Who did we read with in 2022?

What’s better than falling in love with a book? Having someone to talk to about it! Let's dive into book clubs, introverted readers, and book community.

This post is the fifth in a series of six posts on our findings from our State of the Reader 2022 survey. We conduct this survey every year to shed light on who readers are and what makes them tick.

Discussing books took reading experiences to the next level.

When we asked respondents whether being able to talk about the books they loved mattered to them - whether it enhanced their reading experiences - the answer was a resounding yes.

Specifically, 77% valued having someone to discuss with while in the process of reading a book they loved.

Here's one respondent's story of a time they wanted to be able to talk about a book as they were reading it: “I remember reading Abaddon's Gate on a solo road trip and the plot got REALLY GOOD, and being so disappointed I didn't know anyone else who was reading that book along with me, because I was alone in a B&B in Charleston and needed to freak out about the Behemoth with SOMEONE. I really do love reacting to books with people.”

And a whopping 94% valued having someone to discuss with once they were done with a book they loved. As one put it, “There's no greater joy than talking about a book with someone who also enjoyed it and hearing their thoughts and perspectives on it. Makes me enjoy the book on a deeper level.”

Relatedly, four out of five respondents (82%) said that after they finish a book they love, they personally recommend it to someone they think will love it too. And virtually all (99%) said it was extremely rewarding to later learn that the recommendation had been successful.

“When I find out that someone actually liked a book I recommended, it confirms to me that I know them well and helps me feel closer to them.”

Half the respondents discussed books through book clubs.

Fifty percent of respondents were part of at least one book club in 2022, whether in-person or virtual.

Some in this group were active in multiple book clubs, which one explained allowed them to “satisfy my various reading genres and moods.”

Of those who were not part of a book club, just under half wanted to be, while just over half had no interest. (Many in this latter group clarified that they value discussing books - they just prefer to choose their own books, or they aren’t fans of the book club format.)

Most respondents self-identified as introverts…

Nearly three in five respondents (57%) characterized themselves as somewhat or very introverted, while just 16% described themselves as somewhat or very extroverted. (The remaining 27% placed themselves in the middle.)

The more strongly a respondent felt that being a reader was a core part of their identity, the more likely they were to self-identify as introverted.

…But introverts still wanted to talk about books - on their terms!

The general understanding of introverts has gained much-needed nuance over the last decade, sparked in large part by a book (Quiet by Susan Cain). While introversion used to be directly equated with shyness or even antisociality, we now know introverts aren’t necessarily wallflowers; in fact, many are just as outgoing as their extroverted counterparts.

The key difference is neurological: introverts require less dopamine, colloquially known as the “pleasure transmitter,” so their threshold for stimulation - and overstimulation - is lower. In other words, the same noisy, packed party might energize an extrovert all night, but start to overwhelm an introvert in the first hour. (Or, speaking from experience, the first five minutes.)

Crucially, respondents who saw themselves as introverts were nearly as interested in discussing books as extroverts were - but only if their higher bar for meaning and relevance had been cleared. Introverts particularly disliked when reading platforms with social elements continually emphasized surface-level actions, like starting, finishing, or rating a book, which they described as “shallow” and “the digital equivalent of small talk.”

“I could go on and on about all the ways Goodreads isn’t conducive to discussion. Most of my feed is just ‘X is reading Y’ and that’s so…boring. What am I going to say to that?”

Next (and last!): Reflections. How did we feel about reading in 2022?

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