Confessions of a Peer-Pressured Reader
I’m sad to admit that for the majority of my life, I was a peer-pressured reader. Meaning, I would read (or avoid reading) certain books because of how I imagined others would view me for reading those titles. However, I’m now happy to admit that for the most part, I live a peer-pressure free life. I read what I want, when I want, and as frequently as I want.
But I thought it would be interesting to analyze some of the habits developed while under peer-pressure.
I avoided reading YA lit because I was afraid to be seen as immature
This is probably the number-one thing I felt pressured to do: avoid reading Young Adult books. Of course, this is especially true as the years go on and I continue to age. But even when I was within the target-audience age group for YA novels, I still felt pressure not to read them.
Why? Simply put, because they were “childish”. The school I went to, the people I surrounded myself with, and the general lack of peers who also read created a somewhat snobbish environment. I was really smart. People at my school, my teachers and peers, were generally smart. Why would I read YA novels? I should be reading something more intellectual.
Reading literary classics
If I was going to read at all, it better be a classic. Bonus points if the story has political undertones, deals with issues of minorities, or somehow changed the literary world. Who cares if they were difficult to read? Who cares that I hardly ever got anything out of them? Because I had no desire to read them? And therefore closed myself off to their messages?
It didn’t matter that I wasn’t ready for those stories. If I was going to be reading at all, it should be something important. And so my reading habits changed.
I stopped reading altogether
If I couldn’t read the books I wanted to, and I wasn’t interested in the books that I “should” be reading, I just wasn’t going to read. This is one of the things that upset me the most. I was always an avid reader as a kid, and would have been throughout my teenage years if I hadn’t felt peer-pressure.
Even in school, I stopped reading my assigned books. It was easy to get by on resource websites like Schmoop, and I took the IB English Exam (and passed, with college credit) without having ever opened any of the books on the exam. I became the master of avoiding reading. I could write essays, pass exams, and quote from books that I had never touched.
Throughout my teenage years, I only ever owned a couple of books. I know which books I actually read during those years. I read four series for fun (the Harry Potter series, The Mortal Instruments series, the Inheritance Cycle, and the Gossip Girl series) in the span of about 6-8 years. Most of those I had already owned from my childhood, and only a handful were bought while I was a teen.
Reading in College
I began reading again when I was a freshman in college, at 19 years old. I wanted to be an English major, because I had always known that I wanted to be a writer (but I would never admit it to anyone). So I signed up for a Freshman Seminar class (small groups for more discussion) called “Romancing the Tween”. It promised to be analytical and critical of YA books. I thought that would be a good cover for signing up for the class. “We’re going to criticize YA books, not gush over them!”
To be truthful, I was excited. Books on the reading list included: Twilight by Stephanie Meyer, Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride, and Divergent by Veronica Roth. I was finally going to revisit the books that I loved so much and that I had missed so dearly.
That was probably one of the most important classes I took in college. Not only did it remind me how much I loved YA novels, but it also allowed me to look at them critically. As someone who wants to write YA novels, it was invaluable to learn how influential these books can be to young, impressionable readers. I was once again hooked. I needed more. But I had to be strategic.
I avoided reading certain genres/authors/titles/topics/covers because of ongoing stigma
Even as I was easing myself back into reading, I felt like I had to continue avoiding certain books. I was even afraid of being judged by the cashiers at bookstores. I opted for vague-looking titles/covers so that people couldn’t really tell what I was reading. Sometimes, I wouldn’t even read book synopses before purchasing them (still guilty of that!) – I just opted for the safest-looking one.
And then everything changed when I started looking into book recommendations online. I came across Sasha Alsberg’s BookTube channel, abookutopia. From there, I was introduced to the Bookstagram community, and everything else is history.
My life has changed since joining Bookstagram/the online bookish community
I made a blog. I created an Instagram profile specifically for bookstagram. Then I bought more books. I read them. I loved them. And I stopped caring about what other people thought. And you know what? No one has ever made a comment about it to me. No one has ever asked me why I read YA, or reprimanded me for it, or suggested that I try something else. And I wouldn’t let it bother me even if they did.
Because I found an online community of like-minded book lovers just like me. I don’t need people in my life who don’t support me and my interests – I need this bookish community. And I’m so lucky to have found it. If I hadn’t, I would have focused on my dream of being a writer and finishing my first book.
Though to be entirely truthful, I do still find that I am a peer-pressured reader.
You might also enjoy: Writing My First Novel, Part 1
I read books I wouldn’t otherwise pick up because a friend suggested it
Book suggestions are all over the online bookish community. That’s basically what it’s all about – people raving over books they’ve recently read and loved. Because of this, I find that I am reading more broadly than I ever have before. I have found many wonderful novels this way – and even books that I’ve hated. But the point is that I’m reading diversely now.
I read books because they are popular/trendy in the online bookish community
Same idea as reading a book because it was suggested. This can sometimes feel a little more negative, though, because people will often feel left out if they aren’t reading what everyone else is reading. This isn’t so much a peer-pressure issue as it is a social issue. No one will bully or harass you for not reading the latest release by a top author (at least I hope they wouldn’t!!), but it can be lonely when you don’t have that book to read.
On the other hand, sometimes hyped books are just that – hyped. They’re not always good. You will never share the exact same taste in books as every other person, and so of course there will be differences in opinions.
Confession: I am still a peer-pressured reader
But it’s not always negative. Joining the bookish community online has done great things for my happiness, my life goals, and my social life.
I no longer feel the pressure to avoid certain books, because I no longer feel the pressure of being judged. I no longer feel that peer-pressure.
It’s true that I am still a peer-pressured reader, though. I love to hear book recommendations, and I’m always on the lookout for the month’s hottest book releases. When people are reading a certain book/series, I want to read that book/series too so that I can be a part of the conversation. And I’m perfectly happy with that.
Let’s talk about it:
Are you a peer-pressured reader? What are some of the reading habits that you feel yourself pressured into? If you have grown out of it, as I have, how did you do so? Leave your experiences below in the comments.