Our Reading Lives

The Life Changing Magic of Bookstagram

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Sometimes it’s hard being a book nerd. The people in your life may not always understand when you keep buying books even though you have a bookcase full of ones that are unread or when you have a spreadsheet, journal, and blog for the books you’ve read. Or what about when you would prefer to spend time with a stack of bound up paper over them and then you become “best friends” with someone over the shared love of a book?

Don’t worry – you aren’t alone. Once you really start getting involved in the bookish community, you discover there are tons of bookish corners of the internet and social media: BookTube, Bookstagram, Book Twitter, book blogs, Goodreads, etc. It’s hard not to fall hard and fast for these communities that validate your love of reading. They are places where suddenly your “quirky” tendencies are not only understood but celebrated.

For those of you who haven’t stumbled upon these corners, I recommend going to Instagram or YouTube and searching bookish tags (i.e. books, bookstagram, bookblogger, amreading). From there, you can poke around other accounts and start searching specific genres of your liking.

I just celebrated my one-year anniversary on bookstagram a couple months ago, and have spent that time reflecting on how participating in the community has changed my reading life.

The thing that I love most is that the online book community is a place of unapologetic passion. Whether you are over the moon about a particular novel, author, or genre, there is someone out there who feels the same way. When you are able to share that mutual passion over a book (or author or genre), it opens up a whole other dimension of friendship. Not only does it allow a special connection, but it allows you to ask questions and discuss parts of the book that you may not have otherwise considered.

Further, there’s something deeply personal about the books we read. Sure, some are just for fun, but others go right to the heart of what is most meaningful to us (think Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig or Hunger by Roxane Gay). When sharing our relationships with these books on a public platform, we are allowing ourselves to be open and vulnerable. Some of my closest friendships have come from my time on bookstagram for that exact reason. Public love of novels about personal issues opens up a dialogue that might not typically come up with new friends.

Apart from the community aspect, being a part of bookstagram has been a phenomenal way to track the books I’ve read. Of course, I use Goodreads (and also have a personal spreadsheet and physical journal), but there’s something special about being able to look back at a photo. It transports you back to the circumstances in which you read the book: where were you? who were you with? what season was it? what snacks did you munch on? what candle did you burn? All these little details come together to paint a picture of your experience with that book.

But there’s another side to bookstagram. The side that – whether intentionally or not – encourages an obsession with purchasing and “hauling” books and finding the most beautiful editions available. Subconsciously, then very consciously, I became picky about whether a book had a fold in the cover or not, whether I had the best edition of a book, whether there was writing on the pages. It never occurred to me to have these thoughts prior to bookstagram. Luckily, my stint with perfectionism only lasted about six months before I realized you can still take beautiful pictures of both used and library books.

The bookish community – whether on bookstagram or otherwise – has changed my life in more ways than I can count. I read more diverse characters, I read more genres, and I just read more. I have gained empathy and understanding, as well as, lifelong friends. What have you learned from participating in or lurking on bookstagram (or booktube and book twitter)?