On Thursdays, I take a break from reviewing books to share my thoughts on all things books, fandom, and random. All opinions are my own. Yours may differ. Feel free to respectfully disagree and discuss in the comments.
One of the communities I identify with online is fandom. And fandom is a rather broad term, as it consists of so many smaller sub-communities. So, to be more specific, one of the primary groups I’m a part of is book fandom.
The other day, a colleague asked me about my fandoms. She asked, “What do you spend your time on outside of work? What excites you?” And my response included books, reading, and volunteering. It also included specific television shows and podcasts. And since I’d already been thinking about the nature of book fandom, I walked away with more on the brain.
When I talked about being a fan of books, I left it at just “books and reading.” When I described being a fan of other media, I cited specific examples. And I tend to notice this is the case for many when it comes to fandom. In other media, people tend to identify on a more direct level with a specific work. And while there are books and series that have active fandom groups, I sometimes feel like it’s not on the same level.
For me, I think a big part of this is just the nature of books themselves. As someone who would describe himself as a huge fan of books, I don’t often read the same book twice. There have been a few exceptions over the years. But I usually prefer to read something new if I can. So that means that the experience of reading a book isn’t always a sustained one. Yes, I spend time thinking about a book after it’s finished. I usually review it, recommend it, and talk about it (if it’s a good one!). But I’m onto the next book by the next day.
With movies, it seems a bit easier to do a re-watch. And television shows usually run over a period of days, week, months, or even years. There’s an increased ease with which one can engage with a work over a sustained period in those types of media. Thus, I think it becomes easier to identify with a specific work rather than the medium as a whole.
But that identification with specific works brings its own challenges. Television fandom finds itself segmented, and sometimes that leads to tension across fans of the medium. In book fandom, because we so often jump from book to book, it seems easier to feel like a part of the broader community. I don’t have to watch three seasons of a show to catch up to a fellow blogger. I just need to pick up that book she’s just recommended and see if I feel the same way.
When I try to identify what makes me a part of book fandom, I think of my brother. If you ask him what he likes to read, he will tell you the names of the two books he’s read cover to cover. And then he’ll let you know those are the only two books he’s read cover to cover. If you ask me what I like to read, you best have at least a half hour to even just dip below the surface.
I think what defines book fandom is that people who like to read, well, they like to read. And we will read as much as we can. Even though I’m a huge fan of movies, I don’t often go see a film just to see a film. But I will pick up a book because I’m bored and it looks semi-appealing. Readers are as much a fan of the act of reading as they are the books in front of them. And that’s how I think I will identify myself going forward. I’m not just a fan of books (though they are pretty lined up on my bookshelf). I’m not just a fan of specific authors or specific genres. I am a fan of reading.