Buddy reading on Instagram is one of my favourite things about being a bookstagrammer. When I started out I had no idea that this practice existed, but as soon as I found out I started to get involved with readalongs. During my 4 years on the platform, I estimate that I’ve taken part in around 60 of these. I’ve written this blog post to give a little background on the process and also to share some thoughts from fellow book lovers following a series of polls I ran on Instagram a few years ago.
This post was updated in January 2022.
So what is a buddy read?
It’s where you agree to read a book at the same time as an online friend so you can discuss it together – either during the process or after you’ve finished. A bit like a book club without the ongoing commitment or geographical restrictions. There are different ways to set buddy reads up online, but many of these take place on Instagram – or more specifically, Bookstagram.
What is Bookstagram?
Bookstagram is the unofficial name for Instagram accounts and posts which focus specifically on books and reading. It’s free to join Bookstagram – all you need is an Instagram account and a couple of bookish images to start you off.
If you’re just starting off on this journey you may find our Bookstagram Post Ideas for Growing Your Account article useful. This shows you the different kinds of themes and layouts that you can find on Bookstagram as well as tips for joining the community.
What are the benefits of buddy reading on Instagram?
There are so many buddy reading benefits on Instagram. Here are just a few:
- You can choose the book that you want to read.
- There’s only the commitment to buddy read one book. You don’t have to make a continuous pledge to join in every month.
- A chance to read with bookstagrammers from all over the world.
- Likewise, an opportunity to discuss books with readers of different ages, genders and tastes.
- Buddy reading is ideal if you prefer to share your thoughts in writing rather than speak in a group.
- There is a lot more flexibility with budding reading discussions as these take place online.
- You can meet new friends.
- It’s a great way to try new genres out without pressure.
- The possibility to learn new ways of reading and interpreting text.
- A springboard onto future buddy reading sessions (for instance, I have been slowly reading the works of Patrick Leigh Fermor with a Bookstagram friend over the last three years).
In the poll (1), 43% of people said they’d met new friends after joining a buddy read. Oh – and it’s quite addictive – 24% (2) of participants said they’d participated in over 5 shared reads in the last year.
I’m sold, how do I get involved in a buddy read?
If you post about books on Bookstagram then there’s a fair chance that you’ll see users mention readalongs from time to time. If you spot a book that you want to read then either direct mail them or add a note in the comments. Most bookstagrammers will be happy for you to join in. The other way is to look out for hashtags #buddyread and #readalong. Alternatively, why not organise your own buddy read by inviting people to participate?
When you’ve done a few, you will have a great pool of readers to contact in the future. It will become pretty obvious which Bookstagrammers share your preferences.
How many readers will there be?
Buddy reading groups usually consist of 2-6 people although these can be a lot bigger.
Personally I prefer smaller groups as they’re easier to coordinate and 76% of responders agreed that 1-5 members is about right (24% didn’t mind) (3).
What happens in a buddy read?
Usually the coordinator will set up a private buddy reading group on Instagram so you can agree guidelines. Everyone needs a chance to get hold of the book and some will want to order it from the library so it might take a few weeks to get started.
Every shared reading experience I’ve had has been different. In response to the poll (4), 62% of readers liked structured readalongs and 38% preferred unstructured so if you’re new to buddy reading then I recommend trying out a few groups first to see what works best for you. Here are some aspects to consider:
- End Date – this needs to account for all reading speeds and other commitments.
- Review points – do you catch-up each week or at the end?
- Questions – do you circulate a set of prompts beforehand or go freestyle?
- Round-Up – do you want to finalise everything via text or will you one step further and host a live chat?
Since I wrote this post, I’ve tended towards unstructured reading as setting too many guidelines can put everyone under pressure. Sometimes, it’s just good to share a reading experience and exchange a few notes.
What kinds of questions can I expect in a buddy read?
If you love books then you’ll have lots to discuss. Here are a few ideas:
- Which character did you like most/least and why?
- Did the ending satisfy?
- What was your favourite line in the book?
- Were there any re-occurring themes? What do you think these signified?
- What were the strongest/weakest elements of the book?
What if things don’t go to plan?
They most likely won’t! Sometimes life gets in the way so flexibility is key. Try to commit but if you’re unable to or someone else is delayed then just keep on talking. Above all, the experience needs to be fun and if a readalong doesn’t work out, there will be plenty more to choose from. Buddy reading on Instagram is a constant!
Are there other kinds of buddy reading groups?
Buddy reading is popular on Goodreads too. If you want to find out more then check out this post by the moon who listens.
It’s also worth looking out for book challenges, which although are more intense, will connect you to many readers.
Poll ran on Instagram 18/09/18: Samples sizes (1) 125 (2) 114 (3) 154 (4) 111
If you’re interested in tips like these then you might like to see our other Bookstagram and book tips.