Why I count (pretty much) everything I read on Goodreads

I felt inspired to write this because I’ve seen a few discussions online recently about what people do and do not count, and I realized how much my own choices have changed over the last few years.

For the first few years I used Goodreads, I only added “real books” I read. Then, I considered “real books” to be novels, entire collections of poetry or short stories, novellas, plays, and that was it. If something had a low page count, I felt too guilty to add it. An example would be The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. This story is, depending on your edition, pretty short. I think my two copies are both under 100 pages, which lands them in that hazy place where short stories and novellas meet. I think a novella is typically considered a short novel of 30,000 words, but maybe less than 50,000 words, and short stories are typically anything under about 30,000 words. I could be wrong about that, and maybe there are different classifications depending on where you look for the information.

I didn’t read many comics or graphic novels back then, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t add any I did read. I also didn’t add any long short stories, and I was too ashamed to admit I read erotica, so I didn’t include those for a long time, even the full-length novels. (This was before it was a popular genre that it seemed like everyone was reading without always being judged for reading.)

While I do focus a bit on the number of books I read in a year, my primary goal is to increase the number of pages I read. I don’t know why, it just is. So, eventually, I grew tired of A) not being able to remember what I’d already read, and B) missing out on hundreds–if not thousands–of pages counted each year because I wasn’t including everything I read on Goodreads.

Maybe someone will look at my Goodreads shelves and scoff because I’ve included a single issue of a comic, or a short story, but it works for me to do things that way. The big turning point for me was when I realized that I don’t always like to read an entire collection of short stories in one go, and I don’t want a single volume sitting on my “currently reading” shelf for a decade while I read a piece every few months. (Things like the Grimm brothers fairy tales, or Poe’s complete works, or Bradbury’s complete short stories fall into that category for me.) I was also sick of my yearly page count not being a true reflection of the number of pages I’d read. This was particularly frustrating when I was also reading a lot of fanfic, so not only was I missing out on counting those (which could be quite long), I was also denying myself the inclusion of things that were on Goodreads, if only I would add them.

So, I decided to stop caring what anyone else thought about what I added to my shelves. It is, after all, my account, to use in whatever way works best for me. I joined Goodreads to keep track of every possible thing I read, and I became a Goodreads Librarian to help add things that weren’t already on there (which seemed a particular problem with self-published books for a while, and I read a lot of those back then). So what if someone else laughs because I added “The Raven” as something I’ve read? I read it, so on the “read” shelf it goes.

The point of me writing this is mostly just to say this: If you use Goodreads, and you feel weird about adding shorter things, think about why. Is it because you really don’t care about adding it, or because you’re worried about what someone else will think? Remember that your Goodreads (or whatever book/reading tracking thing you use, if you use something else) is there for you, and it’s up to you how you use it. If you don’t like adding short works, that’s totally fine. But don’t shy away from it because you think someone else will think it’s weird or silly.

I still don’t actually count every single thing I read, but I count almost everything. I prefer doing it this way because it helps me remember what I’ve read and what I thought of it, as well as giving me a more accurate picture of how many pages I read in a year.

As far as the yearly Goodreads challenge is concerned, no matter what my goal is, I still don’t consider it finished until I’ve read that many longer pieces. For example, if my goal was to read 10 books, and I finished it in January by reading 5 novels, 3 collections of poetry, 1 comic, and 1 short story, I wouldn’t actually consider it “complete” by my standards until I’d read 2 more longer things, whether they were novels, novellas, plays, poetry collections, etc.

I’m not going to try to tell anyone how they should use Goodreads, or that they should change what they’re doing. If it’s working for you, and you’re happy with it, that’s all that matters. I just wanted to share this because I think that maybe, if I’d known other people who did add everything a few years ago, I would have started doing it much sooner, and possibly not had as much senseless guilt for so long.

How do you use Goodreads?

Do you also add everything you read, regardless of length/genre/etc., or are you more selective?