Please Stop Commenting On How “Much” I Read

Between bloghopping and IRL networking, I get a lot of comments along the lines of “OMG you’ve read so many books this month/year!” or “I used to love reading too, until I started high school/college/working.”

Although I know it’s often meant as a compliment, or just making small talk, it doesn’t usually feel that way. Instead I find myself annoyed by the inherent assumptions that they probably didn’t even realize they were making.

There’s always going to be someone who reads more than you; unless you don’t read at all, there’s always going to be someone who reads less than you. (And if you don’t read at all, well, there are still people tied with you.) Some people read a book a day; others read a book a year. It doesn’t make anyone more or less of a reader, and it’s not actually a competition.

“A Lot” Is Relative

I think we all know on some level that everyone has different reading speeds, different amounts of time and energy to devote to reading, different levels of access to reading material, et cetera

Unfortunately, it’s human nature to measure our results against others’, because how else will we know how well we’re actually doing? (Which ignores the inherent flaws in using number of books read as a metric for anything except, well, number of books read.)

In elementary school they taught me to “only compare [myself] to [myself],” but in reality this doesn’t work either — these factors change even relative to my own baseline, so the number of books I can read changes too. Sometimes I have lots of spare time and a string of books I just can’t put down; other times I have to study for exams, or I just don’t feel like reading. 

When you say that I’ve read “so many” books, you’re making an assumption. Unless I myself have stated that I’ve read a relatively high (or low) number of books, you don’t actually know how it compares to my usual.

Maybe I average 50 books a month, or maybe it’s 5. Maybe I was on spring break yet only got through one book that week, or maybe I procrastiread ten books instead of studying for exams. (As I’ve already mentioned, though, the actual number doesn’t, and shouldn’t, matter.)

The point is that just because it may seem like a lot to you, doesn’t mean that it is to me. Imagine how it feels if you marvel at the number of books I’ve read when it’s just a fraction of how many I normally read. Imagine how it feels if you congratulate me on reading a lot, at the end of a month when I’ve been making an effort to work out or study instead of reading.

I’m not trying to make you feel bad if you’ve ever made this kind of comment. But I am pointing out that you might have made me feel bad, no matter your intentions.

.

I think it’s also worth mentioning, on a related note, that sharing the number of books I read is not an invitation to pass judgments on my life. I’ve seen people imply that I must not have a social life/good grades/other hobbies since I read so much, or that I must be lying since it’s impossible to read a book per day (for the record, I’m not and it is not). 

While these are the minority, it happens frequently enough that I can’t help wondering whether someone is thinking along these lines when they comment on the volume of my reading, much as I want to give people the benefit of the doubt.

Sure, I shouldn’t care what Internet randos think of me, but that’s easier said than done.

Quality vs Quantity

I’ve spent quite a bit of emotional energy coming to terms with the fact that my reading log will fluctuate based on circumstances outside my control. Some days I feel like I’m in a race with myself to read more books than I did last month, last year — but I’ve been trying so hard to redirect this focus.

Even if I get through a relatively large number of books, it doesn’t mean that I enjoyed all of them. (I’m very much in favor of DNF-ing, but sometimes I have to finish a book for class or I only hated the last third or I was just barely interested enough to read to the end.)

And I’d rather read three solid 5-star books than fifteen 3-and-below-star books; I’d rather spend a week thinking about an awesome read than DNF a book per day for a month. Lately I’ve been making special note of my 4.5- and 5-star reads, taking a few days to write up a thoughtful review instead of just jumping right into the next book, savoring detailed worldbuilding and lovely prose rather than tearing through pages to reach the end.

Quality over quantity, I remind myself; it’s okay as long as I just read when I get a chance and as long as I enjoy what I’m reading. But it’s hard to really believe it when people keep commenting on the quantity.

It’s A Conversation Stopper

Last and probably least, “You read so much!” bothers me because — no offense — it’s just such an inane thing to say.

How am I supposed to respond? Do I say “thank you” for something I can’t really take credit for, followed by inevitable awkward silence or having to listen to you lament how little time you have to read? Do I humbly deflect by saying that I just read fast, so no I can’t teach you my ways? Do I just nod/like the comment and move on?

I know it’s an easy, even automatic, thing to say and generally meant positively, like calling an artist “talented”. But it’s particularly frustrating when I go out of my way to provide alternative topics for an actual conversation.

There’s a reason I end blog posts with discussion questions: What have you read this month? Have you set any goals for next month? And in person, I talk about my other hobbies: baking, piano, sleeping. 

This post isn’t meant to call out anyone in particular; I’ve gotten similar comments from a lot of people. But please, let’s stop focusing on how “much” a person reads and talk about something more substantial.

We can talk about the actual books we’ve read. Or what we love about reading. Or how we make time to read when there are a million other claims on our attention.

  • This was a long one, so if you made it to the end, thank you for bearing with me!
  • Do you also get annoyed when people comment on how “much” you read, or do you always take it as a compliment?
  • Has “wow, you read so much!” been a go-to response for you? If so, has this post changed your mind about using it?

23 thoughts on “Please Stop Commenting On How “Much” I Read

  1. A lot of times when people say things like this it comes along with things like “well I wish I could read that much but I’m so busy” and it just comes off so damn passive aggressive a lot of the time. And sometimes it comes from coworkers who are literally scheduled for the same number of hours that I am. I read a lot. Yeah. But I listen to my kindle on text to speech when I’m showering, doing laundry, making food. Reading is my form of escape and I like to be doing it every spare minute I have. Just because I spend my time differently than others doesn’t mean it is an invitation for judgements. Most of the time I feel like the comments come from a place of jealousy or something and other times they are harmless and nice… most of the time when it’s people from the blogging world they dont mean it in a harmful way… but I still dont want to hear it. I stopped giving monthly updates where I would share how many pages or how many books I read that month. Because I found I was competing against myself and looking at my reading like I wasnt reading enough and it just became toxic. But the main reason is because of the comments I got on my reading habits AND my stats. I got some really jealous comments from people saying they work so much harder than me on their blog and it’s not fair that I have more views. At first the monthly updates was for me to look back on but after a while it became too toxic. Anyways. Obviously I have lots of feelings about this subject hahahah

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Lol I just needed to RANT. I really loved doing the monthly updates too, but I found that I got toxic about my own reading and other people’s opinions were not needed on things like my stats or how many books I read or my goals or anything. I thought it would be good to be transparent but I had to be honest with myself about how it was actually bad for my mental health. I mean I was like so competitive with myself. Oh I only read 12 books this month?! What’s wrong with me? And rather than focusing on how many 5 star reads I had or what books I enjoyed most that month I was focusing on the fact I didnt read as many pages as the previous month. It just… I’m glad I stopped doing it. Honestly lately I’ve been trying to get back to reading for pleasure than reading to make blog goals or whatever. I love being able to be a part of a community of readers and book bloggers. But I dont like the competitive shit one bit and it just gets toxic fast.

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      2. that’s definitely valid! for me personally I like having stats posts to look back on, but there are definitely times when I find myself fixating on the numbers (and getting annoyed by other people’s judgments) instead of enjoying reading – but in any case, I’m glad that you’ve found an approach that works better for you 💕

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  2. OMG when I came across this post I was like OMG YES SAME. It actually irritates me and makes me feel weird when people will say “wow I wish I had a lot of time to read like you do, but I have kids” or something along those lines, or where they have to justify why they don’t read and I’m like…. well that’s my hobby and what I love to do, I’m not judging you on whether you read or not? Idk that’s what comes to MY mind when I hear someone tell me about how much I read or why they don’t read or whatever. But everything that you said too is so freaking true and I think I’m pretty guilty too of seeing how much others read and I’m like WOW that’s so much! And then I feel like wow, I’m a slow reader when in reality it really shouldn’t matter because it’s our LOVE of reading that’s important. Haha I’m sorry I feel like I just blabbed all over the place here. Amazing post Isabelle ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thank you, Leelynn! I’m so glad you could relate and it’s not just me screaming into the void 😅 tbqh I definitely still compare myself to others too, like “if someone can do it, why can’t I?” buttttttt I feel like we live in a pretty competitive society overall so I try not to beat myself up (too much) over it.

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  3. Great discussion! I also get that comment a lot! And I never know what to do with it!
    I feel like I’m always in competition with myself.. ‘Last month you read twice as much..’ So unnecessary haha!
    I agree with you Quality over quantity! That’s why this year I try to DNF more books that I’m not enjoying, since it feel like ‘a waste of time’ to read books I do not like!

    (www.evelynreads.com)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I had never really thought about this but what you say really strikes a chord. I get swept up in toxic ideas about having to read a certain amount of books (no matter how long or short they are) very quickly and people commenting on it doesn’t really help. Thank you for sharing! ❤

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  5. I think I’ve said that to people before or at least thought it and, even though I always meant it with admiration, I’d never thought before that the other person may interpret it differently.

    In the past few years, I’ve been trying to read for quality over quantity, and yet I still find myself feeling guilty when I don’t read many books in a month. I feel like a bad book blogger. Or I compare myself to my younger self who was burning through a lot more books. I keep reminding myself that a lot of those books were three stars or less. I know no one else is judging me, but I can’t help but judge me. So I totally get how you feel. I think deep down we even get a little envious of others when we can’t or don’t read as much.

    Side note: I love “procrastiread.” I might have to steal that lol!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. honestly, I feel like most people who say it really do mean well (unless they’re being judgy and/or competitive about it, like “well I could read that many books too if I didn’t have a full-time job”) and often people don’t think about it, kind of just making conversation?

      but yeah, I can totally relate to feeling bad about periods when I don’t read as much, which absolutely sucks because reading is what I do to escape stress – not to stress myself out more! 🙃 and the self-judgment might be the worst of it, I feel ya there too.

      haha I probably stole “procrastiread” from someone else, but absolutely feel free to use it! 😉

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  6. 💕💕💕💕 Quality over quantity is definitely important! I’m impressed that you manage to make yourself take time on those 4.5/5 star books! Depending on the type of book it is, sometimes I can’t help but tear through it at breakneck speed and then be left thinking “I swear that book was supposed to be longer than that” haha. Does this happen to you? Thank you so much for sharing these thoughts with us and I hope these people will start to leave more thoughtful comments!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thank you, Keira! I definitely feel that way about some books, haha – often I’m torn between wanting to make a book last and wanting to know what happens next, and too many times I’ve been startled to find myself already at the end, as you mention! so I think for me it’s more about taking a bit of time afterward to enjoy the feeling of having read a great book, since it’s easier to hold off on starting another than it would’ve been to keep myself from getting to the end 😉

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  7. I usually take it as a compliment but I do get why it would bother you. I’d rather read few amazing books instead of many bad or mediocre books. Bad thing about reading a lot of books is also forgetting what some of them are about.

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  8. Interesting! I get told I read ‘a lot’ so often but I don’t actually mind it because I know and feel like they don’t mean anything bad by it… I usually just say ‘yup, I really like reading, so it’s what I end up doing!’ and then it usually dives into book recommendations or whatever. But I did stop asking at the end of my wrap ups how much did you read this month? to what was your favourite read this month or recently? because I do believe in quality > quantity, and didn’t want to make anyone feel bad about reading pace. But it is interesting to see the opposite side where you don’t like it!

    Liked by 1 person

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