A Beginner’s Guide to Buddy Reading

A little girl reading with her dog

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

 

 

 

Ten Things I’ve Learned in a Year of Instagram

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To say that Instagram has changed my life isn’t an overstatement.  Joining the community has given me courage to leave my traditional job and try to live in a way that’s a lot more satisfying. When I started posting @thebookfamilyrogerson back in April 2017, I had no idea what to expect and what came out of that initial leap was a lot more exciting and meaningful than I ever anticipated. Here are the top ten things that I’ve learned in a year of being an instagrammer:

  1. Instagram is the most positive social media application on the web. I also hang out at Twitter and Facebook and both have their merits, but neither can match Insta when it comes to supportiveness , creativity and fun.  I count my Instagram followers as real friends.
  2. Bookstagram means you can be part of an international book group and read the same book at the same time with friends all over the world! I know that this sounds obvious, but it blew my mind when I was comparing notes with pals in the US, New Zealand, the Philippines and the UK simultaneously.
  3. If you want to take the pressure off producing for the main gallery then post in the stories instead.  The content is only temporary so it doesn’t need to be perfect – plus you can play with GIFs and stickers.
  4. You get out what you put in. Very rarely can you simply post photographs and expect everyone to react.  Treat people as you would in real life, appreciate it when they reach out to you and reciprocate with goodwill.
  5. Snapseed is a great free tool for editing photographs. If you’re up to paying, then check out other apps like VSCO where you can store presets.
  6. Feel the fear and post it anyway.  Instagram is a great place to stretch your creativity. If you don’t like what you’ve produced, you can always archive it.
  7. Don’t compare yourself to others. This one is really hard sometimes, but everyone will have their own doubts. Better to focus on your own vision, values and aesthetic.
  8. Likewise, try to ignore the algorithm. I’ve had all sorts of mad theories about how to beat it since I’ve been posting but none of them work! One thing I would mention is that quality will get noticed in the long run though.  Share your best and the likes will come eventually.
  9. If you want to develop your account, there’s lots of free quality advice out there. I recommend following Me and Orla, Bookish Bronte, Allthatisshe and Herinternest for valuable tips.
  10. Don’t let Instagram rule your life.  It’s addictive so keep it contained. If you want a break , take as long as you need.  The people who enjoy your company will be still be there when you return.

What are your thoughts about Instagram? Do you love it, hate it or somewhere in between?