Sunday, August 31, 2014

Reading Together is Fun...Until It's Not

I think a discussion post on this blog is long overdue (except for this one, and oh, that one too), and I found the perfect subject this past week: 

Buddy Reads

Okay, so to open up to the point I want to make, I have to give you a little background on myself. Reading was always a solitary experience for me growing up (unless you count the times when my parents read to me or I went to the library for those fun activities with other kids). But, other than that, it was solitary. Meaning I read alone. I read a book, took it back to the library, and that was that. I didn't talk about them with people, especially in my late teen years. And I didn't necessarily think too hard about them after I dropped them off. Only a few ever truly stuck with me (Hello, Harry Potter). I devoured books, but my reading experience was very different from what it is now. Now I take the time to think about them and pinpoint the emotions I had while reading them. The experience is so much deeper when you let yourself feel every emotion while reading a book. And until I started blogging, I shared that experience with only myself.

I honestly didn't think I'd like buddy reading with people. Because of the deeply personal experiences I have reading, and also because I used to not share anything about the books I read. Reading was encouraged as I grew up. My parents took me to the library and bought me books for presents on birthdays and Christmas. I think my mom read a lot to me, too, and we always had a bookshelf full of everything that is wonderful in the world.  My family was pretty great about my bookworm habit, and a lot of them are big readers. I just don't really... talk to them about the books I read. Most of my family members read Christian fiction, and ONLY Christian fiction. And I read a lot of.. unconventional and gritty stories that probably would get me disgusted looks and horrified expressions and a Bible thrust into my lap. (Okay, okay. I may be exaggerating just a *teeny tiny* bit). But I do know that a lot of them would be disgusted and think they were wrong and shouldn't be written. And they would judge me for it. Or at least go off on a rampage about how immoral they are and why I shouldn't be reading them. I love my family, I do. But I'm more open-minded than most of them.

Don't think I dislike them for being that way. My family encouraged my reading habit, but my peers (and even my friends) did not. It wasn't cool at school. Jamie from The Perpetual Page-Turner actually wrote a post about this and you should totally go read it. I found that I could definitely relate to the fact that reading books was seen as uncool, and even lazy. It wasn't cool when I was growing up. Or maybe I just hadn't found the right people? Whatever the case, I wasn't popular and I'd rather spend my time reading than going to a party on Friday night. And they just couldn't understand that. I got weird looks for reading, and I'm pretty sure I got teased for it. (Honestly, don't take my word for it. I've forgotten a lot about high school). I do know that it just wasn't COOL. But I didn't give a shit what they thought of me, and it never would have turned me off from books. I didn't read as much, but I didn't quit the habit altogether. My best friend likes to tease me, but good-naturedly and in fun. My other friends weren't big readers, so I didn't talk about books with them. I kind of hid it and locked myself away in my room and got lost in other worlds.

And then I found the book blogosphere and the huge community of all the readers who have found a safe space where they could talk about books freely and without judgment. Where fangirling is normal and having ALL THE FEELS is sane and arguing over who gets what book boyfriend is an everyday conversation. I love being a part of this community! 

But it took me a long time to feel comfortable enough to share my opinions about books with others and actually talk with them. It's why I was wary and a little terrified of buddy reads. Then I started to do them, and I really loved it! Sometimes it's just so much fun reading with other people and sharing the same reactions or being able to have a discussion even when you disagree. In the beginning, when I first did them, I was still nervous about sharing my opinions, so I kind of kept quiet. But that soon changed. I don't remember the first one I did, but I think it might have been with the awesome Diamond. :) She actually commented on a post I published on here and we started reading The Iron Queen, which led to a TON of buddy reads together (even have one in September). So seriously, if you see a book that we both have, let me know in the comments if you want to read it together. I'd love to! I just want some lively discussions... is that too much to ask?

I also do a lot of buddy reads in David Estes' fan group on Goodreads. I looooove buddy reading with these people and talking about life and books. We get some great lively discussions... and that reminds me that I haven't done one with them in awhile. I MUST CHANGE THIS. Anyway, my point is that I've had some great buddy reads! And then I've also had some not-so-great ones...

Case in point: AUGUST. This month was pretty bad when it came to buddy reads. Only one of them was actually fun. The rest? Not so much. It all started out when August hit. I was supposed to do one in the beginning, but the person never responded to my comment when I was wondering if we were still on for it (we'd set this one up like a month beforehand). Okay, whatever. I have other books to read, that's fine. Then I had two other buddy reads with the same person, which turned out to be total busts. She never even read the books. I get it. If you don't have time, or life gets in the way, that's fine. JUST LET ME KNOW! I'm cool with setting the book aside. Just talk to me about it! And then you get the people who don't discuss after they've read the book. Like, I don't do buddy reads to have one-sided conversations with myself. I do buddy reads for discussions! So please do me the favor of actually responding to my comments and letting me know what you thought of the book, even if it's not the same as me. I can have discussions with you without getting defensive and telling you that you're wrong to think a certain way. I don't bite, I promise. But I hate looking stupid when I'm talking to crickets. *chirp chirp*

Sure, I shouldn't let a few bad experiences ruin buddy reads. But it was just so frustrating! I was excited about all of these and happy that I set up a lot of them to help me get through my ARC August reads. Sometimes, though, it just doesn't feel worth it. I'm not trying to call anyone out for this, and I'm sorry if it's you and you're offended and pissed off by this post. I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings. I managed to do that to someone on Twitter because I decided to rant without remembering that people actually read my tweets. And then I felt incredibly bad about it because it wasn't just one person. It was a stream of crappy buddy reads and a few people who just suck at them.

But it's also not just these bad experiences. I'm a solitary reader, and most of the time, I prefer that. Not because of all of this, but because some books are for me to experience ALONE. I don't want to read them with other people. I don't do buddy reads for contemporary novels. Why? Because usually I feel those ones much more intensely and I don't want to share that with people. Reading is, most of the time, a very emotional experience for me (because I read a lot of realistic fiction). And I prefer those books to stay special by reading them alone so I can feel everything and open myself up to all that's going on. I feel like that would just be weird with others, and I also have a hard time stopping with those books because I just want to keep reading and not discuss.

I probably shouldn't publish this post, especially considering I could possibly piss someone off. But I wanted to rant and DISCUSS buddy reads. They're fun, until they're not. All of the above are the reasons why I have a love/hate relationship with buddy reads. But since that Twitter mini-rant about this subject, I've discovered that you just have to find the right people. I'll keep doing buddy reads. I'll just be more picky when it comes to WHO I read with for obvious reasons. :)

Your turn: how do you feel about buddy reads? Do you do them a lot? Or have you never tried one?


  1. I admit, I have never done a buddy read, for mainly the same reasons you stated: Reading is such a personal thing. Also, I would feel such pressure to get the book read, and I don't want to be reading just to get through the book. That doesn't seem like any fun for anyone. But, I do love the idea of getting to chat with it about someone along the way! As it is now, the people I chat with about books are generally the friends I've insisted read certain books, and then they will want to talk about them. It's fun, but often I have read those books years ago, so it would be nice to share in the moment.

    It's a shame that people aren't respectful of your time and energy during the buddy read though. That would worry me too, because I know I would follow through, but I'd worry about others following through, and then feeling awkward about asking them about it. Basically, it sounds like a lot of anxiety, and I am not sure that it's worth it.

    Also, I really should do some of those buddy reads in the David Estes group. I love that group too, I feel like I have been so busy lately though, I haven't even had a chance to pop in and read it!

    Great discussion! I am sorry you've been disappointed, but I don't think you should have been made to feel badly for being upset on Twitter (or on here either!), because you are entitled to your feelings, especially when someone has let you down.

    -Shannon @ It Starts At Midnight

    1. I think you should try one! Once you find the right people, you can have so much fun and have some awesome discussions. Especially in David's fan group! I didn't know you were a member too! I love that group, but I've been slacking in participating (I really want to change that). I just love how cool people are. I remember one time I just wasn't connecting with the book we were buddy reading, and I told them that I was going to set it aside. And they were all so cool about it and were like: "Girl, no problem. Don't force yourself if you're not enjoying it." I felt bad about backing out, but they were so nice about it. (I just wish people would let me know if that's the case, or if something else happens).

      And oh, the Twitter thing. It wasn't like that! (Sorry, sometimes I'm not great at articulating what I want to say well). I thought I hurt this person's feelings by essentially "subtweeting" and I felt incredibly bad about it afterward. Especially since it wasn't just directed at one person. I love ranting on Twitter; I should just be a bit more careful next time.

      Thank you for such an awesome comment! (I've been feeling frustrated because of this the last few weeks). :)

  2. Nice post. I haven't /officially/ done a buddy read, but I did have some friends in high school who would keep pace with my reading (both in frequency and in tastes in books). I actually think my social reading experience has almost been the opposite of yours---I had a spectacular reading community in high school, of which I was pretty much the focus point; people came to me for suggestions on what they should read next, and sometimes we'd try to read the same book at the same time (not terribly frequently, because we normally just all borrowed the same copy of the same book).

    I haven't tried one since I started blogging last year; I'd be totally interested in giving it a go, but sometimes work gets so crazy I don't have the time I'd like to really dedicate to getting through a book :/

    1. That is so awesome that you had a great reading community in high school! I didn't have bookworm friends, so it was just very solitary. And that's fine; I was shy and wasn't open about my opinions. But it would have been nice to have someone to talk to about books. I do now, and I love it. One of my best friends that I met in college is a huge reader like myself and we have so many book talks during work. It's really nice to share that with someone. :)

      I understand that! But in my experience (aside from this month), most of the time people are really cool about either changing the date or not caring how long it takes you to read the book. Most "wing it" and read how they normally do. I think you should try one! Especially if you love talking about books with people. :)

  3. I have also never done a buddy read, so I can't really relate. I have read with a book club, but like you said, I don't really discuss MY FEELS to someone face to face. Though I do LOVE doing that through my posts.

    I have to admit, as much as I love the bloggy community, I think most people don't really read the same books I do at the same time. Like sure, I read popular books, but everyone is either reading really good ARCs they got from publishers because their blogs have that popularity, or just reading something totally different. For me, I only connected with one person about a book we just read, but it was only through comments.

    Also, I remember in elementary school I never got teased about how many books I read. I remember I was actually reading during class, and then this one really nice girl just jokingly said "Valllll, reading during class?" which wasn't supposed to be mean so it was all cool. But yeah, reading was all cool, though I was too young back then to realize I was supposed to gush over books (I only did over Inkheart).

    Yep, so that's that. I would like to start a buddy read, but I really don't have time for that now :P

    1. Oh yes, I LOVE sharing my feels through my posts! It's so much easier.

      And I'm finding the same problem too, although I've been able to read a lot of amazing ARCs early. I've catered my blog to what I call "book pressure" before (reading the most popular because everyone else is), and I want to try to stop doing that. But I love getting ARCs reviewed early, because most of the time, they're ones I REALLY want. However, I'm trying to mix them up with "fun" or "me" books. I don't want to just blog about the books that aren't even out yet. That would limit the number of people who read them. :)

      I didn't realize I was supposed to gush about books either! Haha. But now I know!

  4. Oooh, I love discussion posts! I don't think I've ever had a successful buddy read. Either the other person doesn't start on time or doesn't keep up with me, even when I wait for them. (I'm not a fast reader)
    So, I'd be curious to see how a read buddy read works :)
    Oh and I remember all those weird looks kids would give you when they would ask what you like to do for fun and you responded with 'reading.'

    1. I wish more people would be conscious of the time and energy it takes for others to do buddy reads. But you should try one! Pretty much all of the ones I've done we just wing it and read at our own pace. And then HOPEFULLY discuss afterward. It's a lot of fun when you read with the right people. :)

      And yeah, I got those weird looks too! It's why I kept books to myself. No one really cared to know.


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