTW GRRM, fuck you very much.  Or maybe because I’m investing a lot of time into books, but not finishing them.

books in progress

That’s four books that are hovering around the half-way point. Why don’t I just finish one of those? Because there’s always a new book I’d rather read. If I’m going to slog away at a painful book, I may as well work on my own! *rimshot*

As I started to go into this shame-spiral about what a shitty reader I am, I decided to look at some national statistics. And yes, I know America is not exactly the most intellectual nation on the planet, but I live here and this is what I’ve got.

Turns out, according to the Pew Research Center (pew pew pew!), that the average American don’t read so much. Only 75% of adult Americans (16 and older) read ANY book last year. In any form. Which includes listening to an audio book. Further stats:

  • 7% of Americans ages 16 and older read one book in the previous 12 months
  • 14% had read 2-3 books in that time block
  • 12% had read 4-5 books in that time block
  • 15% had read 6-10 books in that time block
  • 13% had read 11-20 books in that time block
  • 14% had read 21 or more books in that time block

Check out the full study here

So, even if I never read another word between now and December 31, I’m ahead of the game. But, realistically, I know I’m going to be disappointed in myself if I read anything less than 111 books this year. Because it’s not enough to meet my goal–I have to beat it.


If you’re interested, the best books I’ve read so far this year are:

Our Kind of Traitor by John le Carré

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel


  1. I love the GoodReads site. It has helped me to read more than I normally would have because I love tracking my books and the social media aspect with sharing my stuff on Twitter/Facebook. Or sharing a book I encounter with a friend through the GoodReads site.

  2. Great article! I haven’t used GoodReads before, but the fact it lets you see your trends over time intices me. I may be a GoodRead convert yet!

  3. Great minds think alike, I’m in the middle of writing a similar post at the moment. Btw, you’re way ahead of me for books read this year, I don’t know how you do it… Wait, you got rid of your need to sleep, right? 😉

  4. I agree with the whole dropping books that aren’t good, or resonate. But Huckleberry Finn? Really?

    I get that it’s offensive, but at the same time, it’s a part of our history. There seems to be this whole trend to rewrite, revise, or just plain ignore whatever we don’t like.

    Instead of book bans & burnings, we are getting edited versions, and digital censorship. What gets me, is the people who were most for freedom of speech, rights, love, etc turn around and want to punish people who don’t agree with them.

    I’m pretty sure that the founding members (and anyone who thinks women weren’t involved in that needs to put the crack pipe down) of this country didn’t agree on everything, but somehow, they all worked together and made a pretty impressive country out of all their crazy, disparate parts.

    How is it with all of our advances, learning, and knowledge; we as a country can’t do that any more?

    <..> um. sorry about the rant, but I’m glad to see you’re not the only one who is worried about the lack of reading, and are taking personal steps to try and read more. 🙂

  5. Interestingly enough, 2011 was my big year. My chart looks just like yours except swap 2011 and 2012. I am hoping to end this year with a bang though!

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