New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

How I learned to love reading again

As casual reading becomes trendy on social media, there is a tendency to read for quantity rather than quality.
Lianna O’Grady
Sophomore Diana C. Sánchez González. (Lianna O’Grady for WSN)

When someone asks me what my hobbies are, I always answer, “anything that has to do with escapism.” After a long day of lectures and completing assignments, nothing recharges my battery more than getting lost in the pages of a book. I love the feeling of immersing myself in someone else’s life story, whether fictional or not. In many ways, I’ve learned more about life through reading than from living it myself. 

The COVID-19 pandemic initiated a shift in the reading world. As TikTok’s audience grew, books started to gain more traction on the platform. Many creators centered their social media content around books, and BookTok was born — transforming reading from an individual experience to a collective one. Reading is no longer about whether you like or dislike a book, but rather how your opinion of a book aligns with others. Reading turned into a competition — thousands started using the platform to share their obscenely long “To Be Read” lists composed of 10 or more books per month. Instead of a collaborative community, it turned into a race of who could read the most. 

And I was influenced, too. I read 64 books in 2021, when my original goal was 50. The years since then when I haven’t met my goal, I felt like I had failed when I didn’t finish the books in time.

When you look up “how to read faster” on TikTok, thousands of videos pop up with different creators giving recommendations on how to fly through books more easily. A video by Book of the Month, a renowned subscription-based service that delivers paperbacks to customer’s doors, materialized on my “For You” page. It gave a set of tips on how to train yourself to read more efficiently. First on the list was to “learn how to stop subvocalizing,” leaving behind that voice in your head that slows you down. 

Does this mean I have to start skimming my books? Personally, I love that little voice in my head. She’s a lively, funny and emotional narrator I like to sit with every time I flip through the pages of a paperback. 

Last year, however, each passing month brought me an uncomfortable anxiety over the minimal number of books I was reading every time I sat down with my beloved narrator. I was desperate to finish each and every book the instant I picked it up. I was barely present with the characters in each novel, ready to say goodbye the moment they’d been introduced.

The stress doesn’t only manifest in quantity, though. With platforms like Goodreads, there is also an underlying pressure to read and enjoy what everybody else is reading. In debates on what truly makes someone a reader, I consistently see different forms of fiction being invalidated. A trendy reading theme has been to read, as I call them, books about nothing. This includes really prose-heavy books where there isn’t much of a plot, like “My Year of Rest and Relaxation” by Ottessa Moshfegh. Reading this was the most draining experience I’d ever encountered with a book. And yet, I rated it four out of five stars on Goodreads because I was too ashamed to admit that I was one of those who didn’t get it. 

The day I noticed that every book I picked up felt like a chore, I knew something had to change. The thing I enjoyed the most shouldn’t feel like a burden. Over the course of 2022, I read 36 books, yet only liked a handful of them. I felt uninspired and in the dreads of my slump. The only guaranteed solution was to reread books I’d already loved, because they provided comfort without the looming dread of writing a review. “Red, White & Royal Blue” by Casey McQuiston is a book I’ve reread five times since I first read it in 2021. 

In 2023, I read 18 books, and I was disappointed in myself for losing this race I’d unconsciously signed up for. In hindsight, however, I loved every single book I read last year. I even discovered new all-time favorites, such as “Everything I Know About Love” by Dolly Alderton and “Bright Young Women” by Jessica Knoll. 

The best thing I did to salvage my relationship with reading was to delete TikTok. Not only was it an endless reminder that I was not reading enough, but I’d also lost all of the time I’d dedicated to reading to doomscrolling through my never-ending “For You” page. While I wanted to keep up with what others were reading and I love to see my friends’ journeys through their books, I couldn’t keep taking part in the optimization game that reading was becoming. 

Learning and immersing myself in a story has always been my goal when reading, and at some point throughout it all, I’d forgotten this. I had lost myself in the overwhelming tsunami of social media algorithms that dictate which books one should read or the amount of reading one should do at any given moment. I am not participating in a reading challenge this year, and I’m excited to see where that takes me.


Contact Diana C. Sánchez González at [email protected]

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  • V

    Victoria BuscagliaApr 2, 2024 at 10:31 am

    So true! Loved this.

  • L

    Laura RosadoApr 1, 2024 at 6:39 pm

    Loved this piece! So relatable😭😭

  • C

    ClaraApr 1, 2024 at 3:18 pm

    Try “The Soulmate by Sally Hepworth” or “The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner” or “The Lost Bookstore” by Evie Woods”. Those are my latest 3 that I’ve enjoyed!