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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27 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. 🙂

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  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!

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  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 🙂

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    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! ❤

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  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.

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    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.

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  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.

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  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

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    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!

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  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!

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  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!

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  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?

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    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.

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    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 😀

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  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!!!

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  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.

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  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!

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