Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Taking Reading Offline


I briefly mentioned sometime recently that I deleted my Goodreads account and was now tracking what I read in a Google spreadsheet. I received a couple questions about why I made the switch, and even I questioned myself when I was initially considering it. I've talked about why I deleted almost all of my social media accounts, but Goodreads doesn't fit into that category. As far as social media goes, Goodreads is an innocuous form; friends and strangers share books they've read and their thoughts on them, and it's not a particularly divisive or addictive platform.

But ultimately, the reason I decided to deactivate my account was to reclaim my thoughts about literature. Reading was for a long time something I considered personal, a way to enjoy my own headspace. While I don’t mind sharing my thoughts on what I've read or talking to others who've read the same books as me, I also don’t feel the need to broadcast, unsolicited, everything I've read. 

Additionally, being on Goodreads grew my TBR pile and book FOMO to the point that I found myself skimming books I wasn't enjoying but felt compelled to read, in order to say I'd read them, before moving on to the next title in my neverending pile. This was particularly true of trendy reads, where I felt I needed to finish them before the book world turned to new trendy titles (A Place For Us, I'm looking at you). I kept adding books to my TBR pile because someone on social media posted about it without considering whether I really wanted to read it or whether I just wanted it to be known that I was informed about current titles.

Beyond that -- Goodreads doesn’t capture the nuances of reading. Sometimes books, like parenting and self-help books, textbooks, or manuals, aren't meant to be read all at one time or all the way through. Sometimes sections are skipped and books are read slowly over a period of years or returned to at different points of life. Sometimes you read part of a book and abandon it, other times you read part of a book and put it down for months before picking it back up. Goodreads doesn't have a way to capture the incompleteness of a read.

I'm currently five months into "offline" tracking. I'm tackling my TBR pile and the unread books on my shelves now that I'm not adding stacks and stacks of titles to my list every week. I can sit and read, and when finished, form my own opinion of the book without being bombarded by others' thoughts when I log online to mark the title as read. Maybe in the future I'll finish my TBR stack and need new suggestions from fellow readers. But for the time being, my unread shelf and my pre-existing TBR list are sufficient enough to keep up an ongoing selection.

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