I'm coming up fast on my second anniversary as book blogger/reviewer. So I've been doing a lot of thinking in the past few months about how and why I do this. As reviewer one of the biggest perks and challenges are ARCs. Free books offered by publishers and authors for review consideration. ARCs are both a blessing and curse. They are a blessing in that they allow me to try books I might have not tried otherwise. But ARCs come with implicit and sometimes explicit expectations.
When I first started using NetGalley, I was using it as a librarian. Which meant I requested books to evaluate purposes. Often I requested for a chance to look at the format more closely or double check it had the content I was looking for. I didn't feel any responsibility to offer any additional feedback except through my ordering. Eventually however I started using my NetGalley account to request books that interested me personally (Romance & adult fiction), and I started writing reviews since I was not requesting those books as a Librarian. Then somewhere along the line NetGalley changed their dashboard and user profile. They started posting reviewing/request stats. Mine were abysmal (under 30%), because I had dug myself a pretty huge hole during my library evaluation copy request period. Because I am easily affected by grades, seeing the stats in my profile made me more selective. While I'm as susceptible to the lure of a pretty cover and interesting blurb as the next person (okay...maybe more so), I stopped requesting unless I was absolutely sure I wanted to read it or someone I trusted a lot told me I really should try it. As a result my request to review stats started climbing, and I don't have as many unread ARCs haunting my TBR. My stats are still under what NetGalley thinks should be the right amount (hoovering around 50% vs 80%) but I don't feel so badly now.
One of biggest challenges as a reviewer however is not the over-abundance of ARCs but the fact that I'm a moody/emotional reader. I have never had much success reading on a schedule. When I feel like reading, it is all I want to do. I walk around with my book, and steal moments of reading whenever I can. But reading is not discipline for me, even if it is habit. I like to read to everyday, but every so often I get stuck and I can't power through. Maybe I don't have the right thing to read, or I'm not ready to return to a book that I was enjoying but it is going to take me places I don't feel like going to.
I really respect people who can read one book cover to cover without picking something else in between, but I rarely do that, even with books I adore. One of my favorite things about reading on a e-reader is that no one needs to know about my poly-readerish way. They don't have to know that I read sections from six different books yesterday, they only see that I'm reading. The only place they can see cheating ways is if people peek at my currently-reading shelf on Goodreads. Late last year I started tracking my reading on GR more faithfully for two reasons. One is that I've been reading romance regularly for about four years now, so I have read a lot of books, after a while they can start running together and I hate having to rely on my own fuzzy memories. Secondly because I read on mixture of platforms at the end of the year I rarely know how many books I actually read, I only know the number I reviewed. I want to see how many books I actually read in year. Because I do like stats I'm enjoy checking on my Reading challenge numbers. My currently-reading shelf is quite cluttered. About a third of books the books on it are ones that I'm actually reading, and 2/3rds are books that I will eventually DNF but I am not ready to admit defeat on yet.
While I am loving participating in SuperWendy's TBR reading challenge my real challenge right now isn't remembering to dig books out of my TBR, it is making sure I write the reviews of what I have read in a timely manner. Because I read based on my moods, I can get well ahead of myself. Last month I ended up reading four books due for review in May, a couple due in April but ignored several of my March books. As a result I have started using a spreadsheet to track my reading and keep myself accountable for reviews. I'm really liking how it is working for me. While I refuse to treat reading as discipline I can treat review writing as one. I am now tracking release dates, source of ARC, whether I have read it, and if I have started a review. As a result those May books that I read ahead of schedule all have reviews in progress. It is simple enough of a system for me to use regularly and even if I end up reading books all out of order, I can at least make sure the reviews come out in a timely manner. Sometimes I still end up waiting a long time after a reading a book to review it because I need to wrestle with it, but I think I write better reviews if I at the very least write down my impressions pretty soon after I read it.
What are you biggest reading challenges? Do you track or schedule your reading? Do you have system? What works for you?