Feeling Pressured to Read – Why the YA book community can be toxic

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.

Vicky over at Vicky Who Reads has written more about the privilege in publishing and blogging, so if you’d like to check that out please do so here

 

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?

As always, if you’ve enjoyed this post please give it a like and don’t forget to subscribe to be notified every time I post! Until next time! x

 

9 Replies to “Feeling Pressured to Read – Why the YA book community can be toxic”

  1. I totally understand this! It was hard for me at first, but now I just don’t care anymore. I’ve made a decision to stop feeling like I have to compete. Like right now, I just watched someone who read four books in two days, and I’m still on the same book from two weeks ago, and that’s perfectly fine. Life’s precious, be gentle with yourself. ❤️

    1. I think that’s the best thing to do! Competing can be fun, but when it’s causing stress it’s time to take a step back!

  2. I’ve definitely felt like this since becoming a book blogger/bookstagrammer. It can take the fun out of reading so I try not to think too much about the progress of others and instead on myself and what I can reasonably accomplish with my schedule.

  3. I can definitely understand where you’re coming from. As a blogger now, I always end up finding ways to purchase these books KNOWING that I most likely won’t get around to them until months later since my TBR stack is just ginormous. But I do it anyway because I keep seeing them and people talking about them and then I get FOMO. So that stress and pressure is real and I can relate.

    Great post! Definitely including this in my Aug wrap up post 🙂

  4. I sympathise with this post a lot. I read a lot, and fast, so I’m able to stay ahead of some of the trends, which helps me to avoid feeling like I’m falling behind. But at the same time, I kind of feel pressured to read those hyped books, rather than forging my own less-popular path through the library. I want to know what’s going on in the publishing world, because I’d like to write for a living one day and I think it’s important to know what’s selling, but this means I feel pressured to read bestsellers even when they don’t interest me all that much. I used to have really weird and unconventional reading tastes, and I feel like they’ve become more mainstream since I joined online book communities.

    That said, I do still love being able to talk about books with people, and it helps when we’ve got books in common to discuss, so having *slightly* more mainstream taste is probably no bad thing. But the pressure is always there, even if it takes different forms for different people. And it’s also difficult to stand out when trying to keep on top of trends and ARCs — there are dozens of book bloggers writing about the same thing. I’d like to branch out and let my tastes get more unconventional again, so that I can try and do something a bit different, but I’m not sure how to do that.

    As for the ‘book haul’ thing… I know I’ve felt more inclined to acquire books rather than read them from the library or get them as Kindle editions, just so I can share them on Instagram, and I actually can’t afford to do that (both financially and in terms of shelf space). So I’m trying not to let peer pressure get to me there, even when it’s tough.

    Great post! Sorry for writing an essay in your comments…

    1. Aa thank you! No worries about the essay! I totally agree with you about reading to keep up with what’s selling – I too would like to be a published author one day and it definitely is important to see what the book world is doing!

  5. First, I am so sorry about your father! I can’t begin to imagine how painful that is, and the fact that you hit a rough patch, even in reading, makes complete sense and you shouldn’t feel guilty for taking that time to heal.

    Second, I agree with what you said. It feels like a lot of times we’re so focused on numbers and on joining a trend, that we miss the point of reading. That being said, I’ve reached the age of “I don’t give a f*** anymore”, so I just read what I can, when I can. I’m sure I won’t be reading a big chunk of the books that are super popular right now, but I’m more interested in pleasing myself than on joining trends. It’s sad that today’s overhyped book is tomorrow’s “Oh by the way, remember that book?” feature. It makes me wonder exactly why they’re so popular at a certain point in time.

    About book buying…you know, the only thing that kind of fills me with…I don’t want to say guilt, but it’s pretty close to that, is the fact that everyone seems to have hardcovers, while I genuinely would rather buy two paperbacks instead of one hardcover. I can’t deny that hardcovers look pretty in photos and all. So that’s the only thing that gets me down a little bit, but again, I end up not caring, because at the end of the day I’m not buying books that I don’t want to buy. I also have a ton of books I’ve bought that I haven’t read yet, but I’ll get to them one day. Soon. I hope so 🙂

    Also, don’t feel like you haven’t read enough to blog about books. So what if you name the same books over and over again? It shows your passion, and to me, that’s what I want to see in a book blogger. I’d rather see a blogger name the same book over and over again because they genuinely loved it, than see them name tons of books they were okay with. Does that make sense?

    Great post!

    1. Thank you so much! I really appreciate it! And I totally agree with you about passion! It’s so important, and I agree that it says more to me about someone than a huge pile of books they’ll never mention again!

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