Saturday, October 18, 2014

Counting books.

I started counting my books even before I started blogging. I counted them in my journal--I'd make a list in the back of all the books I'd read that year.

After I created Classics and Beyond, I started using Goodreads to track the books I read. (I had a Goodreads account before, but I didn't use it regularly.) I loved this easy way to see what I'd read, and just as importantly, how many books I'd read in a year.

At first, I was a little surprised at how low my numbers were, but as I looked over my books, I found that I usually read a few long and/or difficult books each year; the majority of my reading wasn't just breezy novels. Of course, being in school, I'm often assigned to read long and difficult books in a short space of time.

Up until now, I would only count a book in my year's reading if I finished every last page of it. But I've become dissatisfied with that. Of course, I'm not going to count DNFs if I only made it through the first 30 pages. But I often get pretty far in these books before I have to give up. I have a ton of reading to do, and although I really want to finish every book I'm assigned, sometimes I just don't have the time, especially nowadays. So far this semester, I've already put aside How Green Was My Valley after about 200 pages, and I'm suspecting the same is going to happen to Angela's Ashes, even though I only have about 100 pages to go.

The thing is, I don't love these books, and I know I'm not going to love them after getting 200-250 pages through. I've spend a good deal of time on these books. And I'm going to have an honesty moment here: If I didn't care so much about being able to "count" these books in my yearly total, I wouldn't care whether I finished them.

I like that I try to finish books. I think it's a much better habit than tossing them aside after the first chapter. But sometimes it's just not worth it to me--the book is just another number. I just want to be able to add it to the total; I don't really care about the book itself. I feel like if I don't finish the book, I've wasted my time reading those first 200 pages.

I think I'm going to change my personal policy on this. Of course, when I originally considered this, I was worried about the book police coming after me--and then I reminded myself that absolutely no one but me would even care how I counted my books. So I've made a decision. From now on, if I've read at least 200 pages of a book--since many respectable books are that length--I can count it as "read," even if I didn't finish it. (But I'll also put it on a "DNF" shelf on Goodreads.) That way I can still continue my habit of giving books a fair shot, and I won't feel so much like I'm cheating, but I won't have to put myself through the misery of a boring 500-page book if I really don't like it. I'll have spent a fair amount of time reading a single book, and I think that deserves to be counted in my yearly total, since I could have read a 200-page book in the same amount of time and counted it.

I'm sure some of you are probably rolling your eyes and asking why I'm getting so defensive when honestly, who even cares. Well, okay. You're right. But in the little easily-guilt-stricken world of Emily, this book-counting thing is a serious business, and I want to do it right.

What do you do? Do you count DNFs? Do you change your habits just for your book total? Do you even count your books at all?


  1. I don't count DNF at all i my stats. on Goodreads, I do a shelf : read in year xxxx. DNFs go to my 'read in part only' shelf, so not added to my yearly total. I don't even keep track of them on my own excel sheet. I DNF books at max 50 pages. Yes, this is also serious business issue for me, lol

  2. Ummm *** cough, cough **** I usually finish all my books. ;-)

    BUT ...... that said, I did not finish Tender is the Night this year, although I do plan to go back and finish it at a later date. I think the reason I usually finish all my books is that I'm quite particular about what I read so they are usually some type of classic. It's the stage of reading I'm in, yet I'm sure the day will come when I start adding a few books that are question marks and have a DNF shelf on Goodreads! :-)

    I've read both How Green Way My Valley and Angela's Ashes. I absolutely loved the first book so I'd encourage you to finish it and you can beat me over the head with a virtual pool-noodle if you don't like it. Angela's Ashes ...... mpeh ......... you won't miss anything by not finishing it, at least IMO.

    I had one experience that changed my view of finishing books ...... I read A Picture of Dorian Gray and absolutely hated it for the first 70% of the book but then my view of it turned around and at the end, it became one of my top favourites. So I'm really reluctant to stop reading a book, especially if it's one that's endured. Now with modern books, I don't have a problem putting them aside. Oh, and I wouldn't count a DNF book towards my yearly book totals.

    I have a book journal too that lists my books, which I've had since the year 2000. It's really fun to have to look back on past reads.......... I find it more interesting than looking at my Goodreads shelves.

    I'm so interested to hear other people's answers!

    1. I may stop counting DNFs once I can be more choosy about the books I read. But when my main (if not my only) reason for picking up a book is that it was assigned for a class, I'm not usually very attached, but I've still spent a good deal of time reading and discussing it.

      I doubt I'll finish How Green Was My Valley at this point, but I might finish it later. I really did not love the writing style, but that's a personal preference that could change. We'll see about Angela's Ashes...

      Your experience with Dorian Gray is part of what makes me so reluctant to put a book down, too! But it happens so rarely that I'll get 200 pages through and STILL get thrown for a loop.

  3. I mostly do not count my books. I did one year to see what it was like, and it was fine, but that was enough for me. It's too much like work. :)

    Library school cured me forever of feeling like I had to finish books. (Apparently it does that for everyone.) I will quit, skim, start in the middle, whatever, though usually for non-fiction. Starting in the middle doesn't work so well for a novel! *Usually* I do not count an unfinished book, but that means I don't document it on my blog or count it for a challenge. Every so often I will not finish a book but still want to say something about it, so on the blog it goes, but that is rare. It is much more likely that I will forget all about it and fail to remember it when I do the end-of-year blog wrapup and try to remember if there were any books I disliked or didn't finish.

    1. If I read as many books as you do, I would probably feel the same way!

  4. I sort of count my books by keeping track of what I read via Goodreads, but I really don't care about the end numbers. As for finishing books, there is only one that I never got past chapter one, and naturally I did not count it as completed. But I usually force myself to finish even books I don't care about that. I never thought of giving myself a page number to read to in order to count it as read. I may need to do that if I ever get to that situation; but for now I still push myself to finish books I may not really enjoy, and maybe that's not such a good idea.

  5. I don't really do stats on Goodreads, but I don't generally count a book as read unless I've finished it. I do sometimes decide not to finish a book, maybe once or twice a year, but it doesn't happen often. Right now I'm reading a book called "Peace Like a River" by Leif Enger that a friend gave me, and I read the first fifty pages or so and didn't want to finish it because it was filled with foreboding. But I read the next chapter or two, and now I'm almost hooked, so I may finish it after all. And may regret it, we'll see.