First, I want to thank Chandra for helping put this all together! A lot of the comments in between are from her original blog post but I also have added in some of my thoughts as well. I’ll mark Chandra’s so that we all know! All of us in this collaboration really appreciate those of you that are taking the time to read this and listen to our perspective of this “hot button” issue and criticism we’ve all been receiving.
“I have been seeing more and more how fast readers (like myself) are being questioned on the validity of their large wrap up posts. Why does this happen? Well, people are people and there’s always the select few who feel the need to rattle cages for whatever reason. I wanted to write this post to discuss a few points and have collaborated with other fast readers so we all have a more rounded showing of our different lives and how we make the time to read all the books, do all the reviews and still have time for socializing, mom-ing and working. Yes, you CAN have it all!” – Chandra
Lately I’ve seen nothing but people trying to spread positivity on Bookstagram and how “you don’t need to compete with anyone else” – so why are the fast readers getting so much flack from others? If it’s not a competition then why does it matter what we read in a month versus someone else? You’re doing exactly what you talk about wanting to avoid. Contrary to popular belief, people do read at different speeds and we all have different responsibilities. Taking advantage of the little moments of quiet in between the hectic schedules is the difference between finishing a book in a few days versus a couple weeks.
“I’ve always thought that ANY reading is good reading. Whether it’s just street signs, a door stopper book, a novella, a magazine… the back of a shampoo bottle while you’re taking a shit. Who cares? Reading is fantastic no matter which way you decide to do it. When people come out and say they don’t understand it and we must not have lives, race to the finish, don’t enjoy the books the way they do or are bragging – well, I wanted to be nice about it – but please shut the fuck up. We do not drag on slower readers. What’s the point in any of this? This is a community where we should be lifting each other up! I have always read fast – I do everything fast really … I talk fast, type fast, play the piano fast, walk fast… trying to tell me to slow down is like asking me to stop reading altogether. NOT. GONNA. HAPPEN.” – Chandra
Like Chandra said, any reading is an accomplishment. There is nothing to change about that sentence. ANY reading. One page, signs, online articles, memes, subtitles in a movie or TV show, 2 books, 30 books, emails at work, anything! The speed readers of Bookstagram should not be shamed for the amount we read – you don’t see us doing that to people that read at a slower pace than we do. We can’t change the pace and shouldn’t have to in order to make the rest of the community accept our monthly wrap ups. I straight up quit doing them for over a year because of the nasty comments and messages that I would get – and don’t get me started on the passive aggressive ones.
“I’ve seen some people *ahem* state that we are being hyper sensitive when we clap back at them in their comments. Or that we take it so personally. When you’re making a blanket statement of a group of people about their habits, then yes, it gets personal. I’ve tried being nice about it. I’ve tried ignoring it. But I HAVE HAD IT. Am I bragging when I post my large ass wrap up at the end every month? No. I’m simply using my page the way I want to and that includes being PROUD of what I’m reading. Am I only about the free books? NO. But I will say I’ve worked hard with publishers to get them and it’s a symbiotic relationship where I use my platform to promo the book so yes, you’re gonna see it. It’s called keeping my promises to the publisher and building relationships.
Listen, even if you don’t believe it, even if it completely baffles you to the point where it makes absolutely NO sense to you, then that’s fine. But be nice about it. Don’t assume shit about someone else when these platforms are to be used for good. We’re all here for reading and our love of books. Just because someone else does it differently than you doesn’t mean they’re wrong or lying. If your goal on social media (ANY platform for any reason/subject) is to antagonize, troll and continually make people feel like crap, then I kindly ask you to block me and we can go about our business without ever interacting. Not a blocker? Then lets agree to disagree but if I see rude comments that are hurting my friends, you best believe I’ll be the voice. Don’t clap at me if you can’t take the clap back.” – Chandra
There’s nothing that needs to be added here – she hits the nail on the damn head.
I come in peace, but with an attitude and I am not afraid to speak my mind.
Below are the most common questions/comments I’ve seen from the non-believers along with comments/answers from a few of us fast readers. One person has asked to be anonymous because she has received so much shit that it has come down to this. Remember people, what you say actually DOES make a difference and can really hurt someone. But also remember, this is just social media!
Here are just clips of things we’ve seen:
Chandra – Jessica
“I’m baffled by people who read a dozen+ books per month. But the size of some of the ‘monthly round-up’ stacks I see on Instagram are insane, guys. At what point does reading become work?”
I don’t consider it work because I absolutely love it.
Why would anyone consider reading work? If that’s your outlook on it, then maybe take a break or be more picky with your selections. Despite the number I read, I still thoroughly enjoy reading (even with a DNF every now and then)
“I’ve been skeptical of some of the “big” stacks that people claim they read each month. I’d be interested to see how well somebody who speed reads like that could score on a simple quiz about each book they read. Not great would be my guess.”
Nice guess but nope! I may get book amnesia but remind me of a certain point and I’ll have a full on conversation with you about it.
I may not know the second you mention the title, but once you give me a moment then I’ll be able to discuss the ins and outs of the book. If I loved it, then you won’t get me to shut up about it. I’ll also be able to tell you what didn’t work for me (if it was less than a 5 star read)
“I don’t like reading so much and so quickly that when I think back on a book I can’t remember it. What’s the point? I love reading some of my favorites over and over (who doesn’t) but not because I don’t remember them, but because I do, and it feels a little like going home. Books should be enjoyed.”
I enjoy almost every book I read. If you can’t remember it then don’t read like this, but for those who can… let them be.
I have very few books that I will reread. This is because there are just SO MANY more books in the world that could be read instead. If you prefer something familiar, then you do you. I’m on the other side of this argument and don’t understand why people continue to reread the same book (or series of books) more than 5 times.
Some people even question if we just read dialogue. I had never considered that! But WHAT?! HAHAHA. WHO SERIOUSLY THINKS THIS?? Do you have any idea how much you would miss in a story if you only read dialogue?
“How do so many bloggers read a book ‘in a single sitting’? If it takes 6-8 hours to read a typical novel, who has that much time to just sit and read? Doesn’t anyone out there work full time or have families?”
SIGH! Maybe it takes YOU that long to read a typical novel but I can read one in 3-4 depending on the length. **shrug**
Like Chandra said, it may take this particular person up to 8 hours to finish a book, but I’ve averaged about the same as Chandra. The ones that really suck me in can be finished in 3 hours – that’s the length of the Avengers: Endgame movie or a few episodes of something on Netflix. (Just this weekend – May 4th – I started and finished a book in 4 hours because I chose to spend my time reading)
Me. Jessica @jessicamapreviews
How many books do you typically read in a month?
Chandra: Anywhere from 20-25 depending on the month and how busy my life gets.
Jessica: Depending on the month it can be anywhere from 20-35 books (short stories really bump up that number!)
Amy: Anywhere between 20 and 30 depending on what I have going on
Jamie: Between 20-30 March was 24 – I’m at 71 for the year so far
Stacey: This varies greatly for me. If my schedule is packed then sometimes I only read 5. Other months I may read 20, it just all depends.
Jaclyn: Anywhere from 10-25 on average, it just depends on what else is going on in any given month
Tracy: So this number varies, but generally speaking anywhere from 12-20 books a month. Length of book, life, and laziness all play a part in this number 🙂
**NOTE: I feel like I am defending myself with these answers. I guess I am, and I hate that. When I started teaching full time, I read maybe 1 or 2 books a year. I was still a reader. There were months when I did nothing but watch Netflix in my free time or play with my kids. I was still a reader. I really got back into reading with a crazy vengeance in the spring of 2017 and I love it. I am still a reader.
Emily: Usually I read somewhere between 20-28 books per month, but it depends on what all I have to do that month. Sometimes it’s less. Several of my books are poetry or novellas, so they’re quite small.
Megan: I read 9-13 books a month, depending on how crazy my life is at the time. Yes, that number includes audiobooks, and YES, THEY COUNT. If I can have a conversation with you about the story, characters, plot development, etc., then I read the dang book.
Diana: I read anywhere from 10 to 20 books a month. That number includes audiobooks, which can range from two to four a month, because anyway you enjoy a book is reading. I’m quick to DNF a book, even if I don’t hate it but it’s just not making me want to keep reading, which helps me avoid slumps or getting stuck on a book I’m not enjoying. (DNFs don’t count toward my total, though)
Kaisha: Ermm, anything from 20-30 a month.
What other activities do you have going on in your life?
Chandra: I work full time as a real estate paralegal, which requires CONSTANT reading of documents. When it’s slow I can read a lot at work but when it’s busy it’s BUSY. I live alone, I still have a social life and lots of friends, no pets, no kids, review for a local bookstore, etc.
Jessica: I manage a small business, which means we are on-call 24/7. Living on the property with the warehouse means we are security, maintenance, landscaping/snow removal, and damage control (we had our server go out at 1am on a Sunday and had to work until it was functioning again). We are constantly helping with projects at the different properties, I visit with friends when they’re in town, we have two dogs, and I’m currently planning my wedding. So plenty to keep me occupied!
Amy: No job but 3 kids and a demanding husband My son has special needs so we have lots of therapy, etc
Jamie: work at least 40 hours a week, workout at least an hour every day too and YES I SLEEP
Stacey: I work full time as a data analyst and then part time as a reading tutor. My average work week consists of about 50 hours give or take. I am a wife and a mom and I also like to hang out with my girlfriends whenever I have a chance. Reading is how I unwind after a busy day and I always have books with me everywhere I go. They are in my car, in my purse, on my desk, in totes bags and all over my house. My prime reading time is late at night after everyone else has gone to bed. And yes, I do sleep.
Jaclyn: Work (and recently, a series of study/exams to requalify here) + I sit on two industry association boards as a director + family (My husband and I are currently living in Texas, and our family are all still in Australia) + I write reviews of law textbooks for industry publications. It took me months to make friends when we moved to Texas so I had loads of extra time to read and it really helped me combat homesickness too. I don’t always make the time for reading in my life, especially in my early career, but now see it as a vital component of my self-care and work/life balance.
Tracy: I am a full time high school/college Composition and Literature teacher, I have two kids (10 and under…3 kids if you count my husband….I do), extracurricular activities with my kids after school and throughout summer, I’m an avid gardener/outdoor stuff person, and everything else life sees fit to throw my way. I also read and review for the Sci Fi and Scary website and I run the Twitter account and review for the Ladies of Horror Fiction group. And I’m known to zone out on my deck or in front of the tv with beverages and snacks – shocker!
Emily: I have a full-time job with frequent overtime. I live with my boyfriend, who is also a big reader, so sometimes we just read together. I have three dogs, and do not have children, so that opens up a lot of free time. My other activities are drinking and watching Real Housewives.
Megan: I have a full time job working as an analyst in higher education for our state government and a part time job as an editor for a southern lifestyle magazine. In addition to work, I wrangle two kids who are involved in buckets of extracurricular activities, a firefighter husband who is at the fire station for 24 hours every third day, and a houseful of rescue animals that need a LOT of maintenance and attention. (Anyone know how to trim pig hooves? Asking for a friend…)
Diana: I have a full-time job as a sports reporter, which can me working 60 to 80-hour weeks in season. My job does afford me reading time in the form of travel time, but most of those long work hours are spent at rinks or tied to my computer. I always make time for reading because it’s the only thing I can multi-task at. I can’t get my brain to shut off while watching TV or anything else. Reading is the one time I can fully immerse in one thing and let the other stresses or thoughts melt a way
Kaisha: I’m a full time, single mum to a daughter who I also homeschool. I’m chronically ill with 8 illnesses, I’m an award winning blogger and freelance writer.
Have you always been a fast reader?
Chandra: Always – it’s just the way I’m built.
Jessica: I’ve always been a fast reader. I hated the guidelines in school where we could only read certain chapters for what we were assigned in class.
Amy: Yes since I can remember
Stacey: Yes I have. I have always read anything I could get my hands on from the time I was very young.
Jaclyn: Yes, and I’ve always read multiple books at once which I think plays a big role in the volume I read. I also read in multiple forms which again is what I respond when people ask “how do you read so much” – I’ll have audiobooks on when I’m running errands, commuting to work, or I’ll have my kindle (including kindle app on phone!) out if I’m stuck in a waiting room or a queue anywhere. I think always having a book on me in some form helps me sneak in reading where other people would scroll through Facebook or Instagram.
Tracy: ALWAYS. If I am in it – I am IN IT. I used to take stacks of books in the car for long trips to the beach when I was a kid – all of them read before the return trip. My undergrad is in English, and my two graduate degrees are in Education and English (almost done), so being able to read quickly from multiple sources as well as retaining said info has just been a part of my life.
Emily: Yes, I’m Matilda. My mom was always annoyed about having to deal with my library books because I would check out so many at once so I wouldn’t run out of content.
Megan: Yep – as far back as I can remember, I read books at a faster pace than others. I remember my mom thinking I was lying about needing to go to the library again, but it was true! We would usually make the trip twice a week, and even then, sometimes I’d run out. My daughter reads at a more leisurely pace, but my son is even faster than I am. I recently called him out on a book I didn’t think he possibly had time to complete. He scored 100% on the AR quiz at school the next day…and I had to pay him $10. We all read at different speeds!
Diana: When I first learned to read in kindergarten, I went from not reading to reading a giant stack of picture books, so yes. In middle school, our homework was to read at least 30 minutes a day. I always read more and then came to school with a new book most mornings
Kaisha: Yes! Even at school when we had to read out loud I ended up zooming right ahead.
Do you retain what you’re reading?
Chandra: Pretty much! Sometimes I’ll forget some details until reminded but a book really has to wow me for me to remember everything. I don’t have a photographic memory.
Jessica: If the book stands out to me, then yes. Even then, I do have times where I can remember the basics of the book or the big twist (which, obviously, I can’t tell people).
Stacey: If a book moves me, absolutely. I take notes while I read and I also highlight and mark passages that speak to me as I read.
Jaclyn: Yes – I write reviews for a podcast-newsletter as well as my own platforms, and speak about them on my booktube channel. If there’s something particular (a quote, for example) I want to recall later I’ll write it down in a notebook, but I have a fairly good hold on what I’ve read broadly.
Tracy: Yeah – especially if I really loved a story OR really hated it – but I can discuss books I’ve read years ago with intelligence – or at least I think so. Have I forgotten some? OF COURSE – guys, I can’t even remember basic math facts most days. I’m a human, not a robot.
Emily: I take notes while I’m reading, and that helps me to retain information, and then I use the notes to write my reviews later. If this helps with my background, I have an English degree & am accustomed to always reading 500 things at once & taking notes on them so I could write my papers later. I kept everything sorted then, and I keep it sorted now.
Megan: I wouldn’t bet against me. Ask me about All The Ugly and Wonderful Things that I read three years ago. Or Rebecca from 10 years back. I most certainly retain what I’m reading. I can still remember that plot twist from The Wife Between Us like it was yesterday – I think I read that in the winter of 2017/18.
Diana: If I feel strongly about a book (positively or negatively), I might be receiting details long after I put it down. Maybe after binging a series, I have a hard time recalling what happened in which book. If a book is boring, I might not retain it all. Sometimes I mix up tertiary characters’ names. But those are normal things that my friends who read fewer books find also.
Kaisha: Yeah I do! Granted I can end up mixing storylines but still Haha.
Do you lie or forge reviews to make it seem like you read more than you actually do?
Chandra: HAHA – Nope! What is the point? I’m a 44 year old woman, I’m not on social media to try and impress anyone. Bookstagram is my online library. I see no point in pretending.
Jessica: I will never understand this question. My main question to these people that doubt it, how could we possibly write in-depth reviews if we never read it? How could we participate in discussions? Who would take the time to sit there and forge a review? It’s insulting to be asked that because we put our time, effort, and thoughts into these reviews to share with everyone. (Don’t get me started on people critiquing how we do star ratings – sorry I tend to choose books I know I’ll enjoy and that I don’t draw a bunch of attention to what I DNF)
Amy: Never, so insulting to even be asked that by random people.
Jamie: lol absolutely not. I move stuff to a DNF shelf and don’t mark dates – I only count books I’ve completed front to back toward my goal/monthly count
Stacey: I don’t really understand why people ask this because what do you gain from that? If I don’t like a book or if I DNF something, I let people know in a respectful way. Just because a book fails to make a connection with me does not mean that it won’t be an amazing read for someone else, but I will always give you my honest opinion. I get incredibly passionate when I love a book and I think that is obvious if you watch my stories or have interacted with me in the comments on my account. It would be impossible to articulately engage with everyone and talk about all of these books if I had not actually read them.
I do want to elaborate a bit about the amount that is read since I experience both ends of the spectrum on this. I am a very fast reader and when work is slow, I can knock out quite a lot of books in a week’s time. My son however, is severely dyslexic and while he LOVES books and reading, it can be a struggle for him and it takes him a lot longer than most people to read and process anything. I can not tell you how many times he has come home upset because someone has made fun of how slowly he reads out loud or because he is re-checking the same book out from the school library that he got last week. NOTHING will flip my mama bear switch faster then when someone is being ugly about someone else’s reading habits. This applies across the board – whether you are criticizing someone because you think they have read too many books or mocking someone because they are a slow reader. It’s not cool, it’s not appropriate and people need to mind their business. You should not be bothered by how much or how little you think someone else is reading. Are they reading? Then they are rocking it. Period.
Jaclyn: No – I’m very honest about not finishing a book if i dislike it and DNF (often boring the page I get upto in goodreads) and I’m not quite sure where the logic for this like of questioning comes from as it benefits no one to make up a review. I’m also fairly militant with updating goodreads so my reading habits on a daily basis are quite transparent if anyone really wanted to do the digging.
Tracy: This is actually a thing? I read all of the books I review. I’d like to think that my reviews are detailed enough (without spoilers) that this would be obvious. All of the readers I have as friends or acquaintances read the books they review as well. Reviews are for the reader, so this kind of practice would hurt the very community I am a part of, and honestly, my conscience wouldn’t allow me to do this. I read and review because I love horror and other genres and I just want to talk about books. Even if no one reads my drivel. But at least I can claim it’s honest drivel.
Emily: Absolutely not – why would that be beneficial to me in any way? I’m not getting paid for this, so that would be a whole lot of effort for nothing. If you follow me on GoodReads or Instagram, you know that I am very open about my DNFs – I write a mini-review explaining why I DNFd, and then I do not count it toward my GoodReads challenge or my wrap-ups on Instagram.
Megan: Nope. If I say I read it, then you can believe I read it. If I DNF’d a book, I mark it as such on GoodReads – I’m in no way ambiguous about that.
Diana: Um, what? No. When I have a lot going on and don’t read as much, that shows in my monthly wrap up. I am proud of my reading, but not to the extent that I feel the need to force it.
Just a note from Diana: I don’t understand why this is even a topic. Why does how much I read affect anyone else? Why do you even care if someone retains what they read or if they skim? Everyone should read the way they want and leave it at that. It’s gotten to the point, that sometimes I don’t want to post my wrapups because people seem to think I’m showing off or shaming those who didn’t/can’t read as much. I don’t want others to shape how I enjoy my own account, so I always do post it. But when others ask “how many books did you read?” I never answer, because I don’t want anyone to think I’m showing off. That’s dumb, but it’s how I feel at this point.
Kaisha: Er no. That would take way more effort. People don’t believe me when I tell them how much I read, with last year totalling 384 books. I don’t get why fast readers get slammed, and the comments that go alongside the disbelief are so annoying. Yes, I read fast. Yes, I read a lot. No, I don’t bullshit!
From another fast reader who chooses to remain anonymous:
“We all make judgements, every one of us. But more people should think before they comment. Most of Bookstagram is amazing and supportive, but harassing people for how much they read – accusing them of skipping or not having lives – is rude. Reading a lot of books doesn’t mean you don’t have feelings and aren’t upset when people say things to you, like how you must not understand what you read, or how they wish they could read as much as you but they have lives and families and jobs. People might not even be aware how insensitive their comments can be. It stems from jealousy. Reading is considered a leisurely activity. We do it because we love it, it’s what brings us joy. So of course people are going to be envious of someone who reads more than they do. But everyone’s situation is different, how people choose to spend their time is their own business, and people should be supportive of everyone in the community, no matter how little or how much they read. The book community is the most amazing community on the internet – just keep being awesome!”
If none of this makes sense to you still, then I implore you to check out this article:
“Look, I’m not here to start a war or cause waves within the community. I just want those of you who don’t get it to try and understand why making blanket statements can be hurtful and where us fast readers are coming from. If you still don’t get it, then that’s fine too. Thanks for reading.” – Chandra
To those of you that stuck with this until the end, I appreciate you and you taking the time to read through our thoughts on this. It’s sad that we feel the need to defend ourselves like this, but it is what it is. I know I’m not the only one in this collaboration that feels SO much better getting this all written out and shared. Next time you want to criticize or question someone on the amount of books they’ve read, please remember this and approach it differently. Thank you!