It is an oddly warm December night and I’m sitting at the dinner table, indulging in my mom’s delicious homemade cuisine after a semester of consuming dining hall food. Conversations full of catching up and recounting stories about my first semester in college complement the evening’s entrées. All of a sudden, my phone screen lights up. What I think will be an iMessage or Instagram notification that I can tend to later is soon revealed as a notification from my most used — yet most despised — mobile application: Goodreads. And so, the notification, which redirects me to my 2022 reading wrap-up, becomes a matter I must immediately address.
It’s accurate to compare my relationship with Goodreads to a toxic romantic relationship. No matter how much harm it causes me, I keep going back. Year after year, I resentfully log every single book I read onto the mobile Goodreads app on my phone and update my 30 Goodreads friends every 100 pages until I’m finished reading, and so progresses the vicious cycle I am unable to break.
Ever since I downloaded Goodreads, every page turned has become a small step closer to completing my yearly reading goal. Keeping track of my reading is now a quantifiable task instead of an entertaining hobby. It has also made me extremely self-conscious of the books I enjoy reading, given that people can actively see the media I consume and silently judge me based on it. I’m hyper-aware of this, yet I refuse to delete Goodreads from my phone. I’m addicted to it. Goodreads seems to have me in a chokehold I can’t break out of.
I think my toxic relationship with Goodreads really began in 2021. Sure, I’d been using the app since 2020, but with the new year came the resolution to read 50 books, a resolution I had to complete. I was so determined that I went 10 books over my goal, reading 60 books total in 2021. I’m not saying that reading a lot of books is unhealthy — on the contrary, it has been scientifically proven that reading has many benefits for both physical and mental health. But when 2022 came around and I reflected on my favorite books of 2021, I realized that I barely remembered anything from the books I’d read throughout the year. I had to admit to myself that most of the reading I had done was solely to complete my reading goal and show off my ability to read at a superhuman rate. The practical solution to this was to foster more timely reading habits. Unfortunately, the desired outcome was not achieved.
The result of my 2021 reading spree? The second-worst reading slump I’ve ever experienced. It arrived at the start of 2022. I set my reading goal for the year for 60 books, certain I could fulfill it. I mean, I’d done it once already, right? Who’s to say I couldn’t do it again?
Come May 2022, I had read 10 out of the 60 books I had wanted to finish by the end of the year. Consequently, I lowered my goal to 30 books. In the blink of an eye, November had rolled around, and I had read 15 books. I had no choice but to lower my goal to 20 books. Even then, I ended up completing my goal on New Year’s Eve, barely ready to ring in a new year of reading.
I know that 20 books is not a small amount by any means. I posted a screenshot of my completed reading goal on my Snapchat private story and remarked how I wished I had read more books in 2022, only for my friend to swipe up and tell me that that was 20 books more than what she’d read in the past few years. This is exactly the toxicity I’m talking about. What most people think is an exorbitant quantity of books to read in a year has become an insanely minuscule amount for me, and Goodreads is responsible for this pretentious mindset I promote.
I would love to be able to say that my 2022 reading experience was testament enough to the toxicity Goodreads brings into my life. Sadly, this is not the case. I welcomed the first day of January 2023 by setting up my yearly reading goal of 30 books, sulking in the toxic and seemingly inescapable cycle of the only relationship I’ve ever been in.
Daily Arts Writer Graciela Batlle Cestero can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.