I first discovered Booktube when I fell back in love with reading in 2016. The concept that there was this world of like-minded people waiting at the click of a button was exhilarating for me. I was sucked in like Alice down the rabbit hole, marvelling at all these books that I had never heard of and everyone’s opinions on them.
As a reader before, I had just read whatever I could find that excited me. A TBR didn’t really exist in my vocabulary; instead I would buy a new book when I finished the last, methodically ploughing through them like a train. I was unaware of ‘hype’ about books other than the big names like the Harry Potter series or the Hunger Games. That was mainstream hype largely, it didn’t come directly from something like a close knit book community.
Having started my own bookstagram six months ago, I didn’t think I would succumb to the pressure of reading hyped books. But there is a certain feeling of being left out of the crowd if you aren’t raving about the same books that everyone else is. From a purely numbers based outlook, the posts I do that are about non-bookstagram endorsed books do significantly worse than the pictures I post of bookstagram-approved ones.
I have discovered so many incredible books that I probably wouldn’t have found without bookstagram, but it becomes a sticky situation when you actually didn’t like that well-loved book. Fans have been known to attack people relentlessly if their favourite book is seen to be ‘dissed’. It happened time and time again on Booktube back in the day, and the fear of that is still rife.
As a book community, the 99% love hearing about new books and discovering new reads through others. But it’s that 1% – the cliquey 1% – that sometimes feel like they are judging me with eagle eyes if I don’t put out the same content as others. And that’s not what reading should be about.
The pressure to read quickly is also a strange byproduct of the community. In order to keep people excited, to keep people wanting to come back for more, you have to be able to churn out content quickly. As a fast reader normally, the pressure of this can prove strangely debilitating. I love reading, but I hate the feeling that I’m racing against a clock. That I need to keep going with limitless stamina in order to prove myself.
I care too much about what people think perhaps. About the books I read, the way I review them, even my interests. I shouldn’t. It does not necessarily stem from Booktube alone, but it certainly exacerbates it.