One of my favourite things about being a bookstagrammer is being able to read books with other bibliophiles all around the world – a practice known as buddy reading (also called readalongs). When I started out I had no idea that these existed, but as soon as I found out I was straight in there and during my 18 months on the platform, I estimate that I’ve taken part in around 15 of these. I’ve written this blog post to give a little background on the process and also to share some thoughts from fellow book lovers following a series of polls I ran on Instagram.
So what exactly is a buddy read?
It’s where you agree to read a book at the same time as an online friend so you can discuss it together – either during the process or after you’ve finished. A bit like a book club without the ongoing commitment or geographical restrictions.
OK sounds interesting, but are there any other benefits?
Well firstly you get to pretty much choose which book you want to read. And then there’s the bonus of all the potential global perspectives on the text. If that’s not enough, you might meet new bibliophiles too. In the poll (1), 43% of people said they’d met new friends after joining a buddy read. Oh – and it’s quite addictive – 24% (2) of participants said they’d participated in over 5 shared reads in the last year.
I’m sold, how do I get involved in a readalong?
If you post about books on Instagram then there’s a fair chance that you’ll see users mention readalongs from time to time. If you spot a book that you want to read then either DM them or add a note in the comments. Most bookstagrammers will be happy for you to join in. Alternatively, why not organise your own buddy read by inviting people to participate?
How many readers will there be?
Personally I prefer smaller groups as they’re easier to coordinate and 76% of responders agreed that 1-5 members is about right (24% didn’t mind) (3)
What happens in a buddy read?
Usually the coordinator will set up a private group in Instagram so you can agree guidelines. Everyone needs a chance to get hold of the book and some will want to order it from the library so it might take a few weeks to get started.
Every shared reading experience I’ve had has been different. In response to the poll (4), 62% of readers liked structured readalongs and 38% preferred unstructured so if you’re new to buddy reading then I recommend trying out a few groups first to see what works best for you. Here are some aspects to consider:
- End Date – this needs to account for all reading speeds and other commitments.
- Review points – do you catch-up each week or at the end?
- Questions – do you circulate a set of prompts beforehand or go freestyle?
- Round-Up – do you want to finalise everything via text or will you one step further and host a live chat?
What kinds of questions can I expect?
If you love books then you’ll have lots to discuss. Here are a few ideas:
- Which character did you like most/least and why?
- Did the ending satisfy?
- What was your favourite line in the book?
- Were there any re-occurring themes? What do you think these signified?
- What were the strongest/weakest elements of the book?
What if things don’t go to plan?
They most likely won’t! Sometimes life gets in the way so flexibility is key. Try to commit but if you’re unable to or someone else is delayed then just keep on talking. Above all, the experience needs to be fun and if a readalong doesn’t work out, there will be plenty more to choose from.
Are there other kinds of buddy reading groups?
Buddy reading is popular on Goodreads too. If you want to find out more then check out this post by the moon who listens.
Poll ran on Instagram 18/09/18: Samples sizes (1) 125 (2) 114 (3) 154 (4) 111