Friday, January 13, 2023

Reading on Target.



A tidy part of the TBR mountain
The Bouchercon Pile

I’ve noticed on Social Media a trend to set a book reading target at the beginning of the year. It tends to sit somewhere between 200 and 300 books to read in twelve months. There was rather a thought provoking article in a sensibilish paper that asked the simple question, why do people do this?

I’d like to add another question; how the hell do they have the time? And, what are they not doing and reading instead? Is there someone else always two feet behind them picking up the slack of what they are not doing. 300 books a year is a lot of man hours. As a writer do you want your book to be wedged in at number 47 and then ticked off a large list as 'read'. Or would you wish it to be savoured? Are the two things incompatable?

When I was wee, there were no books in the house as we couldn’t afford them. ( I do believe we should write in here "our recollections may vary". "Did I tell you about the time my sister left me out in a thunderstorm when I was three?" "And then my dog pushed me, and I tripped over the dog bowl?" "Do I get a million pounds for that?" Sorry, there was an interlude of sarcasm there.) While we never had any books in the house we would go to the library once a week on my dad's bike, and maybe looking back on it, I was the one who was very keen to go, more so than my dad and sister.


Now I tend to buy more books than I read – I mean I like buying books more than I have time to read the books than I buy. And I like mooching about book shops, especially if they sell pens and notebooks.

On holiday – a rare holiday when I’m not using the holiday to reach a deadline, then I will devour books. The more I’m enjoying a book the slower I’ll read it. If I’m reading it to review or for an event I can whizz through them pretty quickly. Certainly a 350 page hardback would be a two day job if I was reading it all day.

The article made me look at my reading habits – at the moment, half an hour before I go to sleep and that’s it. My writing habits consume the rest of my freetime. And I tend to be reading friends' books to give a little quote for the back. I can’t actually remember the last time I sat down and read a book that was my choice to read.

I suppose we should be grateful for those who consume 300 books a year as they are obviously buying 300 books a year, but maybe they are involved in some swap system with their friends. It doesn’t matter as long as the books are being read and enjoyed. But are they? Or is it the aforementioned tick box exercise?


How much of the books do you actually absorb if you are reading it that fast? Many believe that setting a target and reading for pleasure are mutually exclusive. The article also provoked a heated debate – doesn’t Social Media always - about how much of the text a fast reader actually takes in. I know there is a skill in skim reading, but is that what the author actually wants you to do?

I can see a benefit in setting a target in a sense that it might force you to put some time aside to settle in to a comfy chair with the faithful hound and enjoy a good read.

At the moment I’m reading a pre published pdf of a book that’s so beautifully written that I go to sleep wanting to stab the author, so I can steal their words. It's an excellently written book – they told me it’s a very bad book but it's mercifully short. It's difficult to tell the length of it as I’m reading it, for my sins, on my phone. Not recommended.

I must have hundreds of unread books in my house in case I’m ever short of a good read. Or we have to endure a nuclear winter. Whatever comes first.

And there is no ‘spare’ room on any of my book cases for THAT book. See what I did there.

My other half has just read this blog and commented that I’m not going to live long enough to get round to reading all those books I possess. Who needs that kind of negativity!



  1. Reading in bed is my default setting, managing twenty to thirty minutes before my eyes give up and sleep beckons. I feel guilt if I haven't opened the Kindle each night and read even a little. On the rare nights when that occurs, I'll instead fall asleep to a podcast or something on BBC Sounds. There's no way I could get through a hundred never mind three hundred books at that rate, so much like him indoors said, I hope there's a library in the afterlife cos I'll have a lot of catching up to do when I'm gone.

  2. I arrived in Cape Town on January 1 to the strange world of load-shedding (euphemism for power outage or rolling blackout). For unknown reasons, I've been reading more despite that lack of light. Finished 3 books since I arrived and halfway through a fourth. What sense does that make? Obviously not writing enough! I'm normally delighted if I finish 3 or 4 books a month.

  3. You describe my book collecting exactly, Caro. I am currently reading three books and listening to two audio books—both of books I’ve read before and want to reread. I am a slow reader. I savor books. My BIG concession is that if I’m not loving it, I stop, unless it’s research that I must read in order to write. A great thing about not having to go to work every morning is that I get to read myself awake most mornings. AA

  4. Thank you twice. First, for the great honor of being represented at the tippy-top of your to-be-read pile ... though from the way OLC is positioned in your aptly titled post's photo, it may be meant more to serve as a target for a scampering kitty than a TBR. My second thank you is for showing me know that I'm not alone in my views on mass speed reading. In fact, I agree with every point you make. Not sure what that makes us, but doppelganger does spring to mind.

  5. I'm lucky to get 50 books read in a year, sometimes as high as 75, depending upon the books and the year. But I rarely "skim read." I read at about the same speed I would if I were reading out loud to an audience. I want to HEAR the author's voice in my head. If I find myself skimming, I know that I'm not a perfect match for that book, usually because of one of these reasons: a) the author is spouting information rather than letting the characters convey it; b) the author is describing the scenery rather than letting the characters experience it; c) the author is using language that causes my brain to shut down.

    In a book I REALLY enjoy, there's zero skimming and I'll read slowly and thoroughly. In a book that keeps me occupied, I might skim a few paragraphs in a chapter. When I find myself "flipping page after page," that's usually when I quit the book and move on. Doesn't mean it's a bad book, just means that it's not a good book FOR ME.

    Fortunately, most of the books I read, I read every word that was published...