Hey guys! Today I want to talk about something that has been on my mind a lot. I’ve been blogging for almost a year now and I have had the best time! I have a bookstagram and I love taking and posting photos, and the people I’ve met are some of the nicest, kindest and most interesting people you could possibly come across. But with that being said, the bookish community can feel toxic at times, and that’s what I want to talk about today.
First, a bit of backstory about me.
This isn’t a sob story, I’m just trying to help you gain some context about my experience. Just under six years ago my father passed away. After that I found it very difficult to find love in reading, and besides books like The Hunger Games, Harry Potter or John Green’s novels, I barely read anything. In fact, I almost stopped studying English altogether but luckily my Mum talked me into studying it for my A Levels and now I have a degree in Literature and Creative Writing.
Just over a year ago a friend I met on twitter suggested I read Simon vs. The Homosapien Agenda. I did, and I fell in love with reading again. Just like that. It was so easy. I don’t know why or how, but I guess it was just the right time for me.
Feeling pressured to read
A lot of people have recently been talking about how consumerist the online book community can be. Since picking up reading again I have bough so many books I can’t even count them all. In the last year I’ve read over one hundred books, and most of them I did not own before now. So yes, the bookish community is very consumerist. But that’s not the problem. I love watching book hauls and hearing about new books that are coming out. Buying new books feels like a thrill. I love my bookshelves and I love adding to my collection.
But more and more I just feel so much pressure to read. There are so many popular book out there it’s insanely difficult to keep up with all the books and series I feel like I should have read.
Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s no one specific putting pressure on me. Like I said, the people in this community are some of the nicest people you’ll meet. There are some people who are the most self-important and entitled people you’ll meet, but that doesn’t mean that people are shouting at me for not having read enough books.
This pressure massively comes from within. I keep feeling guilty for not having read these popular books that have been out for years, and I feel guilty for not having read anything for 5 years. I missed out on a lot and I wish I hadn’t. I keep seeing people talk about this series or that, and that twinge of guilt sparks in me, knowing that I could have read it, should have read it. Since becoming a blogger I feel like I haven’t read enough books to talk about. When I do book tags I feel like I’m regurgitating my answers over and over. I feel like I’m boring and that I should read more so that more people would interested in what I have to say.
Furthermore, there’s no denying there is an inherent privilege in the blogging and book community. So many bloggers never receive any kind of compensation for the reviews they write or the promotion they give to books. Few people receive ARCs and acknowledgement from publishers. We do this for free, because we want to share our love for books and reading, but sometimes it can feel more like a job, a task, especially when it feels like no one is listening.
So why do I feel like the bookish community is toxic?
Online, – through bookstagram, book tube, bloggers, twitter – reading has become all about numbers. How many books have you read this month, this year? How many followers do you have? ‘I read SEVEN books in a day!’ Good for you. But because of this, reading has almost become a competition. We’re competing with each other, and we’re competing with ourselves. We ask ‘I wonder if I can read this book in a day,’ and we rush the process, too eager to read as fast as we can, instead of relaxing and enjoying the process.
I look at all of the unread books on my shelf and I tick them off one by one, trying to make my way through my endless TBR pile. But every time I read a new book I feel like my pile isn’t going down fast enough and it becomes overwhelming. I feel like I’m reading out of necessity, because I have to read this book before the film comes out, or that book because there’s a sequel.
And that’s how reading becomes stressful, a task, and that’s not how I want to feel about reading.
Read for the love of reading
I want to read because I want to, not because I feel like I have to. I want to read for the love of reading. I want to get lost into a story, into a world. I don’t want to feel overwhelmed by all the new characters and information I’m trying to cram into my head too quickly, all at the same time.
But I also know that this feeling isn’t going to go away. There’s always going to be a part of me that feels like everything’s moving to fast, that I’m being left behind. By the time I read two books that I feel like I should have read, five more crop up. The publishing industry moves fast and I’m never going to be able to read all the books that I want.
All I need to do now is to make peace with this. I need to feel okay about the fact that I am behind, I have missed out on books and on time I could have spent reading. But I shouldn’t let that effect how I feel about reading now. I shouldn’t let my experience turn into a negative one because there are so many amazing books out there that I want to enjoy.
Surely that’s not a bad thing.
I could go on and on about this, so I’m going to leave it here. Do you guys feel any pressure to read? Do you agree with anything that I’ve said? Or have your experiences been a little bit different?
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