Like any other reader out there who is on social media, I have done my fair share of moaning about how social media has kept me from reading. Now that I’ve spent countless hours updating my Goodreads page to include every book I have since 1994 I can tell you that my moaning may be misplaced. Here are a few of my observations:
Prior to social media the quality of my reading was hit or miss
As I plugged in all of my book data one thing became clear, back in the days before I found my social media family of like minded readers, my book choices missed their mark more than they hit. Some years, 2005 comes to mind, just seemed to be nothing but a seemingly endless stream of 2- and 3-star books. It was kind of depressing to see how much time I wasted on boring, lackluster, totally forgettable books. The only light during this period was the publication of Nancy Pearl’s Book Lust. She was key to me finding books I actually liked. In particular she turned me on to Ward Just and Barbara Pym, just to name two.
A book group helped
For a while after 2005 I was in a monthly book club where people just brought in books they had been reading and talked about them and then we swapped. Over time we got to know whose interests were similar and I got recommendations that were better than just pulling books off the library shelf at random and hoping for the best. My ratings were much perkier during the book club period.
2009 was a watershed year
Sometime in the summer of 2009 I discovered book blogs. It seems a little weird that I had been blogging (sometimes about books) for three years before I discovered actual book blogs. It’s possible I had found a few prior to that, but it was around then that I found Savidge Reads and Stuck in a Book. I don’t remember which one I found first, but those two Simons and their blogrolls turned me on to a whole world I didn’t know existed. It was at this point where I really started to find books I liked. Not surprisingly it was also about this time that I stopped taking recommendations from people IRL because I didn’t know their tastes as well as I knew the tastes of the bloggers I followed. This was also the year that I discovered many firsts: My first sensation novel (The Woman in White), my first Persephone (Cheerful Weather for the Wedding), my first Europa (Queen of the Tambourine), my first Bloomsbury Edition (Henrietta’s War), and my first NYRB Classic (Manservant and Maidservant). The Wilkie Collins was the only one that was an unqualified success at the time, but the others were enticing enough that they set me on a much better path to a world of books that were “up my alley” as it were.
social media does not seem to be a culprit
If you look at the chart below, the only thing that seems to be clear is that I tend to have a good year followed by a not-so-good year. I started blogging in 2006 which was a banner year for books. I started focusing mainly on books in 2009 which was another banner year. I started on Twitter in 2013 which was my bannerist year of all time. I’m not sure when I started on Facebook so I can’t really make any judgments about that.
What does it all mean?
The biggest takeaway from all this is that social media has definitely provided me with reading recommendations from trusted sources that would have been unavailable to me in real life. No question about it. I also think the competitive nature of social media has helped me up my game in terms of quantity. It’s true that sometimes I do spend too much time staring at a screen, but overall it hasn’t really negatively impacted the amount of reading I do. A net gain for sure.
And let’s get real, people
Just think how much grayer my life would be (and I am not talking about Persephones) if I didn’t have you all to interact with. If we all lived in a little reading village where we could get together for cocoa and book talk that would be great. But we don’t, so virtual reality works out pretty damn well. At least it has for me.