Our Reading Lives

When Did I Turn My Reading Into A Spectator Sport?

I recently signed up for a reading project that I’m very excited about. The only catch is that I can’t talk about the books I’m reading for several months. That didn’t seem like a big deal when I signed on, but it has become something I think about a lot in these last few weeks. I’m reading more than I usually do, but I’m not entering any books into Goodreads. I finally have time to make booktube videos, but I can’t discuss my recent reading. I can’t vlog my process through this experience. I can’t do a wrap up on my blog. I’m reading, but I have nothing to show for it.

I don’t know when I started reading for show. My reading definitely ramped up after I started my book blog and booklr. It showed another increase once I started my booktube channel, and then when I started writing for Book Riot. Talking about books made me think about books more, which made me read more books. I read tons of book blogs now, and subscribe to dozens of booktube channels. I scroll through booklr and bookstagram daily. It becomes a constant feedback loop: see books, read books, talk books.

Overall, this is fantastic. I can’t get enough of books (obviously). But being prevented from talking about the books I’m reading has made it obvious to me that at some point along the line, I stopped reading for myself as much as I was reading…for an audience? Does it even count as reading if I can’t share it with the internet? Why read a book if it won’t generate content? I’ve chosen between books based on what would further my Goodreads goal. Is that really what I want from my reading life?

I’ve themed my online presence around queer women books, and that’s allowed me to convince myself that not only is talking about the books I love fun, but it’s also a service to others. I’m out there, doing the good work of talking up underrepresented voices. I’m putting representation into the hands of people who need it! But is that really my goal? Am I really looking at view counts, follower counts, and notes out of a sense of charity? Obviously not.

I do think there is value in providing the resources that I’m trying to build, but I want to try to separate out some of the things that have gotten tangled in my reading life. It’s good to promote queer books, but that doesn’t mean I have to constantly promote myself, as a brand. Reading can be a great way to connect to people and share experiences, but it can also be a private thing. I should be able to read for myself without it feeling lonely.

I think this reading project will have unexpected benefits for me. I can set out on this journey without selfie-ing my way through it. I can power read without bragging about it on Goodreads. Maybe it’s worthwhile to get back to the roots of my reading: curled up under the covers, indulging in a book as a solitary and nourishing tradition. Maybe when my internet reading exile is over, I’ll be able to better balance the joys of talking books with the pleasure of reading entirely on my own.