Why We Feel the Need to Share What We Read
A month or so ago, I recommended a book to my friend and coworker. We were discussing some of our favorite books, so I had to mention The Little Prince. Considering that we both work with kids and love to foster a sense of wonder, the recommendation was spot on. With that said, in my experience, providing a very good recommendation doesn’t necessarily mean someone will read it. However, she did read it AND adored it. I’m not gonna lie, hearing about her experience reading this book made me unbelievably happy, but it also made me pause. Why did I enjoy her enjoyment of one of my favorite books? Why did I feel the need to share the book at all? Well, let’s find out.
Picture this: You’ve got your latest book in one hand, a cup of warm tea in the other. Perhaps, you’ve lit your favorite candle and found your fuzziest socks. After some time, you finish the book and close it. You set it aside and then what? What do you do? Do you check it off your ever-growing TBR list? Jot down your initial thoughts in a diary? Maybe, you word vomit in your bookish group chat or upload an image of the book to your Instagram story with a thoughtful caption. What about those of us who hop onto twitter and start a 1/154 thread about all of the things wrong or right in Book X?
Either way, almost all of these reactions involve sharing what you’ve read in some fashion. Why do we feel this need to share? Why do I find myself excited to tell my coworker about the book I just started? Or what about the time I brought a book to meet some friends at brunch just so I could share what I’m reading? Why do some of us get this wonderful feeling when sharing? Why do we do this? Well, that’s what I want to explore in this post. That is: the reasons why we feel the need to share what we read. My dear avid book lovers and book oversharers, this one’s for you.
First things first, let’s get the superficial reasons out of the way. When I think about the excitement of telling others about an amazing book, it’s not typically inspired by a desire to share a pretty Instagram post to gain more followers. For me, it doesn’t involve bragging about what I’m reading or how much I read in a week, month, or year. I’m rarely driven to share based on trying to embody an aesthetic. Like any hobby or profession, some people use them to ascribe to an ideal or elevate their social status. That is not to say that people who post a lot or share books on TikTok and YouTube don’t have genuine reasons to share certain books. In fact, I think they’d really need a profound love for a particular genre, a drive to highlight uncommon or overlooked books, or a passion for helping people find something that brings them joy to sustain them through the taxing work of content creation. However, when no underlying reason exists, the will to share for brand or aesthetic reasons eventually loses its power. What I want to unpack is what drives the lifelong reader’s sharing habits. So let’s go a little deeper.
I see the act of reading as continually filling up a glass with water. Some books add a couple drops to your glass while others fill your glass to the brim. As you read more books that inspire you, that glass begins to overflow. Like the water spilling over the edge, you can’t keep that book to yourself, you must share that excess with those around you.
To Show Something of Value To Others
This brings me to my first reason for sharing a book, which is to show something of value to others. When most people find something valuable, they want to share it with a loved one. This applies to not only tangible things, but also the intangible. Depending on the reader, a book can hold a myriad of wonders and delights from cover to cover. It could be a beautiful quote or a particularly sweet scene. It could also be a heartbreaking chapter or an exciting piece of dialogue. When I finished The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, I had a lot of feelings about the character development and thematic elements, but I ultimately wanted others to read something that I think had value. We want them to experience the joy, sadness, excitement, or wonder we experienced while reading it. The exciting part is that no person experiences a particular book the same way. This leads me to the next point.
To Exchange Viewpoints
We also share what we read to give others a different view or to receive their new perspective. Books hold a wealth of knowledge with various views that can’t be unlocked unless you’ve read it or have a friend who loves to share their findings. So all you avid book readers, you’re really doing everyone a huge favor by chatting about your latest book. With that said, on several occasions, I’ve mentioned many books to friends and enjoyed hearing their take on a particular point or the book as a whole. Whenever I introduce a book’s premise, I’m often met with numerous questions about the characters and storyline that I hadn’t considered. It seems that even us book worms can literally keep our noses stuck in a book.
To Better Understand It
Sharing a book allows us to explain what we’ve read to better understand it. Sometimes, there comes a book that confuses us, makes us question our understanding of the world, incites strong emotions, or pushes us to educate ourselves. While many of these books can live in our minds rent free, in my experience, they have also provided some of the most rewarding reading experiences. When this happened to me with Pachinko and The Prince of Los Cocuyos, I did three things. First, I vented to a friend. Second, I wrote down any thought or quote that stuck in my head. Third, I started sharing some reviews on social media. They weren’t lengthy, but I needed to write them. I needed to write about the plot, pros, cons, and my overall feeling about it. This process helped me better understand the book and translate my feelings about it.
To Be Understood
Another reason that might not immediately come to mind is that we share to be understood. Sharing something we like can tell others more about us. Often, sharing a beloved movie or book can allow us to express ourselves without having to be too personal. As we work to understand others, we also desire to be understood.
I’m not trying to get too serious here, but there is this compelling feeling to not only know, but be known. Even if it’s something as simple as a friend knowing that you like cozy books with mystery or that you read thrillers to relax. Sharing a book can be a lot easier than providing a personal detail or explicitly stating something about one’s self. It is a way to share a part of ourselves.
As I write about this, I keep thinking about a book I have yet to finish, but already love. I’ve slowly been reading Erin Morgenstern’s The Starless Sea over the past two months and there have been so many moments where I found myself nodding my head and underlining. I’ve mentioned this book to several friends and even brought it to show them at brunch. As we read and find ourselves in pages of books, we can also allow others to see us and themselves in those pages.
To Strengthen Relationships
On that same note, my fifth reason is that sharing books can help bring us closer to loved ones. The act of sharing what you enjoyed with another displays a desire to connect. We bond over a long list of things from movies and music to food and art. I mean, most of us easily find ourselves asking what each other is watching on Netflix. People bond in different ways, but many of them involve enjoying something wonderful with another. You can go deep and discover truths about one another or keep it light and make a new friend.
Whatever the reason, many of us book lovers can’t simply keep our bookish findings to ourselves. Some may want to share their treasure while others want to bond or understand the book better. Of course there are many more reasons to share, but I’ll leave that for you to mull over. For now, I encourage you to keep loving, sharing, and enjoying your books! Drink up, fellow book lovers!
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