When it came time for the holidays, my mom and I started to talk about which traditions were our favorite and which would be lost to Covid-19 this year. I realized that one of my favorite traditions was opening a new book on Christmas morning; no matter what else I received, the book gift was always my favorite.
This made me start thinking why. It wasn’t just because it was a gift of a book and I’m a huge reader, it was because I didn’t know anything about the book. It was much more than it appeared, the giver of the book had given me a new world in which I had no expectations.
All of this made me look at Goodreads a little differently. I started using Goodreads in 2014, and ever since then I was hooked. Between setting a yearly challenge to scanning each and every book in Barnes & Noble to check the rating and add it to my TBR, I was never without the platform.
This year, I found myself reading for the platform more so than for myself. I thought about my challenge—fifty books finished in 2020! More than I had ever done (my previous record was 39), and I kept thinking about which books I could read to hit the challenge. Would it be a poetry collection that would help the number go up? Or, maybe I could fly through a series of manga?
Meanwhile, all the books I wanted to read were pushed aside. With a TBR of somewhere around thirty, I found all the books I really wanted to read feeling unhelpful to the goal, and therefore pushed to the bottom of the list.
That’s all going to change this year—and that’s why I’ve decided to stop using Goodreads.
I should preface this with saying that I’m not quitting completely. Though I did set my reading challenge at 1 so there were no expectations, I still plan on going in every few months to add books I’ve read just for “bookkeeping” for myself. I like to look back and see when I’ve finished books or what I read, and I don’t want to compromise that helpful part of the platform by deleting my account completely.
I am, however, deleting the app off of my phone. No more review reading, no more star checks, no more challenge, and most importantly, no more expectations.
One of my bookish friends was shocked by this. “What if you buy a book that has lower than 3.25? Or something problematic? What if it sucks!”
And to that I say, quite simply, “Oops.”
In quitting Goodreads, I take the risk of buying a book without the recommendation of thousands of users. But, in quitting, I also take the challenge to read books only for myself, to take back the hobby that was mine and was instead turning into reading for someone else. Through writing reviews in my own writer’s notebook and occasionally on my own blog, I feel like I’m reading for me instead of for Goodreads, for reviews, or for anyone else.
Will I read a book I don’t like? Inevitably, yes. But wouldn’t I have done so without Goodreads?
Other people from the Bookstr team started to feel the same way this year about keeping track of books in ways other than a platform like Goodreads. In fact, some of us are straying away from tracking reading at all. Here are some of the other reading resolutions from the Bookstr team:
1. Changing the attitude of reading, choosing the books that actually catch your attention. Meaning, specifically, that putting down a book is okay! You can read more about Bookstr’s thoughts on not finishing a book, or DNF’ing for short, here.
2. To read at least one chapter a day. Many of Bookstr’s challenges focused on consistent reading rather than the quantity of books actually finished at the end of the year—keeping up the habit rather than binging and aiming for a specific number.
3. Move past the stigma of binge reading and really focus on the book; read slower and take in the words rather than finishing the book for the sake of finishing.
4. Learning to be okay with reading a few books at the same time. I relate to this one especially; I’ve always been a mood reader, but I’ve felt guilty about putting down a book that I wasn’t in the mood for, even if I planned on going back to it. It seems this is a common trend, and others at Bookstr are trying to break the idea that reading multiple books at a time is a bad thing.
As you can tell from these resolutions, we’re all focusing more on the quality of our reading and our reading time rather than the big total at the end of the year.
All of this made me think of other ways to keep track of my reading. I didn’t want to do it all digitally, as that would negate the whole idea of disconnecting my reading.
At first, I just scrawled down a few sentences about what I thought of a book in my writer’s notebook; it was merely a short recollection of my reaction in general, nothing detailed. But this didn’t spark with me. I did like writing reviews, and I’m a creatively wired person. Which lead me to a new idea—review scrapbooking.
I’m generally a busy person, but this semester, I decided to take a leave from college because of the pandemic. That being said, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do to fill my time. I’m an extrovert and a creative, and while I’m a bookworm, I can’t read all day. I needed some other creative outlet.
I’m not quite sure how it started, but after I finished my first book, I just thought, “Why don’t I scrapbook this?” So, I took the notes I had scrawled onto a piece of paper to keep for later and taped it into a blank journal, finding pictures in old magazines and newspapers to surround the review. I ended up loving the idea so much, that I’ve decided to do it for the substantial reads of the year (excluding my manga habit, as making a page for each in the series would have them all look the same).
Anyone can do this. To start, I collected old magazines—I asked my doctor’s office I was in, my grandmother, and I even ordered a few cheap ones off eBay. I also went to my local Goodwill and stocked up on old picture books. It may seem unorthodox to cut into a book, but I promise I only bought ones that were decades old and falling apart. Repurposing them seemed better than having them sit on a Goodwill shelf.
For newspapers, I cut out the big headlines, using the letters to piece together the titles of my book. I printed some things out, but I usually attempt to scrapbook with all found things. The only other items I purchased for this habit were a pack of stickers to complement my pages.
So, overall, your scrapbooking shopping list would be as follows:
– A Notebook (I’ve found hardback is best, it keeps your pages pressed and flat so they don’t bubble up. A great, affordable option can be found here.)
– Old magazines, newspapers, and books
– Tape and glue
– Any accessories as you please (stickers, accent tape, backing colored paper, etc.)
I documented my scrapbooking habit on my private Snapchat to keep myself accountable, and one of my friends joined with me! This shows just how different each person’s scrapbook can look; while mine is more pieced together and busy, hers are generally themed and open.
So, in a way, I am still tracking my reading—just not traditionally. This new hobby has helped me have another creative outlet while also distancing myself from the expectations and standards I was putting onto my reading from using Goodreads. And hopefully by the end of the year, I’ll have a full scrapbook and something to look back on for years to come.
Do you still count your books / do a yearly challenge, or do you have a different resolution this year? Let us know! Either way, happy reading, and happy new year!