Reading Peer Pressure – how do you choose what you read?

I have been on a recent classics kick in my current and planned reading. I recently read Catch 22 and just finished 1984, both of which I somehow evaded in grade school. In addition, my “to read” list for next year (yes, I have created a 2013 “to read” list…) includes Anna Karenina, Jane Eyre, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and Tess of the D’Urbervilles.

All images from Google

I recently started thinking about why I chose these books and realized that it is not completely out of personal interest. I have felt Reading Peer Pressure. We have all seen those lists of “100 Books to Read Before You Die” or the emails claiming “the average person has only read 7 books off this list”. Maybe it is just me, but I feel the need to crush the opposition when I see those lists and prove my reading and intellectual prowess.

This phenomenon of Reading Peer Pressure is not restricted to the classics – it happens with new releases too. Who hasn’t heard on of these:

 “What do you mean you haven’t read the Da Vinci Code?!”

“You have to read The Hunger Games, it’s the new Twilight!”

or, in my case:

“Now that Bringing Up the Bodies has won the Man Booker Prize you have to forget that it took you 6 weeks to struggle through Wolf Hall and read it!”

I am a big fan of the website Goodreads, and for this blog post I went through my “read” and “to read” lists. What I noticed is many of the books on those lists were chosen because I felt I should read them (they won a prize, a classic, a bestseller, etc.), not because I picked it on my own. Now, this is not to say that I didn’t enjoy them (in some cases they are on my list of favorites), but it is an interesting situation. What surprised me even more was my ratings of these books; some books I remember struggling through, or not really enjoying, yet I still gave them generous star ratings. I think for some I felt I could not give too low a rating because of their influence on society, and for some (I will admit it) I just wanted to look smart – hey, who doesn’t! But really I should have given those books a rating based on my reading experience. I have since gone back and actually adjusted some of my ratings.

I cannot decide whether Reading Peer Pressure is good or bad. On the one hand, it motivates me to read books I might not otherwise choose or that have had a significant influence on society at some point. It has also led me to some of my favorite books – for example The Book of Negroes and (yes, I will also admit this guilty pleasure) Twilight (what can I say? I am a sucker for shiny objects).

On the other hand, with so many books and such a short lifetime in comparison, should I not just read the books I want to read? Either way I am going to boost my pride and continue crossing books off that “most people have only read 7” list and hopefully enjoy a few of them!

There is also another bright side to my peer-pressured classics kick: the next time someone makes a Big Brother comment to me, I no longer have to hang my head in shame and mumble an insincere comment about what a great book 1984 is – now I can mean it!

Have you even felt pressure to read a certain book?


About Erin Hopkin

I am a graduate of Carleton University with a Bachelor of Public Affairs and Policy Management, with a specialization in International Studies (yes that may be the longest undergraduate degree title ever). Essentially it means I was trained to work in international policy making for the government – but that is not where I ended up. I actually work writing proposals and winning lots of business for a facility project management firm. I have always been a reader; however, my book choices have changed over the years. In university I read a lot of fantasy or books with happy endings because I was studying political science and international relations – often there are no happy resolutions to those conflicts. I now read more contemporary fiction novels with some classics, non-fiction, political and YA (a guilty pleasure) thrown in. I was drawn to the Unputdownable Book Club by my love of reading, wine and food and I am never disappointed!
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4 Responses to Reading Peer Pressure – how do you choose what you read?

  1. Brittany Hinds says:

    Great post Erin! I can definitely relate.


  2. Julia Kent says:

    I am guilty of pressuring you. And others. I am generally just a book bully.


  3. Like Julia above, I am generally pressure-er.


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