Let’s Chat: Guilt within the bookish community

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?

。・:*:・゚★,。・:*:・゚☆

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.

。・:*:・゚★,。・:*:・゚☆

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?

。・:*:・゚★,。・:*:・゚☆

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?

。・:*:・゚★,。・:*:・゚☆

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?

Have you ever experienced guilt within reading? Do you relate to any of the things I’ve mentioned?

Let me know in the comments below!

34 thoughts on “Let’s Chat: Guilt within the bookish community

  1. I think I get where you’re coming from. A number of years ago I would have set my Goodreads reading challenge to a relatively high number (I think 200ish) and then towards the end of the year would panic read short stories and novellas just to reach that arbitrary figure… and for what reason?? And I think it was definitely motivated by guilt and a perceived pressure. As if I could only be a true reading enthusiast if I read X number of books in a given year… well three years ago I called time on my goodreads reading challenges. Every January I now set that number to 1 book and I just read where the wind takes me so to speak. I can go a week without reading or I can read a book in a day and both are fine. I feel so much more relaxed and am actually enjoying my reads a lot more as is evidenced by my ever increasing average book rating.
    This was a great post, lots to think about 🙂

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    1. Oh wow, 200 books in a year?! That’s such an amazing number but comes with such a huge amount of pressure as you mentioned. Even with a much smaller target I would be exactly the same – reading the shortest and quickest books possible just so I reached that end figure.
      Yes that’s definitely a common theme surrounding guilt – the pressure in ‘keeping up with’ everyone else. Every time I see people having read a high number of books in the month or saying they had a bad reading month for reading 10 or so books makes me think – am I not a good bookworm then?? What even makes a ‘good’ bookworm. There is definitely a pressure to read all the time and to get to a high number of books but like you said, for what reason??
      Yes, I’ve called quits on the GoodReads challenge too these last two years – although it’s always fun to begin with, I find it so annoying towards the end of the year!! Because even though I know it doesn’t matter, it would still frustrate me to see that I hadn’t reached that goal. Setting it to one book so you still get that goal ticking without the pressure is genius haha.
      I’m glad you’re finding reading more relaxing now!! I think that’s so important that we don’t put pressure/guilt/stress on something that is meant to be for leisure & fun!
      Thanks so much for reading!! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This was an amazing discussion and it has me thinking a lot! I am so guilty of choosing books I am not really feeling at the moment just because I feel like I have to read them or because I put them on a TBR for one thing or another. I know I felt this last month. I was trying to read only books with LGBT+ rep since it was pride month, but I found that I just wanted to reread some favorites or pick up some other books with little or no rep. I eventually let myself just read what I wanted because I had a big family tragedy occur and I just wanted comfort reads, but I don’t know if I would have let myself do that otherwise. I do need to learn to read what I want because it makes me happier, and this post was a really great and unexpected reminder. Thank you so so much for this post, honestly, it was what I needed right now.

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    1. Yes I definitely think we all feel pressure to read certain books (even if we’re not interested in them).
      The rep/no rep argument is definitely so common in the bookish community – so many of my favourites have little to no rep which is so annoying. But that doesn’t make them any less of my favourites, even though I feel like I should read more books with more rep so I understand where you’re coming from!
      I’m glad you were able to put the guilt aside though and read your favourites, & I’m sorry about the family tragedy – hope you’re all ok!!
      Thank you so much for reading & I’m glad this could help!💛💛

      Liked by 1 person

  3. THIS WAS SUCH AN AMAZING POST AHHHH. you’re so right about the feeling guilty for not reading thing. I’m someone who hates to lose challenges, so I take my goodreads challenge very seriously, but even though I’m ahead, I would like to finish it sooner or later . And I feel like even if I did complete my challenge, I would still feel guilty if the books I read weren’t they hyped ones that I want to know why everyone is talking about. You’re right—there are a lot of hyped books whose premises I’m not at all interested in. But I add them to my TBR anyway because of the reviews, even if they’re from people who don’t have the same reading tastes as me. I guess I just really have fomo, and whenever I see a book being gushed about everywhere, I want to have read the books as well. You gave me so many things to ponder on, and this was such a great discussion 💛💛

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    1. Ahh thanks so much!!
      Literally same I am such a competitive person, even if it’s with myself haha. For any challenge I set myself, I always feel so bad if I don’t complete it & the GoodReads challenge is no exception. That’s the reason I didn’t set myself one this year – I’ve been in such a huge slump so I knew if I set one I’d risk falling back into (a potentially worse) one.
      YES fomo is the culprit for so so much – I just hate not knowing what all the fuss is about?!
      Thank you for taking the time to read Caitlin! 💛

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Ah you make such great points! Personally I noticed that when I stopped setting myself challenges and reading goals I was able to relax and enjoy my reading more. I think it’s far better to read 7 books that you love than force yourself through hundreds you dislike or feel meh about. And I do get what you mean about hyped books. Brilliant post!

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    1. Thank you – I’m glad you enjoyed the post!
      I’m exactly the same! Although loose challenges are fun, any that are too set in stone just put pressure on reading and make it less enjoyable!
      Yes, I definitely agree! I’d much rather read fewer books that I loved than many with a high percentage of books I didn’t enjoy 🙂

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  5. Great post! I definitely feel kind of guilty for not meeting challenges or goals sometimes, or even reading less this month than that month even though I had a bunch more stuff going on in my personal life or whatever.

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  6. I used to feel extremely guilty when I didn’t managed to complete my yearly Goodreads reading challenge. Now, I’m more chill with my reading and stop using GR lol because having goals xx numbers to read is stressful and make me enjoy the book less

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    1. Oh I was exactly the same which is why I haven’t set one this year as well – it definitely adds an extra stress (especially if you already feel guilty for not reading ‘enough’), particularly at the end of the year.

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  7. Oh wow, this was such an amazing and well-written post, Emme! I definitely think that readers and bloggers face a lot of guilt, especially when they get more involved in the community and see how other readers and bloggers are doing. I feel like sometimes this pressure works well for me — for example, seeing how behind I am on my challenge makes me want to read to catch up — but then it can also just make me feel bad and not particularly motivate me to do anything. This is a great post, though, and I love the discussion you’re inviting!! 💕

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much May!!
      Yes definitely, getting involved with the online book community, whilst so so positive, has meant that you do end up comparing yourself a lot. Whether that’s with how many books you’ve read/what you thought of certain books etcetera.
      Oh yeah definitely, because without the pressure I felt from hype I wouldn’t have discovered so many of my favourite books! Challenges in the past have also motivated me to read more, for example, getting out of my slump has been helped so much by book blogging, so I can definitely understand that perspective too💕

      Liked by 2 people

  8. You are 100% right. It’s such a competitive world. There is a lot of pressure on the amount of books one should read per month. I read around 5 books a month and I am happy with that number. I used to want to get to 10 or more in a month. But truth is if I’m doing that then that’s all I’m doing of my month and I don’t want that.

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    1. I’m glad you related to this & that I’m not the only one!
      I tend to read about the same which I’d see as a success but I know others who would see that as a bad reading month. That could definitely be partly due to competition too which is an interesting perspective!
      It’s just so important to remember that we can’t compare ourselves because everyone is SO different and has so many different things happening in their lives.

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  9. oh my gosh, this was such a great discussion! this is a topic that really isn’t talked about enough, and something i’m sure that so many bloggers/bookish content creators struggle with, myself included. i set my goodreads goal to 100 books rather than trying to hit 120-150, because i don’t want to deal with the guilt of being behind my challenge. i feel guilt if i don’t have a good amount of content scheduled in advance (i like having 2-3+ posts scheduled in advance at any given time. guilt in reading has made it such that there is an emphasis on how much you read rather than the quality of what you read, which really is a shame. and YES to your point if hyped books and guilty pleasures. honestly, preach everything you said, because it is so true. again, fantastic post, emme!

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    1. Thank you so much Taasia!!💕
      I definitely think this topic should be talked about more because it’s definitely one that’s brushed under the carpet. I’m so surprised with the response to this post because even though I’ve seen it hinted at in posts, it’s never really acknowledged?
      100 books is such an amazing amount of books!! It’s a good idea to set a goal just beneath what you’re used to – so there’s still that sense of challenge in that there’s a target to meet but not one that will cause you any significant stress/pressure.
      I 100000% hear you with the scheduling content. I recently went away on holiday for a week or so and I forgot to schedule posts (being fairly new) and I felt so bad!! Thankfully I should have a post going up today but I hated not having anything up and seeing that ‘x days ago’ number get bigger.
      There’s definitely that pressure of numbers, and I think that’s the same with everything nowadays which is a shame. From books read to number of followers to idk, number of shoes owned. Numbers are everywhere and it’s so easy to judge and compare ourselves to others based on those which sucks!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Ahh.. this was an amazing discussion I loved it so much!!
    I always feel like I don’t read enough especially as I think I read less than a lot of people I see online– in fact I used to think I didn’t read enough to be a book blogger. My goodreads target for this year was 35 and I do feel guilty for it not being higher but you are so right that we shouldn’t feel pressured to read to achieve a numerical goal. Reading is about so much more– books that you will love and provide you comfort. I think the pressure you put on yourself can take away what is so special about reading if you put it down to got to read so many books this month or else. You should reach for books that you truly want to read always!!
    And I certainly get what you mean about hyped books– they are constantly talked about and I’m always writing ‘I need to read that book’ so there is a pressure to read these hyped books. But I think I am getting better at deciding how much I like the premise before picking up a hyped book as I shouldn’t force myself to read it just because everyone else is!!
    Great discussion– I thoroughly enjoyed reading it!! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahh thank you so much Sophie!!
      Same! As someone who usually manages to read around 2-3 books in a month, I’ve always felt guilty seeing the monthly recaps with 10+ books, or end of year posts with 100+ reads?? But if you look in detail at the books read, 99% of the time a significant number have low ratings. It’s definitely important for us to remember that the numbers don’t matter at all, but what we read does. & You’re right, pressure surrounding the numbers can definitely get in the way of that.
      Yes 100%, I just feel like I have to add it to my tbr even if I’m not interested because the reviews have hyped it up and I’d feel bad saying I don’t want to read it – which is stupid??

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes same– I never know how people read 10+ books a month but it is so true that you have to remember quality over quanitiy and that your own reading pace is the best one for you not someone else’s!!
        Yes you should never feel like you should read something for the sake of it— always go for what you want!! 😊

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  11. SUCH AN IMPORTANT AND AMAZING DISCUSSION.

    I actually feel guilty sometimes because I read so fast. Sometimes I feel bad to mention it because I don’t want to make others feel bad, yknow? I’ve once read seven books in a day I think…

    Anyway I don’t mention it much because I kinda feel guilty? I don’t want to make others feel bad.

    Anyway, again, this is an amazing post!!!!! And a very important post!

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  12. This is such a wonderful discussion post! I loved reading it so much! I’m trying to work on having less guilt surrounding my reading and blogging and this post summed up everything I’ve been trying to tell myself for months! I want to make sure that I’m enjoying my life and not just reading something because I feel I need to or because it will help me reach an arbitrary goal I’ve set for myself. I’m okay with reading short books if I’m feeling slumpy or I’m genuinely in the mood of them, but I never want to feel like I’m reading it just to help my Goodreads challenge when I’m actually in the mood of a bigger, more dense novel. Thank you so much for putting my feelings into words and giving me a healthy perspective!

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  13. Very interesting post, because I have sure felt this way, I’m sure we all have. I even debated not sharing my monthly wrap up this month because I had only read 8 books and that felt too low. WHAT?? I HAD THREE 5 STAR READS? That’s amazing! So I mentioned that while it felt low to me, I also don’t want to turn reading into a competition against myself, the most important thing was that I had 3 books that I gave 5 stars to, and that was wonderful. I want to be transparent on stats and stuff, yet at the same time not make myself feel like I’m competing against myself.

    I did away with goals because while it was motivating, it was too much pressure on myself. I also stopped reading ARCs in order of publication. I read the book when I’m most excited about it. It’s lead to me enjoying my reading more, reading more books, and somehow STILL managing to get to most of the books before publication.

    When you start to get away from loving book blogging and reading, or you start to feel like you’re not doing enough I think it’s important to dial back and remember why you started it all and think about how to get back to the love of it all.

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  14. I think the most guilt I’ve ever felt is when I’ve read 0 books in a month. It’s like…I had on average 4 weeks and I didn’t even read 1 book. But I have to remind myself that it’s totally ok and valid to have the odd few months where I read nothing, as I usually make up for it in other months. I don’t read a whole lot of ARCs thankfully so I don’t have the guilt which comes with overdue arcs as much. I will say though that I’ve also been wondering a similar thing to what you mentioned in this post…

    “Are we then reading for fun – or are we reading just to get those numbers?”

    I’ve never really read a lot of books in a month, on average I read about 7 a month. Compared to many others that’s a pretty low number, yet it’s just a number. I’d rather only read 7 a month and have enjoyed them all than read more and not have liked more than half of them. Whilst I adore blogging and the reading culture, sometimes I stop and wonder if we drain the enjoyment out of reading? I know I’ve certainly drained the enjoyment out of it for myself because I felt like if I didn’t enjoy/love the book then it was a waste of time. Which is ridiculous because you still take away something from the book even if it wasn’t wholly enjoyable. Love this post Emme!

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  15. Um you’ve captured my feelings about reading perfectly? I feel like we – as book bloggers – sometimes feel pressured to read certain books, especially once they’ve been hyped! Blogging is so fast-paced, and reviewing hyped books tends to lead to more views, so I feel as though we sometimes sacrifice reading other books in order to read more popular books. I feel terrible when I do this – however subconsciously – because I want to promote lesser known books!

    This is a great discussion post, Emme! I hope you have a wonderful day!

    Like

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