Reading blog posts and also taking note of my own thoughts whilst reading has led to me notice a particularly prevalent theme that rocks up time and time again. Guilt. But the question I have, and what I wanted to discuss in this blog post is: if, as a bookworm, reading is supposed to be something we love and enjoy, then why do us readers face so much guilt surrounding it?
The most common theme of guilt that I’ve seen within the community is not reading enough. That’s an obvious one. Because every single reader, I can guarantee you, has, at some point, felt guilty for not reading or not making time to read for what is considered to be ‘long enough’. With goals such as readathons and the GoodReads challenge being more of a common occurrence, it’s natural for us, as humans (a naturally competitive species) to feel bad for not reading enough to finish and complete the competitions we set ourselves. Even if that’s for a specific reason such as illness or being in the middle of exam season, we still feel guilty for having not read. Like it makes us more productive. But if we’re so focused on stacking up those numbers for our challenges, or only reading books that match a certain prompt, does that make reading less enjoyable for us?
Because; is there really much point in reading if you’re skipping out on the book you actually want to read for one that fits a prompt for your readathon. Or reading a graphic novel that you’re not that interested in over the 700+ word novel you want to read because you are behind on your reading challenge. Does that mean you’re actually enjoying reading or that it’s become another chore?*Just to make it clear I’m not bashing readathons/challenges – I am participating in a readathon myself this month – I’m just voicing some thoughts I’ve had surrounding them. The alternative is of course that challenges simply give you that encouragement to read when you don’t have time. Or for some the challenging aspect makes it even more fun as you’re ticking of goals and aiming towards something.
For (book) bloggers/reviewers, there also comes the case,when not reading as much, of the creation of content. How are those ARCs that we’re endlessly requesting supposed to be reviewed? What will we write in our weekly wrap-ups and monthly recaps? But again, it’s about where that line stops between motivating yourself to read, or forcing yourself to, so you feel more productive (over any other form of entertainment that perhaps feels less so, like YouTube or Netflix). Nowadays, this so-called ‘hustle’ culture has created the mindset that you always have to be hustling and doing something (anything) that can be considered productive – otherwise it’s just a waste of time. But should it really be like this? *spoiler* the answer is no.
How many times have you seen a blogger, in their monthly recap, (and this is no shade) complain about having a bad reading month because they read only a couple of books. I’m guilty of this myself, but it’s made me realise. Why do I feel bad for having only read 7 books this year (just because the number is lower than others’) when all 7 books I’ve read I have LOVED. Surely this means I’ve had a good reading year?? So why do I put that down? Are we then reading for fun – or are we reading just to get those numbers?
Another reason for experiencing guilt when reading, particularly within the social media book community (booktube, bookstagram, book twitter, blogs etc) is hyped books. Now that’s not to say reading hyped books is bad – because it’s not. Books are hyped for a reason right?! But what I’m saying is, (and this may just be me haha) sometimes we feel guilty for not reading the hyped books, even if they’re not necessarily what we want to read. Whenever I see a post featuring a hyped book, I don’t even think about it – I tend to just comment something along the lines of: Oh I haven’t gotten to this one yet – but it sounds good! On the tbr : ) Not because I just want to make a quick comment, but because seeing the hype makes me feel guilty that I haven’t read it – and that maybe I should read it. As although yes, the rave reviews do make it sound good, but if I’m not at all interested in the premise, why do I feel bad that I haven’t read it, just because everyone has?
I won’t name any names but there are SO many hyped books that I have 0 interest in, yet, if you were to look at my GoodReads tbr before I cleared it out, I can guarantee you they would have been on there. Many readers complain about having a huge tbr – but actually, if you were to really examine that tbr and the books on it – how many of them would you actually want to read?
It’s not only hyped books that create guilt, but there is also this phrase ‘guilty pleasure’. This doesn’t just appear within books but also for music, movies etcetera. But if you enjoy something. If you find it fun. If it’s relaxing and positive for you (the key word being you). Then why prefix the word pleasure with ‘guilty’?? Why feel guilty about doing something you love, or that brings you happiness. What makes a romance any better than a classic? Or a science fiction any better than a contemporary? Nothing really.
Because at the end of the day, reading is meant to be for pleasure. It should be fun. And it should be enjoyable. So why has it become something that we let guilt dictate?