Tag Archives: reading habits

Mindless Book Consumption

There is a trend on Goodreads and other sites for book lovers that I’ve noticed lately and bothers me as a reader, an author, and an English professor: mindless book consumption.

What the hell are you talking about? you might ask. To me, mindless book consumption is reading hundreds of books a year (or a month– yeah, I saw someone supposedly read 120 books in February), but the books you’re reading a) aren’t given time to be digested or be enjoyed b) chosen for the most part just because they’re easily accessible c) many of those books are not actually finished but are considered “read” and rated on sites like Goodreads.

I have LOTS of problems with this gluttonous treatment of reading material. First off, let me say that I am all for reading tons of books. Last year, I read 120 books, and I totally get how people can read 300 books in year. I wish I could read that fast, but I know, I’m a comparatively slow reader. If you’re a voracious reader who likes romances, I can understand how someone could consume that many books in a year. Many romances are short and fairly straightforward, so if you enjoy them, it’s easy to burn through book after book in a genre you like.

On the other hand, what I’ve witnessed on Goodreads is very different. Goodreads attracts a lot of reviewers or those who are famous on Booktube or Bookstagram, and often that fame is tied to how many books they read in a year. If you’re a reviewer, the more books you read, the more posts you have, the more people read your posts, and the more followers you have. It makes sense from a marketing standpoint, but what has happened on this site is the idolization of gluttonous readers, especially those who pan books. I would like to challenge this ideal because what I’ve seen has been nothing more than binging books with little regard for enjoyment or synthesis of the products consumed.

My concern is the mentality of quantity over quality in the book community. What is the point of reading 300 books if you can’t discern one book from another or you DNF (did not finish) more books than you finished? DNF-ing in and of itself is problematic in the context of the mindless consumption mentality because many readers count them as “read” on Goodreads and rate them despite not reading the entirety of the work. From an author’s standpoint, I wouldn’t want someone to read half of my book and pass judgment without receiving the complete picture, especially if a perceived flaw in the narrative turns out to later play a part in the plot. As a reader, there are plenty of books I didn’t love at page thirty that I adored by the end. Perhaps my stick-to-it-ness comes from being an English major and being forced early on to read outside my comfort zone. By being made to read books I didn’t think I’d like, I ended up branching out to new genres, and I know that if I had given up on Jane Eyre or The Canterbury Tales early on, I would have missed out on stories I now love.

Besides missing out on some great books by DNF-ing, there is the matter of ethics. Is it ethical to mark a book you didn’t read in its entirety as “read”? Even worse in my mind, is it ethical to rate a book you didn’t finish?

The former issue is at the heart of the problem. It’s very easy to inflate the amount of books you’ve read if you didn’t actually read the entirety of the book. Of course, people stopping by your profile on Goodreads wouldn’t know that unless they looked more closely at your reviews and reading history. Others see the inflated number, they feel the need to compete with it, and they might attempt to fudge their numbers and perpetuate the cycle.

The greater problem is how society seems to adore cynical, jaded reviewers. This is a centuries old issue that spans every artistic medium imaginable, but with the internet and social media, you no longer have to be a reviewer for the New York Times to disseminate your views to a large audience. Unfortunately, good reviews garner little attention. Bad reviews, especially those of popular media, stick out. It’s one thing to genuinely not enjoy a work, but in a time where social media users regularly try to gain likes and followers, I have to wonder if some people are more likely to read in order to find fault with a book rather than read to enjoy it. If you combine the fact that people feel special when they go against the grain with the need to meet a very high reading quota, you end up with reviewers on Goodreads and Amazon who specialize in panning and DNF-ing books, which of course they stopped reading because they didn’t enjoy them and then rate them poorly.

The question is, how do we combat this and should we combat it? Of course it is within your right to not finish any book you start and then rate them, but you don’t have to read those reviews or follow accounts that exhibit suspect behavior. Much like avoiding brands that have questionable policies or practices, we can abstain from giving those bloggers attention whether it’s liking their posts, following their accounts, or leaving disparaging comments.

Conversely, if you’re a reader, perhaps seeing this behavior will make you more mindful of how you consume books. Being mindful has become a buzzword lately, but when it comes to consumption, I think it’s necessary to reflect on why you do what you do. If you’re reading to fill a vacuum or to meet a numerical goal, it may be worth wondering why you feel the need to do so. Are you reading because you want to be entertained or learn something or is it because you are in competition with someone or to live up to a perceived standard?


Stay tuned for another post about mindfulness and reading soon.

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2017 Reading Recap

I’m back! Sorry for going AWOL after the panic attack post, but life has been crazy and I have been detoxing from life by reading a shit-ton of books and playing a wonderful farming computer game called Stardew Valley. If you’re curious, a shit-ton comes to approximately 120 works read in a year.

You heard me (saw me, whatever). I read 120 works this year, which is up from 53 works in 2016. You may have noticed I used “works” instead of books. The reason being is that this list includes mostly books in the traditional sense but also a handful of short stories and quite a few graphic novels. I can already picture someone tutting my love of graphic novels and manga and subtracting them from my year-end total.

They have a narrative embedded in a static medium, so they count.

More than anything, I wish I could gather all the physical books I read this year and take a picture of them stacked into the great wall of literature, but I can’t bring myself to make that kind of mess or see their number and feel like the book hoarder I know I am. Instead, I’m going to post a picture of my spreadsheet. Yup, I have a spreadsheet of what I read called my Reading Log.

I’m the kind of person who likes to keep track of everything I do, so this list not only appears in Excel but also on Goodreads and in my bullet journal (also color-coded). Here it is:

2017 book log 12017 book log 22017 book log 32017 book log 42017 book log 5

So what do I plan to do with this large spreadsheet? Extract data.

I love data. Don’t let the author and English teacher thing fool you. Being an English major means going deep into analysis and picking apart my spreadsheet is just another way to do that.

In 2017, I read 120 works, 27,282 pages, and their average x/5 rating was a 4.16. Honestly, I’m a fairly easy grader when it comes to books. 5 means it hit the spot and was fantastic. 4 means I enjoyed it. 3, meh but it wasn’t awful. 2 means there was some huffing, eye-rolling, or issues that annoyed me. 1 means that the editing was so terrible that I was mentally editing as I read it OR it was highly offensive and I feel the need to eviscerate it. Most things I read are a 4 because I read for enjoyment.

Before I talk about the sex of the authors, I want to make a few points. I read a lot of series, so many of these authors are the same person counted several times. If an author is trans, I consider them to be the gender they prefer, so you won’t see transgender as a listing. 28 works were by authors were male (Lemony Snicket accounts for 10 of these male authors, so take that into consideration), 89 were by females (Jordan L. Hawk makes up 16 and K. J. Charles 15), 3 were by an unknown (all the same person), 1 was written by a nonbinary person. Someone out there (who I have given Dudley Dusley’s voice) has yelled out “But that’s 121, not 120!” I know. One book (Saga) has two authors, one male and one female. Of those 28 male authors, there were 8 unique authors, and there were 29 unique female authors of the 89.

What I find interesting is that many studies have found that people in general tend to read a lot more male authors than female authors. I have never found that to be the case with my reading. I don’t do it purposely; I just find that I’m drawn more to female authors and enjoy their work more. A lot of it is the more sympathetic or emotional quality of female writing versus male writing. It’s hard to explain but there’s a different quality to it in general. This also probably happens because the genres I really like tend to be female-dominated (historical and paranormal fantasy).

In terms of format, I’ve read 38 ebooks, 33 graphic novels, 22 hardcovers, and 27 paperbacks, or to say it differently, I read 33 graphic novels and 80 traditional books (I’ll explain why it isn’t 87 below). I count graphic novel as its own format because it’s different than a traditional paperback. Plus, just staring at the titles, it’s hard to tell what’s a graphic novel versus a novel. A few years ago, I was one of those book snobs. “Oh, I only read physical books.” Like that means anything. Then, I received a Kindle for Christmas and found an author I loved who only published in ebook form (the whim of a publisher, not her own), so I caved and I’ve loved my ereader ever since. Books tend to be cheaper, I can read in the car or before class or on the sly at my office job on my phone. What surprised me is how many hardcovers I read. I’m not a fan of lugging around heavy hardcovers in my bag, but since I’ve been buying more recent releases, it’s my only other option besides ebook.

I also read 7 short stories, which are included in the 120 and brings “traditional books” to 87. These are, for the most part, stories connected to larger works or series. Sometimes it’s hard to determine where a short story becomes a novella. For the purposes of this post, I decided that anything under 50 pages is a short story and anything over it is a novella/novel.

This next section scares me a little bit because it’s a lot and it looks unruly in my notes. I’ve separated what I read by genre, but I want to be clear that these are what I have decided to call them, not necessarily what their publishers would call them. There was no hard and fast criteria for the genre categories.

32 paranormal fantasy
18 fantasy
16 mystery
11 contemporary
9 historical fantasy
8 historical fiction
5 on writing (nonfiction)
4 urban fantasy
3 science fiction
2 afrofuturism
2 history (nonfiction)
2 YA romance
2 historical mystery
2 nonfiction
1 contemporary fantasy
1 steampunk
1 medieval poetry
1 historical romance

As you can see, I really enjoy paranormal fantasy and fantasy in general along with historical fiction (in various forms). A lot of these categories overlap with each other, and certain categories, like fantasy, became a catch-all for books that I couldn’t pinpoint but often tread the line between real cultures and fantastical new histories.

46 of those stories had LGBT characters as the leads. That means, over a third of the works I read this year had non-straight main characters. I think that is kind of amazing considering how certain groups would like to downplay the role of LGBT people in the world. I refer to myself as queer, so I probably gravitate toward stories and characters I can relate to. Within the list, there are also quite a few books with LGBT characters, but they aren’t the main character(s) and weren’t counted. It’s nice to see that the role of LGBT characters is growing past their past token or comedic or tragic status.

If I could, I would love to see what authors I read the most this year or analyze how long it took me to read a book on average based on genre or length, but I can at least tell you that on average I finished a book every 3.041 days. That’s crazy. It still blows my mind that I’ve read that much. Resisting is stressful, the news stresses me out, and my outlet this year has been reading.

Over the next few posts, I’ll talk about some highlights from 2017’s reading along with my bullet journal for 2018 and the goals I’m hoping to accomplish in the coming year, especially regarding reading and writing.

Happy New Year everyone! What did you read and enjoy in 2017?

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