To All The Books I’ve Never Read Before

By Lily Cowper

How Bookstagram made me feel ashamed of my reading habits

Did you get into a new hobby during quarantine? Maybe you started something you’ve always wanted to try but never found the time to? Or maybe you dedicated more time to an already existing passion?

Whether you got into a new hobby or not, you’ve definitely seen your friends flock to social media to boast about their new hobbies. And let’s be real, it probably made you feel like shit if you were just trying to survive.

Now I won’t lie, I got really into reading during the first quarantine. With all my newfound time, it was just so easy to pick up a book and finish it in just a couple of days, something I was never able to do before. My new passion also made me discover the reading community community, Bookstagram, BookTube and BookTok. These are all places where people like me could share their love of reading, get recommendations and share our thoughts on our latest read.

I fell for the cute montages and pictures of perfectly-scattered books on beds made up with white sheets, thinking how books were not just about reading, but also about the aesthetics. Don’t get me wrong, I admire the dedication these accounts have for keeping up with their aesthetic because I know my cheap and unstable IKEA bookcase in the corner of my room will never be that pretty.

After following a few accounts on different platforms, I also loved getting recommendations and seeing my TBR (term used in the community to refer to someone’s “To Be Read”) list growing. However, when normal life started again, going back to work and school meant I did not have the same amount of time to dedicate to reading.,Determined to hold onto this new personality trait, as a reader, I made it my mission to not lose the hobby completely.

This is when my love for Bookstagram, BookTube and BookTok accounts turned on its heels. The algorithm started showing me more and more book content that made me feel ashamed that I couldn’t keep up with the creators I was seeing. Posts like, “All the books I read this month” or, “How I managed to read over 100 books last year” made me feel major imposter syndrome. Was I not reading enough to be a part of this community?

Reading for me can be a daunting task. I have trouble focusing, and sometimes need to read one sentence, paragraph or even page, over and over again in order to make sure I understood what I just read.

Being proud of myself for reading a book in one week became an underachievement when I’d open social media and see someone I admire had read three in the same amount of time. I realized the community puts a bigger emphasis on quantity than I originally thought, which made me feel like it didn’t matter what I read, just how much I read. The amount of time I would spend curating my library and TBR to fit my interests and topics I wanted to educate myself on felt like a waste. My 20 books in a year record now looked substandard and like it definitely didn’t necessitate a celebratory Instagram post.

Although I know that this is not the message these Bookstagrammers and BookTubers are pushing, comparison is inevitable. Not meeting the same book count as your favorite content creator makes you feel like you’re not doing it right.

Instead, I’m going to try focusing on what I get out of reading, instead of how many books I read — that is still a challenge. After all, I read a lot of non-fiction books about social issues with challenging and hard to digest content. Why read a lot of books if I cannot take the time to appreciate my growth and learning?

I might not read over 100 books a year, and my bookcase might not be filled with aesthetically pleasing covers, but I would never trade that for what I currently get out of reading.

 

Graphic by Lily Cowper

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