On Accidentally Book-Shaming People
Book-shaming happens when one person makes someone else feel bad about what or how they read. It's like fat-shaming or body-shaming in that no one likes having it done to them and the person doing it is, arguably, an asshole.
As someone who believes that all books and forms of reading are valid, I never want to book-shame anyone. But I sometimes do it accidentally.
For example, I read somewhere awhile back that the average person who identifies as a reader reads 12 books a year, roughly one book a month. And that's totally cool. I'm of the belief that reading one book a year is better than reading no books a year, so reading 12 books a year is 12 times better than not being a reader.
I've been in situations before where people will ask me how many books I've read so far that year and I've been nervous about telling them. I know reading is not a competition, but I'm always a little worried that telling people how many books I read will make them feel bad about themselves and I never want to do that.
I'll be honest. If you were to ask me how many books I've read this year, I'd tell you 73 as of this writing. It'll probably be closer to 78 before the year is out.
There are a couple of reasons for this figure:
1) I read multiple books at a time, both in print and on audio.
2) I read more poetry this year than ever before, and the page count on volumes of poetry skews low. For example, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth by Warsan Shire is a beautiful collection and it's only 37 pages.
3) It just so happened that I didn't read anything over 680 pages. I don't know if that's because most books published are roughly around 330 pages or what, but there weren't any massive tomes that caught my eye this year.
My point is that there's always a story behind the number of books someone reads, be the number high or low. And a low number doesn't necessarily mean someone hasn't been reading. I bought my fiancé Rebecca West's book, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon and it's 1100 pages, so he's going to be reading that awhile. But it'll still only count as one book toward his total. Numbers can be deceiving.
If you ask someone how many books they read in a year and find out they read more than you, ask them how they did it in case there's something you can learn. Maybe there are tips or tricks that you're not doing. Or maybe there's another reason entirely. In my case, I'd tell you that for the first time since my freshman year of college that I've started enjoying poetry again.
Speaking of book-shaming, I also don't tell a ton of people how many book clubs I'm in. I'm in four, three of which have assigned reading, and I facilitate two of them. Needless to say, it keeps me pretty busy.
Similarly with the number of books I read in a year, I never want anyone to feel bad. Especially if they're only in one book club and have trouble finishing the book. That's okay too. Sometimes I don't finish the book before the book club meeting either. We're all human.
All this is to say that no matter how much you read this year, it is valid and it's awesome. Also, that reading is supposed to be fun, so it shouldn't be a competition. Also know that if you ask me about my reading I will tell you the truth, but I'm not judging you, I promise. Keep calm and read on!