These days, I’ve been seeing a lot of people talking about the Goodreads challenge and why it’s bad. The most common arguments are about the idea of imposing stress and competition onto reading, which is supposed to be a fun activity, and how trying to get your numbers up just makes the task into a chore. There is, of course, something to be said for this; the process of turning “games” into work has been well-documented. (For a cool take on this, check out this piece from The Atlantic about the problems with the Untitled Goose Game!) Far be it from me to condemn those who seek to remove the numerical insanity from their reading habits; as I like to say, read what and how you want to, because life is too short to do otherwise.
But, with that in mind, there is no need to vilify those (myself included) who do enjoy counting the books they read. We have perfectly valid reasons to want to keep track of those numbers. Here are a few of mine:
Folks, it’s that time of year again! All around the world, readers are flocking to Goodreads to place their votes for which books were the “best” this year, in genres ranging from Historical Fiction to Romance to Memoir to Young Adult Fantasy. Close to 4 million votes have already been placed (3,948,345 as of the time I type this paragraph). It’s a fun, interactive way for the bookish community–both dedicated superfans and casual readers alike–to have a say in the determination of a literary award, and given that it is hosted through (probably) the most popular book-tracking website, it reaches a huge audience. In theory, it’s an awesome award and a good rally point for bookworms everywhere.
In practice, there are just SO MANY PROBLEMS with it.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I love the concept of people being able to choose and vote for their favorites. It’s like the People’s Choice Awards, but for print media instead of movies and TV. But for a site run by the almighty Amazon, you would think that the logistics of this popular contest would be ironed out a little better. Some of my quibbles with it are small, others are quite substantial, but all of them add up to form a resounding impression that this contest just doesn’t work like it should. Here are some of my reasons why.