Let Readers Party Harder
February 15, 2014
A while ago on Tumblr, I read a popular post requesting the existence of a central, glamorous, overblown awards show for books, to parallel the Oscars and Grammys. That post has stuck with me more than I realized. It would be amazing, wouldn’t it? Why isn’t there?
The awards show thing got me thinking: there are a lot of aspects enjoyed by other media forms that are not present to the same extent in book culture. There are conventions for authors or industry officials to mingle, but where are the book cons, where ordinary readers can geek out? Harry Potter robe owners aside, book cosplay is a pretty tiny voice in the cosplay world– I for one has seen almost none. I’m sure there are high-faluting critical publications available for literature, but where are the trashy grocery store fiction magazines, to go with ones that dish about hot new movies or TV shows?
The obvious cynical answer would be that books don’t get these things because not enough people read, and there’s no big money in books. And maybe that’s part of it.
But I started thinking about it from a different angle: reading, in some ways, is a necessarily solitary experience. Don’t get me wrong– half the reading experience for me is screaming about books or communally picking them apart with friends or fellow internet users. But that’s all after, before, or around the fact. When you’re actually absorbing the content, you’re on your own. Books are small, and it seems like no two people read at the same pace, so gathering around a paperback and pouring over each sentence together just isn’t very doable. Compare this to dozens of strangers piling into a theater together for a movie, or having a viewing party on the couch for the season premiere of Pretty Little Liars, and you’re walking a lonely road. I think maybe that’s part of the joy of seeing a favorite book adapted to the screen– not only do you get to see the world you love come to life, but you get to have your friends and fellow fans at your side when you enter it.
But just because we’re starting out a step behind other groups doesn’t mean we should give up.
I’ve loved Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and The Olympians, and subsequently, Heroes of Olympus, series since the fourth grade. And somewhere in the time in between, I aged out of the theoretical marketing range for his work. That doesn’t mean I considered for a second no longer reading them, because who needs societal limits? But I wasn’t exactly surrounded by other readers, and I didn’t really have anyone to fangirl with when a new book came out. I started to have twinges of concern. Was I the bad kind of a weird for still loving these stories? Was I literally Riordan’s oldest fan?
Then one day, I forget why, I logged into the Tumblr account I had made and never used and searched “Percy Jackson”.
I think my mind actually blew up. There were enough pages of results that they were for all intents and purposes endless. People were creating beautiful drawings of all the characters. People were debating theories and opinions and romantic pairings. People were uploading pictures of their favorite quotes and chapter titles. “Normal” people! People above the age of twelve! Some of them had handmade Camp Half-Blood t-shirts! Some of them even knew more about the series than I did! As I scrolled through it all, I felt my love for Percy Jackson rekindled tenfold, and any doubts I had had were completely erased. I would give a speech on the steps of the Capitol Building about Percy Jackson. I would be the national poster child of Percy Jackson fanhood. And more to the point, reading the books is at least 50% more fun now that I have a massive, noisy community to share it with.
So what am I saying? I’m saying I love Tumblr. I’m saying there should be book conventions, and more book cosplay– I know it’s harder without explicit reference images, but written character descriptions can give a lot to work with. I’m saying I want Book Oscars. I’m saying I’m glad I’m a book blogger. I’m saying we should all read louder and prouder and with more partying. Somebody get on this, please!