How The Internet Got Stupid:  The Embarrassment of Readalongs & Making Poor Bookish Choices

A traditional book club

Let’s hear it for Miranda Mills, vlogger, blogger, freelance writer, editor, and avid reader. Miranda and her mum, Donna, host the  monthly Comfort Book Club at Miranda’s vlog.  They have discussed such charming books as Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Sense and Sensibility, and Elizabeth von Arnim’s  Father. Their November pick is Gavin Plumley’s A Home for All Seasons. Of course their fans read along and leave comments and phone messages. And Miranda and Donna play some of the phone messages at the book club meeting and respond to them. 

What’s so unusual about this, you ask.  Well, it is a traditional book club, focusing on one book at a time, in a frantic world of splintered attention.  

The traditional book club isn’t enough for internet-frazzled souls who socialize desperately online (and I have done the same) and can barely keep up with Twitter, Discord, Instagram, and possibly Tik-Tok. It is easy to get caught up in a never-ending cycle of what I call “reading for other people.” The beloved, bossy leaders of blog readalongs go in for what I can only call an embarrassment of repetition.

AND NOW I SHALL ADOPT MY BORED VOICE. God, I dread the blog readalongs, whether they be 20 Books of Summer, Jane in July, Victober (love the name, though),  or even (gasp) Women in Translation.  Some excellent bloggers are among the organizers, but I avoid the readalong posts. In November, the main events are Novellas in November and Non-fiction November. 

The lead bloggers urge, remind, slave-drive, and brainwash their followers into repeating the same task year after year. God help the bloggers and vloggers who take this literally. Last year, one vlogger looked about to cry as he talked about nonfiction “burn=out.”  I am sometimes exasperated by the failure to differentiate novellas from novels. No, The Great Gatsby IS NOT a novella!

It would be lovely to have a Dystopia in December event.  After all, Christmas comes only once a year.


There are moments when I wonder:  Why did I buy this book?  On a recent trip I was so ecstatic in all the bookstores that I could have spent all my time shopping.   I bought fewer books than usual, but I seem to have made worse choices. The good news: they all fit in my suitcase.

In the hotel room I started A. A. Milne’s adult novel, Mr. Pim, which I bought for the cover.. It was less well-written than I’d hoped, and not quite as funny as I’d expected, so I put it aside. It might do for the plane.

Anyway, I wasn’t a Milne fan, so what did I expect? I may be the only reader who in childhood disliked Milne’s Winnie-the Pooh.  Even at four, I felt too sophisticated for it. My dad got it out of the library, ignoring my wishes for The Bobbsey Twins or The Secret Garden.  Let me translate my four-year-old thoughts as he read the first chapter: “Really? This is what you like? Kanga and Roo are cute.” Then my mind wandered, and like the will o’ the wisp I was, I glided away while he sat reading to himself.

On the plane, I read 94 pages of Mr. Pim, which wasn’t easy,(1) because two young Czech? Hungarian? Irish? Appalachian? men talked loudly for seven hours in the seat behind me, and (2) a hapless, haunted-looking couple trying in vain to soothe a screaming baby for seven hours. I managed to read part of Ludwig Bemelmans’   To The One I Love the Best, a charming, comical memoir of Bemelmans’ friendship with Elsie de Wolfen, an eccentric decorator, in Los Angeles in the 1930s.

Anna Biller’s Bluebead’s Castle was also a mistake, but who am I to argue with the TLS review?  I loved the cover and thought it might be a literary excuse to read a Gothic novel. Maybe later.

I only bought nine or ten books, all of which fit in my suitcase. 

So it goes…

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