What does it mean to be a “relevant” reader? | Discussion

Today I’d like to talk about a topic that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately: What does it mean to be a “relevant” reader?

Recently I watched a video by Ariel Bissett in which she talks about the pressure in the online book community to read certain books as soon as possible to be “relevant.” She emphasizes this stress particularly in the YA genre with popular new releases at the time such as When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon and The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Ariel discusses how before joining Booktube she didn’t have this large awareness of what was recently released, current trends and topics in specific genres, book “hype, etc. While this can certainly be an advantage of being immersed in this bookish community, it also comes at a price: feeling like a bad person or that you can’t be a proper reader unless you read the books that “everyone” is currently talking about. 

Ariel emphasizes that this need to be relevant is ridiculous. As she points out, the books that are deemed “relevant” are not always the books we’re most interested in reading. Her solution is to try to not give into this competitive feeling of needing to be relevant– yet she acknowledges that this is a really difficult thing to do. How do you participate in a community that focuses on reading competitively when that isn’t what you initially signed up for? (Metaphorically speaking, of course– there aren’t any sign-up sheets to be found here…)

Shortly after watching this video I read a great blog post by Hannah @ Mortal Reader in which she discusses feeling lost in the book community when she tries to keep up with all the constant cycle of new releases being published. She explains that she often finds herself picking books to read based on what she thinks the people who read her blog will be interested in rather than simply picking up whatever book she herself would like to read in that moment. Here is yet another manifestation of the pressure many of us feel to be relevant readers when we blog, make videos, and create other bookish content online.

 I’m certainly guilty of feeding into this competitive edge of reading as well. For instance, I definitely felt pressure to read John Green’s most recent novel Turtles All the Way Down as soon as possible once it was released so I could write about it. I also really relate to something that Ariel discusses in her video: the problem of viewing rereading as not making progress towards our reading goals. I LOVE rereading books and feel no shame at all when I reread old favorites… but why is this attitude the exception rather than the rule? Why does stigma exist? Why does rereading often make people feel as though they’re not staying “relevant”?

My way to deal with this notion of “relevant” and “competitive” reading is to try my best to ignore it. You may have noticed that I love reading classics and old books, which are mainly what I talk about on this blog. Are people dying to hear my thoughts on William Faulkner or Willa Cather? Probably not. But those are the kinds of books that I love to read, so why would I read anything else? Personally, reading what I enjoy is more important to me than “staying relevant”– whatever that means.

What are your thoughts on “relevant” and “competitive” reading? Do you feel this pressure to read certain books in the online bookish community? What can we do about this? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

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64 thoughts on “What does it mean to be a “relevant” reader? | Discussion

  1. I watched Ariel’s video as well and she makes some valid points. I don’t necessarily feel pressure to read what other people are reading, as I like to talk about a wide variety of books, including ones that have been out for donkeys’ years.

    I do read newer books as well, but only when I am actually interested in them and I feel like reading them. I have The Hate U Give on my shelf and I am looking forward to picking it up to read soon. I don’t think I am a particular relevant reader. I love it when people follow my blog, but I also blog to remind myself what books I read and what I thought of them.

    I also love re-reading and at the moment I am on track to have re-read three books this month. I may not re-read any next month, but at the moment I am finding it very enjoyable. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  2. This is such an important topic, Holly, thanks for bringing it up! I also feel that I had very little idea of the new books coming up soon and didn’t feel this urge to read them as soon as possible… but last year, when I joined the book blogging community, I bought SO MANY books and read SO MANY releases… which is great of course, but my pile of books I’ve been wanting to read for years just collects dust in the meantime. This year I’m doing several book bans to try to read only what I truly am interested in and not just what is trendy.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I have the same problem with my TBR! This year I’m finally getting to the point where I have few enough physical books in my room left to read that I could probably get through most of them by the end of the year… but it’s taken me so long to get to this point!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I really appreciate you for bringing up this topic. well! I think at least being a book lover, we should be aware about the market and the taste’s of people to know what they are reading these days. And it explains where Literature is going and about being relevant or competitive readings, it depends on the interest’s of an individual. As you wrote that you love to read classics. another thing is that if we don’t read particularly the young writer’s than it will be unfair to them.

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  4. This is such an interesting discussion, Holly, I love it, thank you for writing it. I am so much more aware of the books being released now that I am in the book blogging community and I do feel some kind of pressure to stay on top of what everyone’s reading, just to be, in the loop. I think this is something that… well, sometimes it’s a bit crazy, because we can’t possibly read all the books, and all the popular books aren’t necessarily ones we want to read…. it’s just, to be in the loop. I think it’s SO important to remember what we really want to read and always take a breath and think before buying into the hype right away 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I completely agree! 🙂 Sometimes it’s hard to balance reading as part of the community and reading what you’re truly interested in. Hopefully 2018 will be the year that we can all become a bit better at this. Thanks, Marie! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I think the problem with being “relevant” in book blogging is that the relevant books move way faster than they do in the general reading community. Palacio’s Wonder, for instance, was published in 2012 and arguably wasn’t “relevant” for bloggers anymore a month after its release. But a good many people are reading it now for the first time because of the film. And even though the film was released in November, you can’t get a copy from my library because they’re all flying off the shelves. The lifespan of a book is far longer when you’re not blogging. Trying to keep up with trends at the fast pace of the book blogosphere is just exhausting and it kind of doesn’t make sense for the pace to be that fast when you reflect that so many people actually are invested in a book months after its release. Because we can’t all read a book a day! We are all always behind a little bit.

    I’ve also noticed that The Hate U Give is still on the bestseller list even though most bloggers seem to have read it a year ago when it first came out. Again, the general public is willing to stick with books far longer than bloggers seem to. And it makes me wonder if the general public isn’t right. After all, staying “relevant” sort of insists that you churn through recent releases and toss them aside when their day is “over:. The general public’s reading habits suggest that a book like The Hate U Give can continue to have relevance and be a talking point a full year after its release. It seems to me that the people just buying The Hate U GIve a year after it was cool are the people who are actually making it relevant title rather than ephemera.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. YES. YES. YES. I love all the points you make here!! I hadn’t really thought about it before, but the contrast between book bloggers vs. general public is so true. I hate the instantaneous flash of hype that appears in the book blogging world every time a new release comes out… and then just disappears after a few weeks and becomes old news. Why can’t we spend time appreciating and discussing the books instead?

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      1. I agree. I don’t want books to feel like they’re disposable. I want them to be living texts that continue to speak to us and to challenge us.

        Also, I’d be hesitant to promote a mindset that favors people with money to buy all new releases. If my library gets a new release at all (their budget gets more constrained every year), I will end up on a hold list, maybe for months. I literally CAN’T be relevant in the way proposed because I can’t afford to. And I’m sure I’m not alone in this.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. DEFINITELY. Coming from a teacher’s perspective (aka living a life strapped for cash), I can say that books only start to be CONSIDERED for a curriculum a year or so after it’s released, and this usually happens in a grassroots way – teachers wait until their library holds come in, read the books, decide if they’d add something important to a curriculum, make a case for it amongst their colleagues, petition the school board for funds, then purchase the books. I know THUG and Wonder are both books that have been (or are currently being) widely adopted in schools, so that would explain some of the backlog in popularity with the general public…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That makes a lot of sense! It also must be so frustrating to have to go through that entire process every time you want to add a new book to the reading list!

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      2. That’s a good point. Oftentimes schools determine what the public considers to be an “important” book. So if schools are suddenly teaching something, people are going to get the idea that it’s something they should read. Or maybe there will just be an influx of people buying it for school.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I totally get what she means. It’s easy to fall into a trap to read ‘relevant’ books so they’ll get the views because they are what people are chatting about. I like to mix it up on my blog and read a range of books. I try to read a few current books, but I have no problems reading and reviewing books that have been out for years. I think it’s important to reignite people’s interests in older releases.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. As someone that started to read in English only two years ago – or so – I’m so behind the whole publishing system that I don’t want to think about it. I admit that I don’t really feel the pressure to read new release, yet I always like the atmosphere that something is created around a book, so I enjoy read it as soon as possible. At the same time I don’t feel always comfortable with the hype, since everyone talks about a novel and I feel kinda out of the community. I’ve so many books to read that is impossibile to always jumpo onto the new release

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s so hard to find a balance between reading what you want to read and reading to fit in with the community sometimes. All of the hype surrounding popular books these days definitely doesn’t help!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I love Ariel! And I totally have had that feeling of desperately wanting to keep up with reading whatever was trending. For a while I did, but when I started to get tired of constantly reading books I wasn’t entirely interested in, I mistakenly took that as a sign that I was bored with reading itself. Now I read what I’m genuinely interested in, and it has improved my reading experience tremendously!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you so much for including my post in this Holly. Having written the discussion it made me feel so much better knowing that others feel the same pressures. This year i’m already started 2018 with the resolution that I will not be putting pressure on myself this year (at least trying) and i’m going to read whatever I want to instead of focusing on what is trending or could bring up my stats!
    I lose myself in books much better when I remove the forced feeling away. Thank you so much again. loved your post and I also love Ariel!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. This is something that really surprised me when I first started my book blog. I’ve never read newly released books– mainly because they can be hard to find at a library which is where I get all my books. However, I can’t help but feel a bit behind when everyone and their mother is blogging about ALL the new books that were just released. It feels overwhelming to try and keep up with all the new releases and it feels a bit unnecessary since there are so many amazing books that have already been published.
    It’s nice to know that there are other bloggers who feel the same way! Before I started a blog it wouldn’t have even crossed my mind but now when I read a book, I am in some way thinking of how that book will effect my blog: will it get a full review? will it end up on a top 10 list? if it’s a random old book no one has ever heard of, is that a bad thing? a good thing?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. EXACTLY. Before blogging I used to walk into a bookstore with little knowledge of what had been recently published, unless it was by a favorite author and I had been looking forward to it for a while. I miss those days of just wandering the shelves, picking up whatever seems good.

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  11. Seriously? Competitive and relevant reading? Who would ever even consider those words when it comes to the most PERSONAL and wonderful thing ever? My advice: read what you love and that’s it. If someone doesn’t like it…not your problem. Reading is not a race or a competition it’s a love affair all your own.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I completely agree with you! Reading is all about personal preferences and finding the stories that speak to YOU…. not a random person on the other side of a computer screen. 🙂

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  12. this is a great post, holly! i also watched the video a while ago and my thoughts on my reading changed, especially during my break. last year i really felt the pressure to read what other’s read. it was tough, because i am a mood reader and i should just pick up what i want. the last year stressed me out, because i wanted to stay on top but also read books from my tbr and i just rushed through books, that deserve more time!
    i decided for myself, that i will read books, that i want to read, no matter, if no one is interested in it. and if the book is good or bad and i have a lot to say about it, i will post a review no matter what. and i will read slower and focus on the story more. it’s about quality for me this year. every time i look at my tbr at home, the books are screaming and i really want to get to them, but the new releases always came in between. so i will stop that this year. if there is a new release i REALLY want to read and i am in the mood for, then i will buy it and read it immediately. that way my tbr won’t grow and i will read what i want to read.
    i think sometimes we get draged into this fast book life, because of recommendations, booktube, bookstagram and suddenly it comes over us to do everything to stay on top. but that’s not the point. reading is fun and everybody should read what they want to read.
    ok, i got a little bit caried away haha 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. haha it’s nice to get carried away every now and then (especially talking about books!!) 🙂 That sounds like a really great plan for enjoying reading this year. Fingers crossed that I can do the same! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I watched Ariel’s video and also shared it on my blog, reason was I believe the point she was trying to make was completely valid..when you are in book blogging there is unnecessary be pressure about reading a particular genre that grabs interest of people who reads blogs or have interest in booktube. Also when any blogger have different opinions about any books they undergo a pressure to put their opinion in a way that it may not offend readers. This also leads to competitive Reading where there is a pressure to read more and more books!!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s a really great point about framing opinions in a certain way depending on your audience… when, in the grand scheme of things, you should feel free to share your thoughts! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I agree there can be pressure to read all the popular books, and preferably quickly before everyone else has “already read them” and will no longer be interested in your review. However, after blogging for a few years, I’ve also found that people like reading a variety of blogs. So while there’s definitely an interest in blogs that are on top of all the new release all the time, I think people also like reading blogs that review more backlist books or just have a more casual approach to reading and reviewing in general.

    Liked by 3 people

  15. This is a great post! I have definitely felt the pressure in the past to read all the new releases as soon as I can, and I think one of the reasons for this is fear of finding spoilers! Since I’ve started watching BookTube, I have become more aware of the new releases and different authors and the great books that everyone ‘should’ be reading, but I’ve been trying to only really add those that really sound interesting to me to my TBR. There have been some that I have forced myself into thinking maybe I could try it out, especially fantasy, as I never read much fantasy at all until joining the book community. Most of the time I’ve enjoyed these books, but there have been some that have been so hyped, but I haven’t enjoyed because they’re really not my thing! In terms of reading them there and then, I’m not too fussed. If I hear about a great book, I might buy it straight away l, but it will take me a while to get to it, for example I first heard of the ACOTAR series last year, but only just got round to reading them. I’m in no rush to read all the latest releases (unless it’s a favourite author of mine!) but I have been known to eventually jump on the bandwagon for new releases, although I don’t feel the pressure to read them straight away!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Hi Holly, great,post! I have actually started listening to some of my favorite series on audiobooks and have LOVED it! There’s something about a great narrator that brings a book to life in a different way than I read it in my head. Also some of my favorite series have over 10 books and i’ve forgotten those fine details so its almost like reading it for the first time? Do you listen to books too?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! I never used to listen to audio books until I got to college, but it’s such a great way to get in some extra reading time while walking to lectures and around campus. My favorite audio books tend to be the ones narrated by the writer ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  17. I think some of this plays into the competition for ARCs. When people are fighting hard for any and all new ARCs, it’s the competition to be relevant before anyone else.

    I have certainly felt pressure to read certain books to be relevant, but I am such a mood reader that I am more satisfied to read things I want to read. And I like finding a blogger once in a while who happened to review or discuss a book that I’ve read or am about to read. It’s fun to see people discovering books long after they were released. I think it demonstrates that a book is still relevant if people are still talking about it long after it was first published.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Definitely! I’m not really into reading ARCs (I’ve read a few, but they’re not something I frequently and actively seek out) so a lot of the drama and debate that’s been going on surrounding that debacle has gone completely over my head 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I agree! I hadn’t thought about how ARCs play into it, but that makes soooo much sense. Oh, and I love connecting with people on old books! Finding new readers of Station Eleven is one of my favorite pastimes 😀

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  18. I know I used to trick myself into believing I wanted to read all the hyped up “relevant” books. If you look back on anything I posted at the beginning of 2017 – both on my blog and booktube – you can see the vast majority of them are the massively popular sort. Now…not so much. I completely switched midway through 2017 when I realised what I was doing, and now my reading taste looks completely different as I read more classics, nonfiction, translations and just books that are generally unheard of in comparison. I do still read some of the popular hyped up YA sort – some of them are interesting after all 😆 But it’s something I’ve been thinking about because I see people praising others for their reading taste if it tends to be books that AREN’T all popular. It’s an odd one.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Definitely! Sometimes it’s hard to tell if you really want to read a book because you’re genuinely interested in it or because of all the hype… I’m glad you’ve found your own personal bookish balance! 🙂

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  19. This is a great discussion topic. It’s easy to be overwhelmed in the book community when you feel the pressure to read everything. I feel guilty about voting in the Goodreads Choice Awards if I haven’t read everything listed. But it’s just not possible to read every new release (and also not good for my bank account). Like you said, it’s really important to focus on what interests you. I want to reread more books this year and not feel ashamed or like there’s a book that’s more worth my time. I want reading to still be a safe place, not something that causes me more stress.

    Also, I love hearing your thoughts on classics! It makes me appreciate them more. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww thanks so much! That’s so great to hear ❤

      I always think the Goodreads Choice Awards are really interesting because you're absolutely right: how many people have actually read all of the books listed and can therefore make a completely educated vote? But that's not what reading is about! 🙂

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  20. Hello! I want to join this discussion, because I’ve also felt that in the bookish blogosphere (at least in the bubble I’m in) there is this “pressure” of reading/talking about certain books. Unfortunately for my stats, the hyped books are mostly books that I would not like to read, for example YA books.

    I am pretty glad that I managed to resist this “temptation”, ignore the trendy books, and stick to the books I want to read, not books I feel I should read. Given the limited time I have for reading, I want to use it wisely and read books that I feel enrich me, even if they were published 100 years ago.

    “Are people dying to hear my thoughts on William Faulkner or Willa Cather? Probably not. But those are the kinds of books that I love to read, so why would I read anything else?” – I simply love how you put things here! I was thinking the same when I was reading Tolstoy … in the end it’s important to write about something I like, and I want my blog to be a place that represents me. So even if there is one single person that finds interesting what I have to say, that’s fine with me.

    Thank you so much, Holly, for bringing this topic up! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww thanks so much for joining the discussion! I’m so glad that you feel the same way. When I read War and Peace over the summer I particularly had these hesitant thoughts– did I really want to spend hours reading over a thousand pages when no one would want to hear about it? But then I had to step back and ask myself: Wait, who am I trying to please here? Me, or random people I don’t know? It’s kind of ridiculous when you look at the bigger picture 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Yes, exactly! I was thinking the same! And I was also worried because I knew that I would not have any book review to post for the next 2-3 months, while reading the 1000 pages. The longer the book, the less activity on the blog (when it comes to book reviews)… But then I had the idea to create the reading diary, which was great because it provided some content for the blog while also helping me understand the story (I understand much better when I write/explain about it) – win-win 🙂
    For sure I will worry less when I will be reading the big books I planned for 2018 😀 More reading, less worrying!

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  22. I’m only new to the book community so haven’t truly come across this feeling yet, although I am already thinking about reading books I know my audience will like. I guess that’s the beginning of it!

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  23. Hhhahaha I love this post Holly! I must seriously be just a different sort of person. I actually FEAR reading hyped books! Now in 2018 I actively avoid them unless I’m truly interested in the blurb. In Nov I read 3 or 4 hyped books that I was truly interested in and basically fell into a reading slump that I still feel a tad to this day. They were NOT GOOD and even today I marvel st how one is so hyped in the book community in general.

    I really love that you read a ton of classics and are constantly pushing them. I feel like there are loads of readers you’ve infulenced with your passion for them. I personally love indie books where they get small viewerships and NO hype. ♥️ Excellent, excellent!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh no!! That’s awful that hyped books caused a reading slump last year… that’s a reader’s worst nightmare!

      Also, thanks so much! It’s my hope to show people that reading classics can be interesting– and even fun!– despite what their experiences may have been reading them in school, etc. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  24. Fantastic post, Holly! I wrote a while back about feeling pressure based on “book hype” so I completely understand where you’re coming from.

    There have definitely been several instances where I picked up a new YA release solely because I felt that’s what readers would want to see on my blog.

    I also didn’t re-read a SINGLE book last year when normally I re-read at least one Harry Potter book per year. Which I think is a huge indicator that there is a stigma associated with re-reading because last year was my first year in the bookish community.

    This year, I want to be less concerned about how others may think about my reading (or re-reading) and just pick up whatever my heart desires. That’s why this year I intend to break away from reading YA-only and instead read more nonfiction and adult mystery novels.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s great that you’re breaking away from reading a single genre! I feel the same way about rereading books… I love it, but sometimes it feels counterintuitive, which is AWFUL because reading is just supposed to be about reading books you genuinely enjoy and are interested in. It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one who feels this way! 🙂

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  25. I think this is something most bloggers struggle with at one point or another! Last year I made it a point to read the books I wanted to read, and ended up reading over 50% backlist (including over 10 rereads) and it’s the happiest and most productive reading year I can ever remember having!

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  26. Oh, i don’t know… i just want to have fun reading my books, relevant or not 😀
    I don’t read a lot of Y/A though, so maybe this is why this whole relevance thing just kinda flew over my head…

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  27. It’s tough sometimes! There’s so much pressure to read the popular books, which in blogging mostly tend to be YA releases, and I just don’t read that much YA. I enjoy it, but I like to vary my reading genres. But sometimes I’ll read a new YA release just because it’s so popular, and those popular reads do lead to more views. And it’s odd, but I actually don’t like to read reviews of the popular YA releases. I’ll read a few, here and there, but after awhile all of the reviews start to sound the same.
    I also enjoy re-reading, and kind of got away from re-reads the past few years, but I’m doing some re-reads now and am liking the fact that I’m not planning on blogging about the re-reads, so I’m enjoying not having to take notes!

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    1. Rereading is the best ❤ It's so comforting returning to an old favorite! You also make a great point about popular YA releases. Usually they're so hyped that I tend to steer clear of those reviews in the first place!

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