Nymeth at “Things mean a lot” wrote this amazing post about how people usually perceive those who read a lot and how that might lead to closeted bookworms. As you can see by the sheer amount of replies, her post touched a nerve with many people. I was one of them, so while I don’t watch a Great Expectations adaptation to post my review for the “Read the book, see the movie” challenge, I’d also like to give my 2-Euro cents. Here’s what she says:

“When a non-reader asks you just how many books you usually read in a year or month, do you ever become evasive, or even mask the truth? Recently it hit me that I seem to have acquired the habit of doing this. I have become a closet bookworm. The reason is the fact that in the past, conversations about reading with people who are not quite as obsessive about it as I am have taken slightly uncomfortable turns. (…) A typical example is my interlocutor saying that they have “better things to do than read all day”; that “thankfully they have other interests”; that “unlike me, they have a social or a family life”; or bringing up their job, their significant other, their children, their responsibilities, or their social commitments.”

Well, I never had such an aggressive feedback, but I do feel I have to justify myself, even if for bookworm standards I don’t read that much. Most of the time I just have to tell people how I find the time, such as “Yes, I do other things except reading ha.ha.ha. I always have a book with me and read anywhere: supermarket line, doctor’s waiting room, in the cinema before the lights go down, during lunch breaks. Audiobooks help a lot because I “read” while walking, shopping, cooking, cleaning…” Mention of audiobooks usually triggers other interesting debates on whether they count as books or not – “O well! Like that, I could also read as much as you do!”, you know,  similar to reactions to abstract painting  – “I could paint that!”. Other things I’ve had to justify in the past:

  •  How can I afford to read so much, have you seen the prices of books these days?!
  • (when I’m reading a thin book) Do you count it as one book?! And then again, “O well! Like that, I could also read as much as you do!”
  • Why do I read children’s books/YA/fantasy/chick-lit and fun stuff in general?

 This last point goes straight to what Nymeth said about reading being perceived as an “intellectual” activity:

“Reading is generally thought of as an intelligent and highbrow activity; as something that is Good For You; as inherently superior to watching TV or seeing a movie; as better than listening to music, playing a videogame, and so on. As a result, it’s unlikely that in one of these conversations someone will plainly tell you, “I don’t read because reading is not that much of a priority for me right now. I’d rather do other things.” Unfortunately, most people feel that to say this is to implicitly admit than they’re not as smart, sophisticated or cultured as readers are.”

I’m always telling everyone that I read for FUN! and don’t expect to gain any knowledge from it. If I do, it’s an added value. I’m just the perfect victim of a good story teller and A Good Story should be put up there in my list of favorite things, along with desserts and pub quizzes. 

There’s not a lot people around me who enjoy books as much as I do, especially fiction – it’s lonely at the top of the TBR pile! 🙂 Back home I was saved from becoming closeted by the discovery of Bookcrossing and the amazing group of friends I met there. I remember my first meeting face to face, just 3 of us tentatively mentioning titles, how the conversation tickled at first and then came in floods and it never stopped since. We were thirsty for such conversations! Now that I’m in Brussels and BC doesn’t seem to be so active here… I have a bookblog! I actually didn’t tell any friends that I have it because I don’t want them feel they have to come here. I already have to restrain myself from taking off of book-realted subjects for fear I’ll bore everyone to death.

And no, I don’t wear glasses because I read so much, but because since college I need to stare at a computer screen for hours on end!