In today’s day and age, it seems like we humans are so distracted by technology and the entertainment that comes along with it that we’re reading and writing less.
I love to read and write, but I have recently found myself being entertained in my free time by binge-watching new episodes (or whole seasons) of my favorite TV shows and movies—I used to spend that time reading. Now, I’m not trying to make anyone feel guilty about the way we choose to spend our free time because so many factors come into play that turns us into lazy people when we do have time to kill.
If you’re reading this, I’m assuming you’re a college student, like me, and being a college student is so stressful and time-consuming (understatement of the year, right?). When we’re not in class, we’re studying for that class, doing homework for that class, and/or writing papers for that class. And when we finally have some down time, either during a seasonal break or a cancelled class, we are mentally so worn out that we don’t want to think so we naturally turn the TV/Netflix/Hulu, etc. on to numb our minds.
I’m definitely not proposing we unplug, but how can we encourage one another to spend some of our free time reading [and writing]? I think I may have a solution! I’ve come across an awesome website that can help inspire some motivation. That website is http://Goodreads.com.
I was first introduced to http://Goodreads.com by Emma Watson’s (Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter movies) post on Facebook. She posted about the website because she started a Feminist book club, Our Shared Shelf, as part of her global Feminist movement. Each month, Emma selects a book either by a known Feminist author or a book with Feminist themes, and members of Our Shared Shelf read it during that month. So, for example, January’s chosen book was My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem. At the end of the month, Emma and members then discuss the book, what they thought, their opinions, et cetera in the group discussion boards and threads. Many members create discussion boards and then comment on those discussion boards throughout the month, though, so it isn’t limiting in any way. I believe that joining a book club is a good way to get into the habit (or get back into the habit) of reading for fun. The same is true for writing: being able to write out what you thought about a book with other people, especially engaging in meaningful conversation with a wonderful celebrity like Emma Watson, can help us appreciate writing again.
Other than the book club feature, http://Goodreads.com helps you keep track of books with their Shelving feature: how many books you’ve read, books you’re currently reading, and books you’d like to read. You can also rate books you’ve read out of 5 stars, write out reviews for those books, and much more (check out the full list of features at the end)!
You are also able to connect with your friends and other people on the website. You can see what books they’ve read, want to read, or are currently reading; you can see their ratings and reviews, as well. It’s really cool because you can what books you have in common, suggest books to one another, and draw inspiration from their book lists.
Another really awesome feature to inspire you to read in your downtime is Goodreads’ “2016 Reading Challenge”. The Reading Challenge consists of setting a number of books you’d like to read before the year ends. For my 2016 Reading Challenge, I have set my goal to reading 50 books this year.
You know, for some strange reason, we love challenges. We especially love when we succeed in these challenges. (One reason, I presume, is because we enjoy proving our doubters and naysayers wrong.) Look at most videos uploaded on to YouTube by our favorite YouTubers—challenge videos! And they always seem to go viral, like the ALS Ice Bucket challenge: it was fun and for a good cause. I highly encourage you all to create an account on this website (creating an account is free and you can easily link it to you Facebook, Twitter, Google, and/or Amazon account; if you don’t have any of those, you can simply input your email and a password) and to set your own Reading Challenge, even if you make it your goal to read just one or two books (you’ll still feel awesome knowing you fulfilled that goal). And once you’ve reached your goal, you’ll feel motivated to set another goal to read more books. And with reading more books, you’ll then want to write out your thoughts, feelings, etc. about those books!
http://Goodreads.com is also available on Android and Apple devices for free! The app offers quick and easy access to everything the desktop/website provides. Though it shares the same features as the website, the app has additional features. One feature utilizes your smartphone’s camera—you can scan the barcode of books you’re interested in. Once the barcode has been scanned, you can read a description of the book, have the option of adding it to your list of books you’ve read, books you’re currently reading, or books you’d like to read, and/or you can buy a copy of the book from Amazon.
Goodreads features include:
- Shelving (Books you want to read, are currently reading, and/or have read)
- Buying books from Amazon
- Purchasing or downloading [free] EBooks
- Previewing chapters of books
- Taking Quizzes, Polls, Trivia, etc.
- Checking out Quotes
- Joining Book Clubs/Groups
- Discussion Boards
- Post your creative writings and read other creative writings
- Check out book recommendations
- Browse the different literary genres
- Follow your favorite authors
- Enter giveaways
So, instead of unplugging and/or rejecting technology (like I sometimes do) when it comes to reading and writing, let’s use our technological devices to our advantage and push us to read and write more.
(Wow… http://Goodreads.com should hire me, because after reading this, I feel like I’m one of those salespeople everyone avoids at the mall, on the phone, in stores, et cetera. But if Goodreads did offer me a position, I think I’d turn it down… I enjoy my job at the Marian E. Wright Writing Center too much to leave!)