Full disclosure: I came down with a nasty cold this week (which I’ve already mentioned on Instagram multiple times because illness makes me even more starved for attention than usual), so this blog post is the product of rage, cold medicine, and having (in the words of my husband) “entirely too much time on your hands.”
1. Misattributed quotes.
Not to be dramatic, but misattributed quotes are nothing short of an epidemic on the Internet. But what really gets me is when we, as a literary community, give in to the ease of copying and pasting a quote into our captions without being 100% sure that it’s even legitimate.
Some examples of this atrocity include that stupid “I believe in pink” quote that Audrey Hepburn never said, and the “Actually, the best gift you could have given her was a lifetime of adventure” quote that Lewis Carroll never wrote.
Please, please, please, before you quote a book or a famous figure, check your sources and check again before you make yourself look like an utter fool. (And no, looking up the quote on Goodreads is not actually that helpful--that site is one of the biggest culprits here.)
2. Insecure authors with an abundance of time and little to no self-awareness.
As someone who prides herself on sharing honest opinions, this trend actually terrifies me. I’ve noticed multiple authors showing up uninvited in the comment sections under negative reviews of their work to defend their books and undermine the opinions of the reader. Bookstagram was created by readers--not authors, and not publishers--so surely it can’t be too much to ask for a safe space for us to discuss the books we read.
To be clear, I love seeing authors engage with their readers on social media. Just recently, when Amor Towles commented on my review of Rules of Civility, I very smugly shared a screenshot so everyone could bask in my triumph. I just don’t think authors have any right to berate readers when they don’t read their books the way they want them to.
If you’re a book reviewer, do not tag authors in negative reviews because it will hopefully protect you against this kind of behavior (and it’s just not nice to shove your criticism in their faces). And if you’re an author who thinks there’s nothing wrong with invading a reader’s online space to inform them that they’re not reading your book correctly, please know that you look like a petulant child and I think I speak for all book bloggers when I say that bookstagram would be a better place without you and your frail ego.
3. Trying to separate books from politics.
I could write an entire series of blog posts about this, it annoys me so much. Whenever a bookstagrammer writes a comment or a caption that’s even *remotely* political, someone, somewhere, always feels the need to show up and say something like “this is a book community, let’s please keep this discussion about books.”
One of my biggest problems with this is that “politics” has become a blanket term for anything that makes people uncomfortable--namely, social justice. Don’t want to talk about mass incarceration, sexual assault, or police brutality? Just say it’s “too political” and everyone will automatically excuse you from the conversation.
Nobody is forcing anyone to talk about politics or social justice on bookstagram. But if you’re reading work by the literary greats such as Toni Morrison, Jane Austen, Oscar Wilde, Margaret Atwood, Thomas Hardy, Leo Tolstoy or James Baldwin, and you still have the audacity to suggest that “books and politics don’t mix,” I seriously question your reading comprehension.
Also, it strikes me as incredibly hypocritical for people to read and review books like Beloved, Nineteen Eighty-Four, and The Handmaid’s Tale, but refuse to identify and discuss real-life examples of racism, sexism, and government corruption. What’s the point of reading these pivotal, life-changing books if you refuse to draw any modern parallels? I can actually guarantee that the authors didn’t write them to encourage their readers to stick their heads further in the sand.
4. Shaming other people for owning unread books.
One of the best things about my parents is the massive amount of books they made sure my siblings and I were surrounded with as we grew up. It didn’t cost them much money to build their home library, either--my mom picked up boxes of used books every weekend at neighborhood garage sales and stored them in our basement for the family to pick through and enjoy.
The point is, I grew up with a home library full of unread books, and that is a big part of what made me a reader. When we couldn’t make it to the library, I always had plenty of options right in front of me. That’s why, when I joined bookstagram, I was actually shocked to find that there are some readers who passive-aggressively ask one another how many books they’ve read in their home libraries. Even now, when I post a picture of my shelves, I brace myself for the inevitable comments demanding how many of the books I’ve actually read.
I have no interest in a home library solely made up of books I’ve already read. Owning unread books fills me with excitement, not stress. That’s fine if you feel differently, but please back TF off if you’re tempted to tell me, or anyone else, the “correct” way to build a home library.
5. Debates about audiobooks and e-books.
I get so much anxiety every time I see a question like “Does listening to an audiobook count as reading?” or “Do you prefer physical books or e-books?” because the answers are so passive aggressive. Once someone told me that they never read e-books because they prefer “actual books,” and I have to say--it’s pretty bold to claim that an e-book isn’t an actual book when the very name of it includes the word book.
In a world where it’s easier to choose TV or social media over reading, why are we even debating which is the correct medium to read a book? What a colossal waste of time. Yes, technically you’re “listening” to an audiobook not “reading” it, but it seems wildly unproductive to me to die on that hill when your argument basically comes down to semantics.
If you’re still unconvinced, let me add that e-books can be more economical because they take up less space and cost less money, so you come off like an elitist snob when you put them down. (Again, nobody is forcing anyone to read an e-book here, I’m just asking you to please shut TF up about how inferior they are.) And it’s ableist to say that audiobooks don’t count as reading, because you’re essentially discounting the entire visually impaired community, not to mention people with dyslexia or a whole variety of learning disabilities who listen to audiobooks because they’re the best available option. So think very carefully the next time you’re trying to make the argument that nothing short of a physical book is acceptable for “serious” readers, because chances are high you’ll look like a total asshole.
***To be continued.***
(Seriously. I have so many more things to complain about.)