I am an active participant over on reddit and find excellent book-lover content consistently on /r/books, /r/bookhaul, /r/rarebooks, /r/bookshelf, and /r/treatyourshelf (plug). That being said, I am also active in a variety of entrepreneurial subreddits, like /r/SideProject, and was pleasantly surprised the other day to happen upon BookBuddy and its creator Will Moritz. How pleasant when the two worlds collide. I reached out to Mr. Moritz and asked if he would answer a few questions and tell you all about the project. Instead of explaining it myself, I'll leave it to the creator to explain the need he identified, the product he created, and how it can improve your reading habits. Note: This piece was created by my instigation and is not a paid advertisement.
What’s your elevator pitch for BookBuddy? What does it do?
BookBuddy is like a fitness tracker for reading, encouraging you to read more frequently and deeply.
What need drove you to create BookBuddy?
I get tons of value from reading wonderful books. But I've never been someone who loves to read, and, when given some free time at the end of the day, I'd much rather watch Netflix or scroll some news feed than sit down and focus on a book. So I wondered how I could get myself to read more often, and started tracking my reading progress with a spreadsheet. I also get frustrated by the fact that even if I've read a book and loved it, I'm horrible at remembering specific points from the book. So, I also I started taking notes on each book after I'd finished it. This system helped me a lot, and I figured it might help others like me, so I made BookBuddy.
Tell us a little about your background and where your interest in books came from.
I've never been a bookworm. When I was younger, I loved reading Tintin and Calvin and Hobbes, but not much else. One summer, my parents, who wanted me to read more and saw that I enjoyed comics, bought me a bunch of critically-acclaimed artsy "adult graphic novels". Now, I was pretty on board with this idea, and they thought they were ushering their son into a new stage of intellectual maturity. What they didn't realize was that they had given me books that were indeed quite mature. I remember one particular strip that explained how the game of baseball (which I loved at the time) was a symbol for sex. And it went way beyond the standard "bases" paradigm. It was more about how the foul lines could be seen as the labia majora. Suffice to say, this didn't do much for my reading habits, and I don't like baseball anymore.
How many books have you read in the last year? How many will you read in the next?
I read about twenty books in the last year. And I've gotten better at putting something down if it sucks. My whole website is about disciplining oneself to read, but there's such a thing as too much discipline. Reading to finish can make for a slow boring trudge. Now, I'm trying to only read books that I will either find fascinating or entertaining.
What’s one book that you’ve read that you think deserves to be more popular than it is?
I doubt that any of your readers have heard of The Phantom of the Psyche: Freeing Ourself from Inner Passivity. The author is a psychotherapist, and I bought this book after reading many articles on his blog. If you can get past the cheesy title, you'll find insight into the idea of unconsciousness attachment, which is the way that we tend to cling to our particular lenses on life, even if doing so is self-limiting or even destructive. If you enjoyed the themes of David Foster Wallace's This Is Water speech, or Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson, you'll probably enjoy this book.
If you could go back in time and unread one book, what would it be? What would you read instead?
As I said, I generally put something down if I don't want to read it, so there's little un-reading necessary. But since I already name-dropped DFW, I did spend way too long reading Infinite Jest. I wouldn't unread it, but man, it was a huge time commitment. Like six months. I chose to read it because I felt like I "should", and it drained me more than it excited me. It delivers some fantastic stuff, but it makes you sweat for it, and dedicate tons of time. There are some nice articles out there about how reading Infinite Jest is a male endeavor (and, fittingly, I'm a millennial white dude living in Brooklyn), and, yes, I chose to read it in part because I wanted to conquer it, to have it under my belt, specifically because it's such a dense and hard read. And that alone is a superficial way to approach what to read next. So while I don't regret it, I probably would have had a better time reading a bunch of short things. Calvin and Hobbes.
Why should everyone reading this sign up for BookBuddy right now?
Look, if you're someone who already loves to read, and you devour four books per week, BookBuddy probably isn't for you. But, if you're like me, and you wished you read more because you know how much it nourishes you, go make an account. By tracking my reading progress, summarizing my thoughts, and planning out what I want to read next, I started reading not more books, more deeply. Also, I'd love to see this website make some cash, so you should make an account now before I slap up a huge paywall and sell my soul.
BookBuddy is in beta (read: it is maintained by one dude and it no doubt has problems). I would love nothing more than to get people's feedback and impressions, and particularly hear what features they'd like to see from a website whose goal is to help you get the most out of reading.