I have been blogging about books for almost six years now. Obviously, I was a big reader before I started this blog. When I published my first post in December of 2014, I was already about six months into my masters degree in English. I was two years out of college, and had spent those two years really getting back into reading again. I was enjoying reading lots of books and discovering book blogs and BookTube.
And then things changed… I started my own blog. I started this blog to share my love of books with people who cared, because it felt like such a big part of me. I wasn’t expecting it to completely change the way I read. I don’t regret it, but I do think about it a lot. So, today, I thought I’d share some of the ways this blog has changed my reading habits. I’m sure some of you fellow book bloggers will relate.
I Choose Books for Blog Posts, Not Because I Want To
This isn’t 100% of the time. But it is a lot. I’ll get a book for review and have to read that one before I read a book I really want to read just for fun. I have my secret TBR posts (basically themed reading lists) that don’t always consist of books I want to read.
In the early days of my blog, I was reading a lot of things I didn’t love just because I felt like I had to to “be a book blogger”. Everyone was reading Cassandra Clare and John Green, so I felt like I should read them to fit in or stay relevant. I’m not sure whether adult book bloggers weren’t as prevalent six years ago, or if I just hadn’t discovered them yet, but so much of my focus was on YA. Which I have largely (though not completely) stopped reading and talking about.
This honestly has pros and cons. Sometimes, it works out really well. Recently, I literally let Buzzfeed choose my reading list. None of those books were at the top of my “want-to-read” list. But I ended up really liking every single one of them (and even finding two new favorites). I probably wouldn’t have read them anytime soon if it wasn’t for that post, so I’m glad I did it. On the other hand, several times this year already, I’ve had to force myself to read books I wasn’t in the mood for just to get my reviews up on schedule.
Which brings us to my next point….
I Feel Pressure to Read a Lot
Last month, I had a massive reading slump. And someone made a comment on my wrap-up that three books didn’t really seem like a slump. If three books (or one or two) is what you read every month, that’s totally fine. But, for me, I feel constant pressure to read enough to come out with new and fresh content.
Part of the problem, for me, is that I read pretty much anything. That should not be a problem. But when you’re a book blogger, it can be. I am well aware that this blog doesn’t really have a focus. It’s kind of just me talking about whatever I like or want to share. I like it that way (and I hope you do, too). However, I do get a lot of ideas for list or themed posts. I’m working on a post about romance novels I like and another about nonfiction books by authors of color. And it just always feels like I haven’t read enough in those categories to write a comprehensive post. I need to read more romance if I want to talk about it, and read more biographies if I want to write a post about my favorites.
I know this is pressure I put on myself. But it’s really not easy to keep up with the amount of reading I want to do in order to have this blog be something I want it to be. I gave myself a break last month, and am now trying to play catch-up. I literally have a reading calendar with scheduled deadlines. It seems insane, I know. But, of the eleven books on the schedule for the rest of this month, eight are books I need to read for upcoming posts. Which are also scheduled on the calendar.
I Pay Way More Attention to Book News
I barely remember how I used to choose books to read before I was a book blogger. When I was a pre-teen, I do remember choosing the books in “my section” of the bookstore with the most provocative titles just to annoy my mom (one I distinctly remember causing a massive eye-roll was The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things). I also remember finding one author I liked and then just reading everything by them (Meg Cabot was literally how I transitioned into reading adult romance… at thirteen). I’d occasionally hear about books from friends and read those, but that was very rare.
But now, I’m the one everyone comes to for book recommendations. Or anything related to books. In the three or so years of the book club my cousins started, I think they’ve only chosen one book I hadn’t already read. I will just mention something great I’d read recently, and everyone is just “sounds awesome, let’s read that!”. One time, I sat there while everyone said what they liked in books and came up with a book that had a good mix of all of the things. I just know a lot about books. But that means I tend to not get a lot of personal recommendations to help me choose new books.
But that also means I very rarely purchase books I don’t know much about. My most recent purchase: Grant by Ron Chernow. Which I am reading for an upcoming blog post and the current Tome Topple readathon. I’ve also done my research on it and know what people are saying about it. I very rarely just pick up books just because they look good anymore.
Also on that master reading calendar? A list of new releases on my radar that goes about four months out. I know what’s coming and when. I know what is winning awards or on the awards short and long lists for this year. I am just way more in-tune with the world of book news than I ever have been. It somehow feels like I am able to better choose which books I will like, but also that I’m not choosing them for myself.
I Have Read a Lot of Really Bad Books (and Learned From It)
When I first started this blog, review copies were like magical unicorns. Really hard to come by, but made you feel great when you finally got to pet one. So I said “yes” to literally any review copy I could get my hands on. Which ended up being my biggest regret when it came to this blog.
Because I wasn’t reading and sharing books I felt passionate about (or at least doing a cool, creative post with). I was reading books just because someone asked me too and it was free. And some of those were genuinely bad. In a way, that was good. Because I now have a frame of reference for what a terrible book looks like. I read more than one self-published book that was painfully bad. I’m talking run-on sentences and weird sentence fragments bad.
Several times I wanted to give the honest response of “sorry, I can’t review this, please get yourself an editor”. But that meant I had already read the bad book. And had put myself through hours of cringe-worthy grammar and super cheesy dialogue. It still makes me flinch when I think about them. I don’t regret learning that lesson the hard way, but I wish I’d figured it out sooner.
I Had to Learn to Say No to Free Books
I think book blogging and getting so many review copies has made me a little bit jaded, especially about self-published books. They aren’t inherently bad, but I have had some pretty bad experiences with them. I feel like I’m more inclined to stick to “safe” books – books I think I will like based on reviews – and very occasionally pick up others, but only when they serve a purpose for my blog. Maybe that sounds bad, but I just can’t do it anymore. I would literally rather have to pay for every single book I discuss on this blog than get one more free book with such terrible grammar that I can’t even see the plot. It’s just painful.
Like I said, when I first started, I just couldn’t say no to free books. I was new and it still felt really exciting. But it just ended up being a massive mistake.
I have gotten more than one review request that begins with “I am requesting you to review my book” – which, sadly, is not a joke. I’ve been ignoring these for a while (because I have a full-time job and like some occasional free time, so I don’t have time to respond to the dozens of review requests I get, #sorrynotsorry). And man, some of these people are pushy. I am getting borderline harassed over email sometimes because I don’t want to read a book. I joke about it to my friends, but the better I do on my blog, the more often it happens, and it’s kind of crazy. Like, do you really think bugging me every day for a month is going to make me read your book?
It’s My Blog & My Reading Time – I Can Do What I Want
But I have only recently learned that having a blog doesn’t mean I owe anyone anything. I am doing this for free because it makes me happy. Reading a million books I don’t actually want to read does not make me happy. I am still figuring out how to move forward without writing book reviews. Which feels like such a rebel move for a book blogger, but I genuinely don’t like writing them, and I feel like you can tell. I feel like this blog is going to be so much better going forward.
I can’t believe it took me almost six years to come to this conclusion. But it was a learning experience. Book blogging kind of changed my reading for the worse in the beginning because I didn’t really know how to handle it. But now, I think it’s a lot better. I’m having more fun and enjoying more books, and that’s what’s important.
So, while it was a kind of roundabout journey, book blogging did end up chaining my reading for the better.
I hope you found this post interesting or helpful (if you’re a book blogger). Book blogging has changed my reading habits. Kind of for the worse in the beginning, but I learned a lot from it.
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments! If you’re a book blogger, do you think your blog has changed your reading tastes or habits? Do you think they’ve been better or worse?