Why I’m no longer setting a reading goal

by Kristopher Cook
Why I'm no longer setting a reading goal - Kristopher Cook

It’s the end of the year, and like most book enthusiasts, I’d usually be ticking off my Goodreads reading challenge in preparation for next year.

I’ve been able to make a steady increase year on year. Looking back, I laugh at the thought of reading ten books in one year. Ah, 2015 – Simpler days! It’s also worth noting that only four of them were books in the traditional sense.

Whilst they have helped keep me improving, keep me focussed on reading more, there have also been times when they’ve stressed me out.

Seeing that imposing deadline and knowing you only have a week to read three books, all whilst wrapping up a big work project. It can be stressful. I’ll admit I’ve purposely read short stories to fill out these quotas in years gone by.

So this year I’m not setting a reading goal. Why? Good question.

Public persona definitely plays a large part in it. If I don’t meet these arbitrary goals, how can I ever view myself as a book reviewer? How can someone who reads half of what some others are reading seriously have an opinion?

It’s worth noting though that not everyone has all day to sit and read. As much as I would love to, God that would be great, I have other commitments that take up large parts of my day; work, relationships, studying etc.

As of 2021, I’ve decided I no longer need the hassle of an inconsequential number looming over my head. I don’t want to be judged or judge others, simply by how many books they read. Even the term books are used loosely here.

Quality over Quantity

Suppose someone reads two hundred books in a year. Does that necessarily make them more well-read compared to another whose read comparably less?

What about the quality of the books? The challenges they denote to the reader? These must also become a factor – a factor that a number doesn’t portray.

This year, I’ve decided to make a list of the books that I want to read. I’m always finding new book recommendations from my followers on Instagram, which I’ll then read when I have free time. Hopefully, this gives me a better focus on my current to-read list and stops me from getting so easily distracted by new shiny titles all the time.

Here are some of the books I want to read in 2021:

Why I'm no longer setting a reading goal - Kristopher Cook
Some of the books I’m looking forward to reading in 2021.


  • Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs
  • The Hearing Trumpet by Leonora Carrington
  • My Life in the Bush of Ghosts by Amos Tutuola
  • This Blinding Absence of Light by Tahar Ben Jelloun


  • Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov
  • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck


  • I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara
  • The Rape of Nanking by Iris Chang
  • The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton
  • How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

That’s already ten books, so I’ll read new recommendations and other books from my to-read list around these. My decision to do this is to make my reading much more intentional.

As you can tell, there’s an intention to read more BIPOC authors, along with more non-fiction books. I’m hoping these will challenge my views of society and how we can all make changes moving forward.

Savour the Flavour

When you rush through books, especially towards the end of that imposing public deadline, you don’t take the time to fully enjoy the content.

Taking in each word, each sentence and each paragraph is an art form in itself. To sit back and reflect fully on what I’ve read is something that often gets overlooked. But no more.

I want to be able to recall passages from books I read several months ago, instead of having to look back over my notes.

Not All Bad

Even though it might sound like it, I don’t think reading goals are all bad. They are great for children or students who’re looking to read more books in general; I did the same when I first got into reading.

However, as an adult who has commitments in and out of work, I find that the total goal can become a chore more than a hobby. And this is something I’m keen to avoid.


Reading is supposed to be fun! If it isn’t, then you need to ask yourself why? Are you trying to impress people with a number? Trust me; you’ll only get so far because there’s always someone else who’s read more.

If you’re going to set yourself a reading goal this year, then follow this simple advice.

As soon as reading becomes a chore, step away from your current pile and seek out something you really want to read. An old favourite or the latest release from your favourite author is always a good start.

Let me know in the comments below what your reading goal is this year? Or, if like me, your not setting one? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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