What ISN’T Reading, but FEELS Like Reading?

If you’ve been on Twitter lately, you’ve probably seen the “What ISN’T ____ but FEELS like ______?” meme. For example:

Of course, we Book Rioters are very familiar with things that FEEL like reading but sadly aren’t. We live bookish lifestyles 24/7, but that doesn’t mean we always actually, you know…read. Whether it’s because life is particularly stressful (no idea why that would be) or we’re just in a bit of slump, sometimes we prefer to live out the fantasy of being a reader without putting in the work of processing text or audiobooks. Luckily, there are plenty of ways that we fool ourselves into feeling like we’re reading without getting any pages in. Maybe you’re familiar with this self-deception! Here are some of our favourite things to do that FEEL like reading, but aren’t.

Scrolling Through Bookstagram

There’s nothing like scrolling through pretty pictures of books to affirm your identity as a Book Person without actually doing any reading. There’s an immersive quality to Instagram scrolling that can imitate being lost in a book, without having to worry about any of those pesky words. Bookstagram can help you discover new books and even has reviews—if you actually read the captions. Chances are, you’re just looking at the pretty pictures. And that’s okay! Because it feels like you’re reading.

Organizing Your Goodreads or Kindle Shelves

Sometimes you want to continue to zone out staring at a screen, but you feel a vague, nagging guilt that you should be reading. Trick your brain by moving book covers around on your screen! Sure, it’s not actually helping you get through your TBR, but it feels both bookish and productive. Add more shelves to your Goodreads account! Maybe they should be categorized by release date? Why not! And you should probably make sure your Kindle books are in folders by genre and sub-genre and sub-sub-genre.

Rainbow bookshelves

Organizing Your Physical Shelves

You might want to procrastinate on reading screen-free, and that works too! Don’t your bookshelves need a tidy? Hasn’t it been years since you dusted them? And aren’t there books stacked haphazardly that should be neatly shelved? It’s probably time to pull all your books from your shelves and reorganize them. You can do them by colour or by idiosyncratic genre categories. Maybe they should be shelved in Library of Congress order. Of course, there’s always the classic strategy of getting overwhelmed halfway and ending up with a few shelves of meticulously organized titles and the rest of your books slotted in wherever there’s space. If you did make it all the way to the end, though, don’t forget to take some time to admire your new set up. Either way, you’ll sure feel like you read something today.

Buying More Books

Whether you’re spending hours browsing in an indie bookstore, adding books to your cart to anticipate in the mail, or getting the instant gratification of a title sent to your ereader, there is perhaps no activity that feels more bookish (without reading) than buying new books. It doesn’t matter that you have no shortage of books to read. The important thing is that you are clearly a reader, because only a reader would spend so much money on books! Besides, surely this is the title that will break your reading slump, right?

Adding Titles to Your Goodreads or TBR List

For the budget-conscious, another great way to feel readerly is to add even more books to your digital TBR. Even though your current TBR will last you approximately three lifetimes (ten at your current reading speed), it only feels right to keep track of every book you’ve ever heard of that you might have a passing interest in. Need help with suggestions? Don’t worry, Book Riot has hundreds of lists and podcast episodes to help you feel like you’re getting further buried in an unsurmountable TBR. In the time that you adding book to your lists, though, you won’t even remember that you haven’t actually read anything longer than a tweet lately.

person in white shirt reading book
Photo by Laura Chouette on Unsplash

Bringing a Book Everywhere You Go

You are determined to actually read, and you know the first step is to always have a book with you. Unfortunately, you haven’t gotten past the first step. So you continue to carry that book with you in your bag, maybe even placing it on the table beside you. Doesn’t it feel nice just to have a book around? It almost feels like reading. You might get ambitious and carry three books with you to bed—maybe you’ll sample each one, or maybe you’ll even finish one and need a back up! When you fall asleep at the first sentence, at least those books on your bedside table will make it look like you read. For bonus points, actually open the book in your lap before picking up your phone at the first notification and scrolling for 45 minutes.

Giving Book Recommendations

There’s nothing like talking to other people about books to make it seem like you actually read. Whether it’s being the go-to person in your family and friend group to provide book recs, writing book reviews, or putting together bookish listicles, writing about books will have you convinced that you were reading at some point. The weird thing is, writing about books was almost certainly more work than just picking up a book would be…

Placing and Picking Up Library Holds

Browsing your library’s catalogue and placing holds combines the fun of online shopping with the budget-consciousness of adding your Goodreads shelves! Of course, at some point you’re going to have to pick up those holds. When you do, you will definitely feel like a reader. Who else would have 14 books to pick up from the library at once? And when you dutifully return those same books unopened in a few weeks—well, maybe that won’t feel like reading.


Those are some of our responses to “What ISN’T reading, but FEELS like reading?” What would be yours? If you felt personally attacked by this article, know that I was addressing myself this whole time. Did I scroll through twitter for 20 minutes looking for the perfect example of this meme instead of actually reading one of the books I have out from the library? Yes. But did I read a book afterwards? No. What can I say? Between scrolling through Bookstagram and writing this article, it sure feels like I read today…

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