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On counting books: stop policing other people's reading: 06/22/18
With regularity, the bookish part of the internet feels the need to ask prolific readers how to read more. If they are a celebrity, all the better. These experts will make reading fun and easier for everyone who wants to squeeze an extra book or two or dozen into their lives.
The advice always goes like this (Because it is basic sound advice):
And with predictable regularity the backlash from "hard core" readers who weren't asked for their advice weigh in. These arguments always go like this:
This time around it's GoodReads that has the learn how to read more post. But that's inconsequential. The same damn post will show up somewhere else soon enough.
As I've mentioned before, I've been tracking my reading since the summer of 1987. I have had years where I've read more than 600 (and by the end of it my brain felt ready to melt) and years when I was overworked, stressed, and depressed and managed to read 20 books. Last year Goodreads said I read 327 (of my 300 goal) books. By my own count (which runs June to May) I read 350.
The first big "no-no" that the naysayers always harp on is the counting of unfinished books. As it happens, I do count the unfinished ones just so I can remember that I've tried and failed to read them for one reason or another. I set them apart from unattempted books by rating them one star (as stated on every page on my blog in the left navigation bar). Last year I didn't finish twelve books. As my stated goal was 300 and I read according to GoodReads, 327, subtracting those 12 still puts me above my stated goal.
The next "no-no" is reading shorter stuff (picture books, children's books, etc). To that I say fuck you. I like middle grade fiction. It's my go-to for unwinding. My middle grade fiction review are also the most popular on this blog. If middle grade fiction or picture books or whatever else aren't your thing, fine, don't read it. But don't have the gall to chastise someone else for reading it and counting it on their personal challenge.
Finally there are audiobooks. Here's the thing. A lot of people lose their sight as they age. There are other people who struggle to read because of dyslexia or maybe the language isn't their native language or maybe they just didn't get a chance to learn in school. That's again, not your thing to police. And as far as the "that's what Braille is for," here's the reality of the situation, you have to learn how to read Braille and Braille readers or Braille books have to be available to you. Audiobooks are far easier to get than Braille books.
If you're going to follow up with "but it's listening, not reading." Again, fuck you. It's still consuming a text and making it your own. You have to concentrate on the spoke words to understand the story just as you have to concentrate on the words on the page to actually read it beyond looking at the words.
Comment #1: Monday, June 25, 2018 at 08:21:30
I love this post. I read 800 books last year. Roughly half were picture books and beginning reader books. I think 75 were books geared toward an adult audience. I have heard a lot of the comments you list here, both online and from real-life friends. (Except for the "learn Braille" one - what a dumb thing to say.) Personally, I don't care how many books anyone else is reading. I'm more interested in their reviews of the books they did read.
Comment #2: Monday, June 25, 2018 at 21:51:00
Thanks. I was feeling testy after reading through the long comment thread on GoodReads.
Comment #3: Thursday, June 28, 2018 at 08:39:57
I don't know why people have to criticize others' enjoyment of reading or how they count their books. It's not a contest! I often review picture books I've read to my kid, and I sometimes read middle grade fiction for something fun and easy- nothing wrong with that. And yes, I count them.
Comment #4: Saturday, June 30, 2018 at 16:17:00
Of course you count them; they're books. You might at a later date want or need to remember the picture books you read to or with your kids. Like you I read a ton of middle grade fiction because it's short and easy. I don't always have the time or energy for a longer book.