Now that we're into the second month of 2014 and I've read countless posts about reading goals and challenges (not to mention the ridiculous number I've joined myself), I've been thinking a lot about the idea of counting books. Not that long ago, quite a few bloggers I follow participated in the latest round of Bout of Books as a jump-start to the new year. I didn't participate myself, but I read quite a few update posts and perused the comments, intrigued by the idea of a week of intensive reading. What surprised me the most were the comments by some people who felt what they read didn't really "count." These people were not criticizing each other -- in fact, every single comment I read was supportive -- they were instead criticizing themselves! They were saying how much better the other person did because they only read: easy books, short books, novellas, graphic novels, audiobooks, etc., etc. -- whatever genre or format they felt to be "less than" worthy. They were putting themselves down because seemingly, they felt like they were "cheating" or not challenging themselves enough.
I understand the temptation to do this kind of thing, but I am also a firm believer that a book is a book, period. It doesn't matter if it's short or long, easy or difficult, if I want to read it, it's a book (and it counts!) Looking at my GoodReads challenge progress, it would be easy to start worrying about people judging my reading choices -- of the nine I've read so far, only three are full-length books in the most traditional sense. The others are a combination of poetry, short stories, and children's books, three of which I listened to on audio. I try not to entertain such silly thoughts, but I will admit those Bout of Books comments allowed some doubt to creep into my mind. But, just as with body image (and just about every area of life), I am convinced we are always harder on ourselves than we are on each other. You know the adage, "don't say anything to yourself that you wouldn't say to a friend?" I think that's might be something for us book bloggers to keep in mind too!
Personally, I never choose a book solely for it's length or ease of reading for the purpose of inflating my yearly number of books read. I doubt there are many people who do, but if that's their prerogative, who am I to judge? I have all different interests and while the majority of books I want to read are "full length" books/novels, I think I may have subconsciously neglected other types, possibly feeling like they don't really "count" without even realizing it! So going forward, I'm making it a point to not limit myself and make sure I don't fall prey to self-criticism for my reading choices. The list of books I want to read is long enough and varied enough that I definitely have options for just about every mood or scenario. There's nothing wrong with choosing a book from that ever-growing list that is lighter/easier/shorter, for any reason and I shouldn't waste time or energy wondering if it should "count" or not. We can't read long, heavy books all the time, (or at least I can't!)
One genre I think often falls into the "it doesn't really count" category in people's minds is children's books. Not YA necessarily, actual kids books -- but there are so many classic ones I haven't read, and if the mood strikes, I'm going to read them! This past weekend, I dove into Shel Silverstein's A Light in the Attic and I couldn't put the thing down! It's one of those books I never read as a kid (not in full, anyway) and I was only more intrigued after learning it made the ALA's most frequently banned & challenged list. Where a book is located in the library should not diminish its value. There are treasures to be found in all sections, including those that happen to be shelved in the area that also hosts Mommy & Me storytime.
There are all kinds of reasons for reading books and I'd much rather focus on those than come up with reasons against reading anything I'm genuinely interested in. We don't all like the same books, and we all have our reasons why certain authors, genres, etc. don't interest us. That's totally fine, but worrying that someone (or yourself) will deem a book not worthy enough to "count" should not be one of them.
So, I'm making 2014 a judgement-free year -- who's with me?