Obligated Reading: A Book Blogger’s Conundrum

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I’ve actually been thinking about this post for a while now and started it way back at the beginning of March. Now that I’m very firmly in my third year of book blogging I’m beginning to look at how I do things around here and what changes I might make in the future. One thing I started this year was a monthly TBR, just to keep me organized. But as I put this together every month I keep thinking about all the books on there that I’m reading for some reason or other, not just because I’m in the mood to pick it up. And this has been…challenging, because I’m SUCH a mood reader.

Reasons I might be reading a book are currently but not limited to:

  • a reading challenge such as r/fantasy book bingo
  • I was sent a copy for review
  • a book club selection
  • I checked it out from the library and it’s due back soon
  • part of a readalong
  • just want to read it

I don’t want to speak for other book bloggers, but in my case, sometimes I get caught up all of these things and forget what it’s like to just read something for the simple reason of…the joy of reading it. Having to read something for some other reasons can take a lot of the fun out of it. And what is the point of this hobby if one is no longer enjoying it?

Now, that’s not to say that I’m not enjoying the books I read! I’ve read a lot of great books that I might not have ever picked up had I never started blogging. But sometimes the pressure that I put on myself to read on a deadline takes its toll. Sometimes I get stressed thinking about all the books I need to read for various reasons–keeping up with new releases, catching up on series, review copies, working on my TBR, etc. I’m beginning to realize I’d much rather feel free to pick up a book of my choosing whenever I want than to only be able to squeeze in a ‘mood’ read every now and then between ‘obligated’ reading.

Well, who says what’s obligated? I can pick up any book I want at any time, right? The sense of obligation that comes with being a book blogger, can put a lot of pressure on a person. I try not to feel obligated. But sometimes I can’t help it. Especially when it comes to review copies. I know that I’ll never get to all the books that I’m sent for review and I know that most publicists are probably aware that not every book they send out will get read by every blogger they send it to. But I can’t help feeling bad if I can’t get to one! Am I not cut out to be a book blogger?

So, what have I done to cut down on this stress?

Over the last several months I’ve really cut down on the amount of requests I make on sites such as Netgalley and Edelweiss. In fact, I’ve only made three requests this whole year. I’ve still gotten sent several books in the mail for review, but I’ve been pretty good about deciding how to prioritize those. For reading challenges I’ve been deciding on participating in them with one common goal in mind–to read more books from my already owned TBR. I’ve also been acquiring a lot less books this year so far, trying to combat that TBR Pile of Doom. All of these things have helped reduce some of the stress and pressure I feel under when it comes to what I read and when. Strangely enough, adding in a monthly TBR plan has helped as well. You wouldn’t think planning out your reading would work for a mood reader but it’s done wonders in keeping me focused and I always make sure to a) put some books on there that are ‘just for fun’ and b) leave some room to squeeze in one or two unexpected reads.

I might have been blogging for a while now but in some ways I still feel like I’m getting a feel for what works for me as a blogger when it comes to what I choose to read and what doesn’t. And as as time goes by some things might continue to change because life isn’t a constant. Do you feel any pressure or under obligation to read certain things as a blogger and how does this affect you, if at all? How have you dealt with it? Leave a note in the comments, I’d love to chat!

60 thoughts on “Obligated Reading: A Book Blogger’s Conundrum

  1. Monogamist Reader says:

    So true! this is really a good post!
    Question for you. If you get a free copy from a writer, but you don’t like the book what would you do? do you still write an honest review?
    I need advice… ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

    • waytoofantasy says:

      Personally, I always write the review and put what I liked and didn’t like, even knowing the author might read it and feel awkward…however, I know that some people don’t like to give negative reviews so they will contact the author/publicist they received it from and say they are declining to put out a review because unfortunately the book just wasn’t for them. It’s really up to what you feel comfortable doing.

  2. Lola says:

    This sounds very familiar, but lately I have let go of that a lot more and I am reading what I want to read. Sometimes I still give myself challenges, like this month I am trying to read books to do with music, but that was born out of a realisation I had quite a few book about music in one way or another! If tomorrow I decide I don’t want to do that anymore, I would choose something else. I have almost stopped requesting NetGalley ARCs completely as well, which used to stress me out sometimes because of deadlines! Just reading from my shelves and Kindle makes me much happier!

    • waytoofantasy says:

      This month I put all books I thought I’d be in the mood for in my TBR and I’m not getting through them at all. I’ve been binge reading web comics and romance instead. Sometimes we just have to do what makes us happy!

      I like that challenge idea, that’s really cool!

  3. Mischenko says:

    This is an excellent post. I can relate to a lot of your feelings too! To be able to just sit down and read whatever I want to is where I am now and Iโ€™m so much happier because Iโ€™m a mood reader too.

    Hope all is well with you with all this craziness. Stay safe๐Ÿงก

  4. Bob says:

    That sense of obligation is all too familiar. I actually took a step back from blogging last year because of it last year. For a good 3 months I didn’t post, didn’t review, and pondered if I’d even come back. What’s made my return different is (a) not requesting as much, (b) not accepting as many submissions, and (c) ensuring I always have one just-for-me, no-review-obligation, purely-for-pleasure read on the go at all times.

    I still try to read according to deadlines, but I’ve cut myself some slack there and defined a window for myself. If it don’t get to an ARC within a week or two of release, I’m likely not going to go back and pick it up, so I’ll politely decline a review.

    • waytoofantasy says:

      Yeah, I have a feeling burnout is all too common in the book blogging community, not just the reading but the posting–it’s all so much to keep up with and I don’t think a lot of people think about the amount of work that goes into it. But taking a break can be great!

      You have to cut yourself slack, otherwise you’ll just start feeling guilty when things pile up. I will say I’ve gotten very good at saying ‘no’ to review requests–I hate making promises that I can’t keep.

  5. Tammy says:

    Absolutely, my entire time blogging has been filled with pressure and obligation, and I’ve been blogging for almost 9 years! But obviously I enjoy it or why would I keep going? I’ve slowly learned to give myself a break and try not to worry about all the books I won’t be able to read, but there is always that feeling of not wanting to let down publicists who are kind and send me books. It does say something, though, that my favorite book that I read last year WASN’T a review book๐Ÿ˜

    • waytoofantasy says:

      Those of you who have kept up with this for so long deserve some kind of award of recognition at the very least–most people don’t realize the amount of work that goes into book blogging! It’s fun and rewarding in a lot of ways but it’s also very time consuming so it’s definitely one of those labors of love things. ๐Ÿ™‚

      My favorite last year wasn’t a review book either, haha. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. bormgans says:

    Sounds familiar indeed. I simply stopped with any other obligations than this one: what book would I enjoy now? The only thing that sometimes still creeps in is that when I know I don’t have that much time to read, I won’t pick a long book because I know I might end up with no new post for weeks…

    • waytoofantasy says:

      Oh, I know what you mean about long books–it’s why I keep avoiding so much epic fantasy these days, not because I don’t like it but because I don’t want to get tied up lol. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. nen & jen says:

    Oh yes! I relate to this a lot. I took a blogging hiatus a few months back purely because I wasn’t in a reading mood (which admittedly is vert uncommon for me) and the pressure to read felt like too much at the time. I’ve also reduced the number of NG requests lately as it can be quite tiresome to ‘push through’ reading a book to meet a deadline if you’re not in the mood for the genre etc. It also makes me a bit wary as low ratings in this situation could just be my mood reading bias and not the book itself. So I try to avoid that not (and the guilt of low ratings in these situations). Happy reading Lisa! ๐Ÿ™‚ Fab post

  8. maddalena@spaceandsorcery says:

    Review books do indeed weigh heavily on our conscience because accepting a commitment inevitably makes us feel duty-bound to to fulfill a sort of… unwritten contract, for want of a better definition. And that’s liable to turn what should be the pleasure of reading into something resembling work, so I can understand very well your conflicted feelings about this. That’s the main reason I decided, although with sadness, to close my blog to author submissions: now I pick only the books I want from NetGalley, one at a time, which makes this choice no different than the choosing of any book from my shelves… It’s the best kind of compromise I could think of ๐Ÿ™‚

    • waytoofantasy says:

      Yes, exactly. I have been closed to reviews since sometime last year so that I could catch up on requests and it feels good not taking requests and only requesting those books I’m really excited for. I know it’s tough for authors out there to get their work seen and I like to help out as much as I can but this is a volunteer gig–not work–and I’d like to keep it fun as possible. ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Zezee says:

    Definitely know what you mean here. For me, the pressure comes when I’ve committed to too many things in one month, so reading events, buddy reads, ARC dates coming up, and group reads happening all at the same time. That happened earlier this year and I had to move some stuff around to survive the month. But somethings things like that can through me into a reading slump.
    I’m a mood reader as well, so typically I spread stuff out and don’t often request or accept ARCs. I prefer to read what I want when I want to. My week spot is the reading events. I get excited about almost all of them and want to join in but don’t pay attention to when they take place until they all pile up in the same month.

    • waytoofantasy says:

      Yes, that happens to me too sometimes! I try to limit the amount of events I’m doing at the same time now because of this but it’s also tough because I want to do so much LOL. Yeah, the pressure can definitely cause a slump. I know what you mean for sure.

  10. mistysbookspace says:

    I canโ€™t totally relate to this. Although I only typically feel stressed when it comes to review copies and ARCs. Iโ€™m still loving reading for the challenges I joined. I have cut back in the ARCs/review copies tremendously and I think once I read all of the NetGalley books I am behind on I will be getting rid of it completely.

    • waytoofantasy says:

      I think it all causes stress for me if it builds up and I have a lot of things due at once–I had to read nothing but bingo books for about a month because the end of bingo was coming up and of course I’d procrastinated. I think that’s my problem though–the procrastination causes issues haha. ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. dianthaa says:

    The pressure is the main reason I haven’t gotten round to getting a Netgalley/Edelweiss account. I’ve still got a few self-pub arcs that I got before the plague and haven’t been able to focus on that are stressing me out. Not actively stressing, but they exists in a place at the back of my head.
    You mentioned not reading all the ARCs you get, I haven’t come to terms with that concept yet, maybe because all my arcs I got personally from the author rather than through a platform or publicist.

    • waytoofantasy says:

      “Not actively stressing, but they exists in a place at the back of my head.” Yes! Although that background stress does go into my overall mood and can pile up when things are bad.
      I get random ARCs in the mail sometimes that are unsolicited. I feel less of an obligation towards those because I didn’t say I’d read it and didn’t ask for it…

      • dianthaa says:

        Unforeseen advantage to living somewhere that people mail stuff to, not a problem I have. But also no arcs mail solicited either.

  12. Kal @ Reader Voracious says:

    Oh goodness, do I relate to this dilemma so much! I’ve become such a mood reader over the last year and it’s really affected my review obligations. I’ve stopped accepting so many and really only accept them when I already want to read it now, but my slumps a frequent still.

    • waytoofantasy says:

      Yeah same, I only request things I’m super excited for. Even then I still sometimes get into a funk and am not in the mood for what’s due but I’m trying so hard to not over-burden myself–it’s tough though because I want to do so many things!

  13. Hannah says:

    Sometimes I worry that I’m reading a book so fast to meet a deadline (either self-imposed or blog tour or publication date based) that I’m not able to enjoy it as much – or even that if someone asks me about it in six months time I won’t be able to remember much about it!
    That being said, I feel like lockdown has turned me into a more aggressive/competitive reader, so I’m taking advantage of that motivation to catch up on my deadlines!

    • waytoofantasy says:

      That does happen to me sometimes–I have a hard time remembering book sometimes, especially if they were average or I had to ‘force’ myself to read them. I wish lockdown had had that affect on me! Instead my reading has gotten worse for the most part lol. I’m glad you’re able to stay so motivated, that’s awesome. ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. Maryam (@thecurioussffreader) says:

    “sometimes I get caught up all of these things and forget what itโ€™s like to just read something for the simple reason ofโ€ฆthe joy of reading it.”
    I relate to this so much, I realizd early this year that most of my favorite books since I started blogging were not books that I “had” to read, but books that I decided to read on a whim. This year, I’m trying to be very strict with what I’m accepting for review and I want to read more backlist titles and be less influenced by the hype of new releases. It doesn’t mean that I won’t read them of course but, I would like to give more room for mood reading. Like you said, reading is my hobby and I don’t want to lessen my enjoyment by turning reading (and blogging!) in to work! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • waytoofantasy says:

      Yeah, I’m definitely trying to concentrate on backlist stuff this year myself. I’m…doing okay at it but could be doing better lol. It’s so hard not to get caught up in the hype of new releases sometimes LOL!
      Right, exactly! I don’t want this to feel like work. ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. marydrover says:

    I am right there with you on this. Pretty much all of 2019 was about the books I was “supposed” to be reading. Sure, I read a lot of great books, and I had a wonderful time with a lot of them, but I also was feeling A LOT of stress surrounding my reading last year, and honestly? What’s the point in reading if it’s stressful? Isn’t it the thing that’s supposed to lessen our stress and anxiety? So, this year, one of the biggest things I’ve been doing is not putting my preordered books on a teetering stack at the end of my bed to just stare at me and make me feel guilty. Instead, they go into the TBR stack like the rest of my books and get read when I want to. I’m still doing monthly TBRs, but I’ve been keeping them at only five and really thinking about what I want to read before just loading them up with books I think I should be reading so I can then ignore said TBR and feel even worse after. It’s just a vicious cycle! I don’t know why reading for pleasure became a thing we forgot to do consistently, but it really is a struggle to remember that sometimes.

    • waytoofantasy says:

      A lot of my 2019 was like that too. I’ve been trying to do less ‘supposed’ to be reading and more ‘mood’ reading but it’s tough because in addition to review requests and stuff like that…I tend top impose imaginary rules on myself like making a monthly TBR and then feeling bad if I stray or don’t finish it. It sounds like we both need to work on not feeling so guilty for these restrictions and rules we put on ourselves because they’re all just self-imposed anyway. I feel like I need to take a class on ‘how to stop feeling guilty’ lol. ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. Realms of My Mind says:

    The obligation problem is real! I always try to review things that I’ve requested before the release date, but sometimes the stars aren’t aligning for me to feel quite in the mood for it. Or sometimes I’ve made a big deal on social media that I’m definitely going to read a book this month and…nope, not feeling it! As you know, I’ve been mood-reading this month, which on the one hand is great, but on the other hand, I get analysis paralysis from the 47 books I’m trying to all prioritize at the same time. I’m really appreciating the monthly TBRs I make for myself, because it gives me a more “contained” mood reading. I can read them in any order I want, but it still gives me a manageable goal. And when I truly am not feeling any of them, it’s time for a surprise mood read!

  17. @lynnsbooks says:

    Yeah, you can’t help but feel obligated about review books. But, I do cut myself some slack if they’re not always reviewed before release date – I’ve kind of discovered that some publishers actually quite like some of the reviews to fall later because a review is a review after all. I would like to be a little more organised in terms of fitting my own books in but I don’t suppose they’re going anywhere.
    Lynn ๐Ÿ˜€

    • waytoofantasy says:

      Well, yeah, the good thing is most books don’t have expiration dates! I don’t even have that many books for review, I just get overwhelmed by them so easily so I try not to request unless it’s something I really want and luckily (? haha) I’m not on most publisher’s radars to where I get books in the mail that often.

  18. sarehlovasen says:

    I try to take the pressure off of myself and be forgiving about how much I take on. I’m busy already enough with my day job so I try to make book reading as enjoyable as possible. I haven’t requested in ARCs to review in a long time, but I’ve been thinking about doing that once I get through the books I ordered from the library. As for the other activities, I also haven’t joined in on too many, but I might.

    • waytoofantasy says:

      That’s a good way to approach it! I’m also busy with other things — I work full time and I’m also a moderator for the largest general fantasy forum on the net so my free time is precious! ๐Ÿ™‚

  19. JonBob says:

    I feel this so much. It’s so important to remind ourselves as often as possible that we do this for fun. I’m try to think of the blog as somewhere to talk about the books I happen to be reading, rather than something I feel pressured to do. I only ever request one thing at a time on NetGalley and don’t have a schedule. I just write a review when I feel like it and usually just post it straight away, except on the rare occasions when I write a few in a row – then I’ll schedule the rest and feel really smug about it haha.

    • waytoofantasy says:

      That’s a really great way to approach it. I need to get back to that and stop getting so caught up in reading challenges, events, and books for review.
      Hah! I am *usually* somewhat ahead with posts so I pre-schedule a lot. Late last year I fell behind and I had to post every day and it was so stressful lol. I like doing a bunch of posts and scheduling them so then I can have ‘a few days off’ LOL. ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. theorangutanlibrarian says:

    oh I relate to this so much!! I’m a massive mood reader as well, but I definitely get caught up in obligated reading- and that’s a problem cos it can take some of the fun out (yeah obviously I’m still enjoying it too- but not as much or necessarily in the same way). I definitely think cutting down or keeping ARCs to a smaller number can cut down stress in particular!

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