Several years ago, a friend asked me what I’d been reading lately. What I had been reading at that time was another friend’s novel manuscript for critique. When I explained this, he said, “That’s not a real book.” I said, “I think reading 200k words of story constitutes as a ‘real book,’ whether or not it’s published.”
“Oh,” he said, and dropped the subject.
With the growth of the Internet, we see serials and other web-stories on the rise, and we read them and enjoy them. With social sites like Goodreads, blog networks, and Twitter, we now have public challenges, like “read 52 books in a year.” These are well-intended challenges, trying to get us reading more and widely.
I’ve tried these challenges, had the little counter images, but then found myself trying to figure out what “counted” What is a “real book?”
- Does it count if I’ve read it already?
- Does it count if it’s a manga or graphic novel?
- Does it count if I listened as an audiobook instead of print?
- Does it count if it’s not yet a collection, or I read it while it was being serialized?
- Does it count if my friend’s unpublished novel or fanfic?
I’m not sure why these things plagued me, but I wasn’t the only one asking themselves, or others, “does it count?”
Depending on the challenge, maybe it doesn’t count. And it shouldn’t matter, but we like these widgets and memes, and being part of a community doing something together.
Since I took up knitting and spinning, my reading time plummeted as I found myself having to choose to do one or the other. Sometimes I watched television shows and movies instead because I missed stories, and eventually I rediscovered audiobooks, which I’d always been uncertain of before.
I started listening to them while I worked, while I knitted, while I did chores, and I grew to love them. But then I got worried–was I less of a reader because I listened to books instead of reading them in print?
Truth is, I don’t think so. Print versus electronic versus audio–they’re all the same story, all the same words. Whether I’m reading them in print or on a screen, I still hear the story in my head. When I’m listening to an audiobook, it’s still the same words coming into my head–it’s just through my ears instead of my eyes.
Stories are stories. Enjoy stories, and when you worry about whether or not they “count,” ask yourself whether your goal is to enjoy more stories or “read” 52 books this year of a particular kind.” There’s no right or wrong answer here, it’s just a matter of your anxiety about it. If you’re like me and worry about whether or not things “count,” maybe you, too, need a new “counting” system.
Did I enjoy that story? Did I learn something from it? Then it counts.