May 2, 2010

The Sunday Salon – On the Meaning of Making Time to Read

The Sunday Spiral clock

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.

I so wish we could talk about reading without the conversation becoming about measuring different life priorities or goals against each other. But sadly, this seems difficult to avoid: talking about reading will often make people who don’t read feel patronised. And the problem isn’t necessarily that they’re being mean-spirited; it’s more about how reading is socially constructed. I’ve noticed that if I’m truthful about my reading, people will sometimes react defensively, or even downright aggressively. 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.

All of the above are perfectly valid reasons for not reading, or for reading fewer books than I do. But the defensive tone with which people sometimes mention these things makes me think that they automatically assume that I am going to judge them for not reading as much as I do. And so, under the belief that the best defence is a good attack, they judge readers instead. They assume that the fact that we read means there must be something lacking in our lives.

Monthly or yearly reading totals don’t mean much to me, and I don’t like comparing mine to those of other readers. We all have different reading speeds, after all, as well as different life circumstances. There are many, many factors that influence how much each of us gets to read. But between readers and non-readers, the difference isn’t really in how much leisure time we have available: it’s in the fact that readers make reading a priority, while non-readers will perhaps turn on the TV, go out, see a movie, and so on. It’s not that readers never do these things, of course – but the habit of setting aside time to read on a daily basis, even if it’s just fifteen minutes, is very much ingrained in our lives. However, if I tell people that the difference is not in having time but in making time, it’s almost inevitable that they’ll feel judged. As I said before, I think this is a sign of a deeper problem, one that often worries me: how reading is socially constructed.

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.

Personally I prefer reading to the above activities (though perhaps not to listening to music), but my own preference doesn’t mean that I think that objectively speaking, reading is better, more sophisticated, or more worthy of my time than any of those other experiences or art forms. Movies, TV series, songs, and yes, videogames, can be as artistically accomplished, intelligent, enriching and rewarding as the best that literature has to offer. Often they do the very same things that books do – unsettle us, challenge us, move us, open us up to different experiences, new ideas, and new ways of thinking – only in different ways. However, for the most part they don’t have the same aura of inherent respectability that reading does.

The reason why this worries me is because I think it might make people unconsciously resent the act of reading, or feel intimidated by books and reject them as too “highbrow” for them. Making people feel that they “should” read, or that they ought to read more, is often problematic. Obviously I WANT people to read – I’m very passionate about literature, and I want more people to experience the many, many splendid things books have to offer. I want to share this thing that I love so much, but I worry that the prescriptive approaches I sometimes see, particularly in educational contexts, will backfire.

(And then there’s the gender angle – why do girls and women are said to read more fiction than boys and men? It this true at all? Even if not, is the belief that it’s true so prevalent because the social construct of reading I’m talking about includes, among others, the attribute “feminine”? Obviously there are male readers, both old and young, but the ideal of masculinity most boys are expected to live up to doesn’t seem to include being a bookworm. But I’ll leave this aside for now, as I could write a whole other post on this topic.)

I’ve been giving this a lot of thought recently because I suspect it’s something I’ll have to confront as a future librarian. I’ve noticed, though, that most recent literacy campaigns seem to focus more on the appeal of books than on their supposed benefits, and I have no doubt that this is an issue which has been widely studied and debated before. Are these attitudes something you have encountered as well, either in your private or in your professional life? Are you a closet bookworm? Have you ever noticed that people who aren’t avid readers get defensive when you talk about your reading? Do you worry that elevating reading above other activities may be counterproductive, or do you believe that reading should be placed above them?


  1. I usually don't talk about how much I read beyond the fact that I read for an hour each day and my reputation as a reader tends to proceed me. Still, it's not like I hide it- if I've read a terrible book, it's usually a topic of conversation I keep in my back pocket.

    As a fantasy fan and massive nerd, I just see reading (and books) as a specific medium- one I love above all else, but in the grand scheme of things, a medium. My introduction to fantasy was video games, and I've read books with worse plots than The Legend of Zelda. I don't think it's counterproductive, though- reading, especially varied reading, is good for you.

  2. Clare, I didn't mean to say that reading *itself* is counterproductive, or that it's not an incredibly enriching activity, at many levels. I do think it is, but I worry that telling people, "you should reach because books are good for you while other media are bad" will make them shy away from books, you know?

  3. It's their problem, not yours. everything you've mentioned just sounds like insecurity on their part. you have nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about, and you have nothing to answer for, either.

  4. Marie, I agree that it's insecurity, but I worry that we unconsciously reinforce it when we put books in a pedestal, and that people will feel inadequate and walk away from reading when they could be doing it and loving it and having wonderful bookish chats with me! I hope this makes sense :P

  5. Interesting thoughts, Nymeth. I've run up against the same problem: because I read a lot, people assume, somehow, that I'm smarter than they are. I'm not, really, I just make different choices with my time than they do. I think a lot of it, in America at least, is associating reading with scholastic achievement. If you read a lot, then you'll do better in school. Which is true... to a point. But it does nothing to help foster a *love* of reading, which is what helps reading last into adulthood.

    I'm also uncomfortable with judging anybody for what they do. It's a bad habit...

  6. I know what you mean though about the number of books we go through. I personally keep track but just for me. The very few times I have talked about it, I got the same reaction as you. People get horrified in a way and I can see the same things you listed going through their eyes. So I usually keepp quiet, but everyone knows I am a bookworm. I really don't feel reading is 'higher' than other passtimes but I just happen to love it. After all, I love watching films, listening to music (learning to play the piano), playing the odd computer game (but reading usually wins over), photography, running, studying, drawing, etc. OK I probably want to do too much. Come to think of it, people often tell me that I do too much!!!! And I find myself having to defend myself! Why do you want to study any more? Why do want to learn to play the piano? The way they go about it, it feels like I should be waiting for death. I'm only 38 after all!

    Sorry for the tangent, but it feels connected. It seems if you don't fit the normal pattern, people start 'attacking' you, and it is more than likely a preemptive strike as you explained. I totally agree that is is a case of MAKING time, and not finding it.

  7. Nymeth, I imagine most of us who are avid readers have dealt with some of these comments in our lives. I know I have and I have felt the same sense of discomfort about talking too much about how much I read or sharing the number of books I get through in a year or even a month. Your theories are valid I think. A lot of people don't continue reading anything for pleasure as they grow up because they were forced to read books when they were in school. They want to take their leisure in other activities and I think that's fine. Many people are avid film watchers or exercisers or gardeners. I look on reading as a hobby, my only hobby. I get my support and sense of togetherness from the book loving community and people such as yourself. I think the most important thing is that we all not judge each other - for reading or not reading - or, as you mentioned in that previous post, for reading what we read genre-wise.

  8. It's all about priorities. I make time to read because I want to. I read during spare moments most people wouldn't think of using- while tending my daughter in the bath, or waiting for soup to simmer or something. Funny, it seems among my family's circle, reading was regarded as a worthwhile, even intellectual activity- people respected your choice to just read, and broaden your mind. My husband's family is quite different, none of them are readers, but very active in other pursuits. I don't talk much about reading with them, as it quickly gets uncomfortable. They seem to think my life must be boring if I'm reading all the time! I've never felt they were getting defensive about their choice not to read, they just seem really baffled by mine.

  9. I so enjoyed reading this post!

    I totally agree that reading is just a matter of priority. We all have 24 hours in a day, and while there are many activities that we must do - we do have free time that we can choose to do whatever we wish. I choose to read - which means that consciously or subconsciously I choose NOT to do anything else.

    I don't necessarily find the condescending tone when I talk to others about my reading; I feel as though they need to apologize for not reading --- as if they expect the English teacher will admonish them for not doing their homework.

    I don't judge others for their choice of entertainment; I hope that others don't judge me.

  10. I've never been very good at keeping my mouth shut, so I do blab alot about my reading. Still, you are right, you do get looks from people. I always qualify it by saying that I read alot of audio books, which allows me to multi-task. Which is true, but why do I feel that I have to prove to others that I am productive? On the upside, because of my constant blabbing, I have converted a few non-reading friends to reading ones, and that makes it all worth while!

  11. I've had some very interesting conversations with people regarding books and time over the years. My mom finds the idea of a young mother having time to read 25 books a year utterly absurd, for example. Of course, my mother has always spent her evenings watching a miriad of TV shows, for a total of 10+ hours a week. Another woman in a thrift store where I was buying a whole pile of books looked at me like I was crazy and asked me if I didn't own a TV. Asked me as if she felt sorry for me, not as if she was being patronizing.

    Sometimes I'm so surrounded by book people - at home, at the library, online - that it startles me when i come across people who don't read. I'm afraid I probably react with the worst response possible: incredulity. This isn't because I think they're bad people. It's more like I'm just socially inadequate & me by surprise. (okay now that I feel completely inadequate to continue speaking, I'll just go...)

  12. Thanks for such a thoughtful post. It is so interesting how people react when they realise how much I read and, to echo Jeanne, how baffled they are to discover that if I was at a loose end I would so much rather read a book than watch TV. :)

  13. I seriously think I'm going to just use your blog to teach my Introduction to Literature course next semester. You are so insightful, articulate, and danged if you don't hold quite similar ideas to my own (which is of course always nice).

    Anyway, I know very few true readers outside of blogging, so I often am confronted by incredulity and condescension at the number of books I read. I too hear the assortment of excuses/explanations: I have no time to read; reading is boring; don't you ever want to go outside and do something; and on and on. I'm often reminded that I won't have time to read once I have kids. Because, of course, I only get so much reading done because I'm lazy....

  14. Hi Nymeth :)

    Your post is great! I have been put down so many times by people who look at me like: "don't you have a life" etc...the worst one "did you read a lot while you where married? your husband probably felt ignored" blaming my reading for my divorce. I am always speechless when this happens but learned to ignore those comments, to defend my reading habits just seems to make it worse.

    have a nice week-end Nimeth

  15. Wonderful post Ana! I also get the raised eyebrows when people find out I read and the funny thing is I just spend an hour or so every night reading before I go to sleep. It's actually not much compared to others. Not only do I love to read but I can't sleep without reading first. Other people remark that they watch tv or surf the net before sleeping. I think I gave up on TV years ago.
    These days, I get even more raised eyebrows when people find out I blog about the books I read but that's another topic altogether...

  16. I really loved your post. There're so many interesting things you highlighted and I especially like your idea of reading as a social construct.
    You made me think of my own habits in talking about books and I realised that I never really talk about my reading, except with people who are know are readers themselves. Even then, I usually wait for them to bring it up. It's not that I avoid the subject on purpose, but I think I just never really talk about it except online or with good friends. Maybe I shied away from it because of sharing experiences such as the ones you mentioned.

  17. Ana! This is a topic that frustrates me to NO END!

    I'm known amongst my friends as the reader. My partner, is not. In fact, I think that she's read maybe five books in her whole life (including the audio book that I had playing in the car of our last road trip). It works for me because all of our errands together I get to sit in the passenger seat and read while she drives. She'll also make jokes with our peeps about how we can't go out for the weekend because it's the 24 hour RaT, etc. Because of who she's surrounded herself with in the past, I am the first bookworm and self professed nerd. I revel in this.

    I have some friends who read, I mean, how can I not, they teach English as well. :) But you would be surprised how many teachers (and I find this reprehensible) who teach English who DON'T READ. It just doesn't make sense to me?

    And worse yet. This will totally blow your mind. Are you ready? Our librarian BARELY ever reads! Seriously. I was talking to her about some popular MG & YA titles. She had no clue. And then went on to say, "I don't know how you can read all that you do? Do you do anything else? How do you manage?" I was literally flabbergasted! I have to admit I become a little judgmental on this one. I mean, shouldn't you want to keep up with books if you're a LIBRARIAN?! Dude. READ!

    Great post!

  18. What a great post! I love reading, I read like crazy, every chance I get. While I am not a closet bookworm, I also don't tell everyone how much I read. Most people that I talk to about reading do get defensive and insinuate that they have lives and I don't have a life which is the only reason I read so much. I just let them go with that and explain that they are partially right - I read a lot while on the road travelling alone for work - but it is also a choice for me to read rather than watch TV. I always try to stress that I don't care what you choose, but you do have a choice. It isn't that you don't have time, it is that you choose other things instead of reading. People still get so defensive though!

  19. I've definitely had those conversations that have become awkward when we start to talk about reading. I usually tell people the truth about how much I read, and when they ask how I find time for it (sometimes implying that the only way I can do it must be that I don't have a life), I usually say that I prioritize it. And that my husband watches a lot of sports, which helps. I think you're right that non-readers and people who read less than we do are sometimes afraid we're going to judge them, but it goes the other way, too. I often feel like people assume that the only way a person could read so much is by not having a social life, and that's just not the case.

    I want the message to be "You can do it, too, if it's really important!" because one doesn't have to give up one's social life (or other hobbies and interests) in order to pursue reading. One must simply make it a priority.

  20. Well, I agree. Reading and the speed at which one reads is viewed in society in connection with intelligence. This is something I would probably only have been vaguely aware of before I worked in adult literacy and all of the sudden it became impossible to ignore.

    A lot of people don't read because it's harder for them. It is in fact, not a pleasurable experience. It's not that they *can't* decode or make sense of words on a page, it's just that the way in which they learned to read has made reading a chore. It's a bit more work. And there's actually a spectrum. Once I learned this, it changed how I see this issue. I get why someone would choose not to read. It's not fun if you have to work really hard at the act of reading itself. And it's completely UNRELATED to intelligence and rather has everything to do with how your brain first acquired the skill of reading. (my whole program was based on the idea of re-learning how to read) So it's impossible to look at one's job, or how many educational degrees they have and know whether or not they are likely to read for pleasure.

    So in a way, I find programs devoted to the appeal or benefits of reading to be almost useless, the real problem is whether or not the act of reading itself is easy or difficult. And the thing is, if you've always read one way, you may not even know that reading could be easier and more efficient. I can say after interviewing hundreds of adults that if they didn't read for pleasure and I then tested them, they always had need of the program.

    Whew, after saying all of that, I also fight against the idea that reading itself is somehow superior to engaging in other art forms. I cringe every time someone says reading engages your brain and watching TV doesn't. I think so much depends on the person watching TV or movies or reading. Reading doesn't automatically ensure you are using your brain.

    I love this post, you brought up a lot of great issues and also gave me a chance to ramble on. ;)

  21. I see what you mean about feeling patronising. I am usually pretty honest though about my passion for reading. I do get responses from people that don't read at all and usually they can be somewhat defensive, but I am quick to point out that everyone has different hobbies and taste and I don't judge people for not reading.

  22. I love that you're writing about this subject! I was teased,teased, teased (often maliciously) when I was younger because of how often I read. I did so many other activities, but somehow people concentrated on the fact that I read so often and would carry books with me so I could read in the car, etc. It definitely made me a closet bookworm. I have always been weird about writing lists of books I've read and I used to worry about the fact that someone might discover those lists and see how much I REALLY read. Sad that I had to feel like that. When I was younger it was just other young people making fun of me for doing something "boring" and "dorky," but now that I'm older people do the whole defensive, "Well I have kids, a job" etc etc.

    I was an English minor in school (concentrating in literature) and it was crazy how few guys were in my classes. One guy I talked to said he was doing it because he loves books and that his parents were really disappointed in him for majoring in literature instead of something more "manly" like engineering.

    And finally, I suppose I'm guilty of thinking that reading should be placed above other activities like video games and TV. I'd never make anyone feel bad about it, but I know I read less and watch more TV now that I'm a mom because I'm so tired at the end of the day that I just want to bum out in front of the TV instead of using more brain power to read!!

  23. Hey Ana, this is a great post. For me, I feel that if a person wants to read, then he or she will definitely make the time to read no matter what they have to do. It is based on interest and yeah, priorities too.

    Well, it's alright if non-readers think that serious readers have no life. :D But that's where they are wrong. Some of the serious readers I know have enriching lives and also busy themselves with other activities. The only difference is that they spend more time reading.

    Anyway, readers take breaks too, right? And during these breaks, I'm sure they do something else like listen to music, go on Facebook, chat with friends, watch movies, etc...things that non-readers do too. So it's not really fair to judge readers!

  24. I'm a closet bookworm to a certain point because there aren't many people in my life that I can talk books to. I was excited the other day to hear from a coworker that she had forgotten how addictive reading is after reading 2 books that I had lent her :)

  25. I encounter this attitude a lot, and I'm always afraid that people's defensiveness has to do with me: that I'm somehow giving the impression that I feel superior to people who don't read as much. Which I don't! I just love it when I run into people who like reading as much as I do.

    Right now I'm trying to catalogue my books, and they're all in a pile in my living room. It gives rise to awkward conversations with my landlords and the people who have been coming over to look at the flat. There is definitely a sense that people feel like they "should" be doing more reading. I always end up saying apologetically, "Well, I want to be a writer, so I read a lot." It's weird! I don't know why I have this compulsion to explain away my tastes!

  26. I have encountered attitudes like that. People always tell me they don't have time to read - those same people will then tell me about TV shows they watch. Well, I rarely watch TV - it's all about choice. Great post!

  27. I do admit I don't necessarily admit how much I read to people I meet. It isn't that I avoid it I just don't volunteer it. The thing is though, if they meet me more than once chances are they are going to notice. I ALWAYS carry a book. I am the person who whips out a book standing in a queue at the bank or post office. Like a previous poster, I am the person who has a book in hand while waiting for the soup to simmer. In my family though that isn't so much a problem. We ALL do those sorts of things. My grandmother read a book a day at least. It is in my blood. And it has become a family joke. :D

    Great post!

  28. This is a great post! I'm proud to recite my reading numbers to people in my real life. Usually, I get a stunned "wow." But when I casually urge people to read, the excuse is either "I don't have that kind of time" or "I've got better things to do" ---here I feel your pain. Statements like the above are passive aggressive attacks and I take it as an implication that they think I have too much time or I've got going better to do than whittle my hours away in a fantasy land.

    My boyfriend, while proud of my reading accomplishments, advised me to refrain from mentioning how much I read on my job interviews. He hinted that people in the real world may not consider reading 80 books/year an accomplishment but a waste of time and the telling of such may hinder my ability to get a job. This hurts since I value reading, literature, writers above all.

  29. I have experienced this perhaps for the first time in just the past two months. In high school, I was always in the honors classes, and so most of the other kids read a lot too. I don't remember feeling odd for all my reading, although there was evidence that I generally read more than everyone else, simply because I was already a nerd. A similar experience happened in college really - lots of smart people who read. My friends knew I read a lot and sometimes regretted that they "didn't have the time" to read so much (at least one of them spent 3 hours watching TV a day - it is all about what you choose to do), but I never really felt weird about it because they all did enjoy reading as well.

    Now, though, I'm suddenly in a work environment where I can't find a single other reader. They marvel when I come back from the library with books every week or bring one back from the charity shop because it caught my eye. They're astonished at how much I read. And you're right in that I sort of excuse myself from it, telling them that I just read really fast and so on. They're defensive and I'm defensive too - I don't think any of us should be! I never criticize anyone for not reading. I don't think I've had as much flak as I could about it because they knew I was a book blogger before I started (it's one of the reasons, if not the reason, I was hired) but it's still strange. And sad.

  30. Love, love, LOVE this post! It happens to me all the time. They get defensive, then I get defensive. It's a strange thing. It does all boil down to a conversation about how we spend our time and people get crazy about that, me included. I don't know how to fix it. Interesting problem.

  31. This is very interesting. I don't think I've ever been put down for my reading in the way you describe (although surrounded by her husband, son and me all reading, my mother-in-law talks loudly about how she prefers non-fiction and facts to stories and finally that it's really numbers in sodoku that interest her, not words. I was just reading, not saying anything about it.) I do have a fellow reader friend who seems to hint that I don't get out enough, even though I don't like large groups and honestly prefer the quiet evening at home. I don't see how salsa or belly dancing are intrinsically better activities than reading ~ certainly I don't think they're worse, but everyone has a right to their own preferences.

    As to the perceived high-brow-ness of reading keeping people from it... I hadn't thought of that! I work in a library and see a wide variety of people reading for such a wide variety of reasons, because they liked the movie, because they want to improve their English or are lonely for their first language or want a how-to book of some kind. Actually this raises quite an interesting question, why do people read? I'm thinking of patrons I see in the library often, wondering now why they pick the books they do, for escape, entertainment, information?

    Anyways! I have had one patron tell me rather proudly that she avoided reading wherever possible, including reading signs! At the library, we try to tie reading into other things people are interested in, as a way to show that it can be useful. At a bookstore I used to work at, there were those who were exclusive about only reading the right books, but at the library, I like that all reading is good reading and that each person has their own reason and need for books.

  32. Great post, Nymeth! I don't find people defensive when I bring up reading, but I do notice that they're surprised with how much I read or by the fact that I even read.

    Last week I had a huge stack of books to check out from the library and while I was in line,this guy just stared at me the whole time. It was like he didn't or couldn't understand that I was going to check the whole stack out to READ.

    As an English major, I haven't found many other students that read as much as I do. It seems like they rarely read which I think is odd.

    I think I get defensive when it comes to reading. I had a roommate once who didn't understand why I read to my kids at night. (She didn't last long.) I also think the reason why people are so surprised that I read has to do with my skin color. Even when it comes to people who are the same race. I don't know. . . it's just odd to me.

  33. I thought this was a really thoughtful and interesting post. I've never really held back my love for books, and I have to say that I've never felt like I should pretend I don't read as much as I do. Perhaps it's because most of my friends tend to be similarly book-minded, and so they understand! A few times I have mentioned that I tend to read upwards of 50 books a year to people who don't know me as well, and I've never gotten dismissive or confused reactions. Most people tend to think it's great!

  34. I can really, really relate to this post, Ana. Another thing I encounter is when non-readers ask me, just to be polite, "what are you reading? what is it about?" because they are really nice people, but they don't *actually* care what the book is about... then I always feel awkward, trying to explain the book to someone who isn't all that interested in the first place.

    Anyways. I usually find myself joking with people that I "have no life" or something - which isn't true. But it IS true that I'm more of a homebody than others, and yes, I'd rather spend my time reading than going to the mall, or watching most TV shows, for example. I think it's hard to explain to people the simple joy we find in reading, and as Amy said, some people truly don't like to read because it is hard for them. How can I explain that reading, for me, is just as "easy" as watching a movie is for someone else?

    I don't think I'm being very articulate, but yes. This post really made me think, and I think it's good for you to be thinking about this stuff when you are gearing up to be a librarian!

  35. As usual, an insightful and well thought out post, Ana, and one that sparked lots of comments! I agree with your idea of "reading as a social construct". Working in education I see the stress that is put on students to be reading by a certain age and the social pressure to stop reading (particularly for boys) upon entering adolescence. I am very lucky to work in an environment where reading (and writing)are praised, honored and discussed through the 8th grade.

    Personally, I have always been a reader and was teased all through school about it. As I grew older I learned that how I choose to spend my time is not a sign of how "smart" or "social" I am. It is how I choose to spend my time! I talk about reading and books with people who love reading and books. When I tell people I don't watch TV we usually have interesting discussions about why I made that choice. Have a great week!

  36. What a great post!

    Heh... I have an easy out. I'm expected to read a lot, *because* I'm a librarian. Still, I've always been a voracious reader; I come from a family of readers (that makes a big difference in the perception of "acceptable behavior," I've found) and all of my friends read. I've never been ashamed of it, but I'm used to people being a bit taken aback by my answer to the numbers question (I'm usually reading 2-3 books at the same time).

    What I find curious is that the dubious response isn't for reading in general-- it's for reading *books.* People think nothing about reading magazines, or reading the paper. (I bet you'll find a lot of men who "don't read" do read a newspaper daily or weekly.) Plenty of parents still have a problem with their kids wanting to read comic books (yes, it has pictures, but they're STILL READING).

    Yes, I've used reading as an excuse to be lazy and put off doing things I should be... but I also read before bed, and on the train, and while waiting in line. How is it "lazy" to want to occupy my mind? I think people have a problem with it because it's such a solitary activity. People who enjoy being social can't imagine why someone would prefer the company of a book. Personally, I'm an introvert, and a book will never get offended at me for putting it down or falling asleep or rushing off to do something else.

    The next time someone guiltily mutters that they should "read more," agree with them! Ask them about the last book they really loved, or what they enjoy, and recommend a title or two. :)

  37. I encounter this sort of thing all the time, from both strangers and friends. I find that a lot of times people will assume that I do nothing but read, or that I only enjoy reading. I do become a bit defensive when people assume that my being a reader necessarily means that I don't do anything else--I study, work, blog, write, draw, and go out on the town. I do not spend every minute of the day with a book in hand and I hate that I even have to defend my preference for reading.

    Then there are those who assume that I read because I work in a library. Sorry to burst their bubble, but reading fiction has absolutely nothing to do with working in a medical library.

    It seems to me that people have this idea of reading as an activity that requires your full attention... if you are reading it must mean that there is some other activity that you are not doing, resulting in the notion that you must have time to read (rather than make time) or you must give something up.

    I'm not sure how we can go about fixing this. Going into the library profession myself, it is an issue that I also consider near and dear. I don't want people to feel that reading should be a prescribed task, an "it's good for you, so you must do it" activity, but it's difficult to break away from this notion when its become so widespread.

  38. Now that I've had a chance to read the comments, I've decided I must be REALLY weird, because I like to read AND watch TV! Yep. I do both. It can be done. I don't see it as a one or the other choice there. Especially now that TV is pretty much available anytime you want it.

    See... told you I get defensive! :)

  39. Wonderful post. I have to say that I am an out-and-proud bookworm, even though my reading isn't all that much to trumpet about (about a book or two a week). I think reading is VERY important and more especially, it's very important TO ME. Other people have no problem talking about going to the baseball game or wine-tasting or watching TV or cooking... I have no problem talking about my reading habit. Still, I know what you mean about people becoming defensive. The thing is, I feel like if that makes them reconsider their position on reading, then that's a good thing. No one should feel judged, but it's never bad to reconsider how we are spending our time, even if it's just to reconfirm that we are choosing the things that we like best to do. That said, because I am envious of other book-bloggers reading counts (because I would LOVE to be able to read that much), this post is an excellent reminder that we read as much as we can or choose to with our life circumstances. I have a full-time job plus many part-time jobs, a disabled partner, and a few other interests in addition to a reading addiction. So, with all that, a book and a half a week isn't too bad. :)

  40. For me, I always feel like people think I have all this time to read because I don't have children and if I just had kids then I wouldn't read so much. Obviously from reading so many blogs by friends who do have kids (and often read more than me!) I realize that's very far from the truth. But comments like that (from non-readers) make me feel like they are judging me. I'm thinking you don't know about all of my family responsibilities like the fact that I care for an aging parent, etc.

    I think reading is something you commit to do because you love. I know even when I'm super busy and have been so stressed out, I still try to get in at least a couple of pages a night before going to bed.

    So while I don't necessarily hide the fact that I'm a reader, I don't rarely mention books and/or reading to non-readers. Maybe I should start doing that and some people might get encouraged to read!

  41. I have noticed that too! I've never understood it though. It's strange how reading is often categorized with fruits and veggies, isn't it? I wonder if the reason readers are considered cultured and smart is a throwback to when only the rich could afford books?

  42. I find these days that I am more shy about how little I read compared to my fellow bloggers rather than how much I read in comparison to my offline friends and family.

    Today as I read wrap-up posts, I find myself questioning whether I even deserve the title "book lover" given how little I read. And I find myself using the same excuses you mention nonreaders using: work, family obligations, etc. I sure hope I don't make anyone feel bad by that. It's more my feeling bad and trying to cover it up or, at least, make myself feel better. I do work a lot and I do have family obligations. And I have other interests that keep me from reading.

    I think it's awesome that some people are able to read so much, and some of those people have much busier lives than I do. I want to be like them! Compared to the non-reader though, I'm sure many think all I do is read.

    I've run into the scenarios you describe, people thinking I must not have a life because of how much I read.

    So, in a way, I can see both sides.

    I think how much or how little a person reads is something that has to be an individual choice. I wish everyone liked to read, but I understand that not everyone does enjoy it.

  43. I've been lucky lately in that my friends and coworkers are all avid readers who, rather than criticizing me for reading too much, take great interest in the books I'm working through. Many of them don't read nearly as much as I do but that's never caused problems between us. Some people like to take a walk during lunch, some like to chat with friends, and I like to read my book. It may only be an hour a day, but it makes a big difference to my state of mind.

  44. Your post is great! And reading everyone's comments has made for some food for thought. I once dated someone who got mad because I liked to read, and actually read quickly. But then again, he saw everything as a potential competition -- and he read slowly. Of course, there wasn't much I could do about the fact that I read quickly... and I never would talk to him about books, anyway.
    I don't always talk about how many books I read because I have had people react with negative comments. However, I'm always thrilled to talk to other people who DO read a lot (not only because it's fun, but also because I then don't feel like such a mutant). I'm a librarian and some of my co-workers are avid readers, and some are somewhat choosy, non-volume readers. In my previous work-life (in a law firm), I seemed to be the only person who read. In fact, one of my co-workers looked at me and said "Reading is boring." This was the same girl who didn't know the difference between fiction and non-fiction and asked me to explain it to her. Needless to say, I am much happier in a work environment now where I am surrounded by readers of various types.
    But I still don't necessarily talk about how much I read. I know I'm a book addict. But I don't need everyone to know. :)

  45. this is such a great discussion post and although i haven't had a chance to read ALL comments, the ones i've read have been great.

    i can definitely relate to a lot of what you are saying. people don't understand how i can manage to read as much as i do, and i'm definitely not at the high end of the spectrum in terms of speed or quantity. but, some people do tend to assume things about me and my social life (of lack of) and what it must imply about my life and schedule.

    interestingly enough, my second hobby after reading is training for triathlons. and people just can't grasp how i can do both. it's like a contradictions of terms and you can see the brain clash as they try to process it. much the same way

    one of the biggest insults that i've ever seen on this matter was in regards to single mothers. there are several that i know that love to read and they seem to take the biggest hit (that social construct thing you mentioned) in terms of misunderstood responsibilities. you hear people say things like 'oh, well they have so much time because they just stay home all day'.

    i could probably go on, but i love that you posted this. it is such a wonderful, thoughtful post!

  46. I read all the comments and really have nothing to add except "me too!" And this: if you think it's bad now, wait till you get the comments that come to you when you go to library school! "Oh? studying how to alphabetize?" "What? They actually have a SCHOOL for that?!!" "What do you do: learn how to attach chains to your glasses?" etc etc etc And the one I hated the most: "Oh, you must read a lot of books!" grrrrrrr

  47. Very good post, Ana. I certainly understand and have experienced the whole prejudice against reading thing, and it is almost always a slightly veiled idea that I as a reader don't have my priorities completely right, that perhaps more time should be spent on the day to day things that need to be done rather than reading. I know my wife has felt this same thing as well. Mostly it comes from either adults older than us or people our age that have more children then we have.

    I tend to just brush it off rather than get into an argument with them, and argument I'm sure I could probably win but not without some casualties. I think all of those things that might be put under 'entertainment' or 'leisure activities', which include all of the things you mentioned plus taking walks, hanging out with friends, eating out, etc. are things that each person has to decide how they want to prioritize. It just so happens with those of us who read that we will make time for it.

    I often joke with people who say, 'how do you find time to read' that I do so by reading on the throne! Truth is, I do. If I'm in the bathroom, I'm generally reading. If I go to grab something for lunch and am waiting in a drive through line, I might get a paragraph or two or a page or two in. I always carry a book with me so that if I end up having to wait somewhere for something I can use the time doing something I love--reading!

    I love movies, love video games, and love television. I just don't devote as much time to those things as I do reading. And although I like having a clean house and a nice yard, etc., I will never be the kind of person who uses their weekend to solely concentrate on getting some kind of project done. One of my 'projects' is reading. It enriches and enhances my life and I'll be darned if anything will stop me from doing it or feeling bad about it.

    I try not to take it personally when I get the impression that someone feels my reading is a waste of time. In the end it turns out not to be that hard because I truly feel sorry for them. I cannot imagine a life that isn't filled with the magic and pleasure that books bring. And it isn't about 'escaping' from something, not most of the time. I love life. I love having adventures, the ones I go out and have and the ones I go on in my mind when I am reading.

    I think you'll definitely confront this issue working in the library system, and I sincerely hope that in any of those instances that you will have the inspiration and the insight to be able to impart your obvious passion for reading to the person you are talking to. That passion can be infectious and it is a passion worth sharing.

  48. This is an interesting topic. Especially so for me, I think, because though I've always loved reading, I didn't really become such an avid reader till about a couple of years ago. Before that, whenever a friend told me they spent the weekend reading, or that they had read the entire Harry Potter series, I'd look at them weird and straight blurt out: "Where in the world do you find the time? Don't you have anything else to do?" I found it impossible, then, to imagine how one could have the time to read when there were endless assignments and projects and mountains of studying to do.

    But like you said, it's about making the time, and now I think I can see things from both sides of the spectrum. On the one hand, I really love reading, and I can read quite quickly sometimes. On the other hand, I've got so many other interests as well that I can totally understand why someone one prefer going out and watching a movie or listening to music over reading. Sometimes I even like to just sit and stare into space, because that's what energises me.

    But I don't think I get that many 'defensive' responses when I tell people that I've been reading. Mostly they find the topic boring and it won't even be a minute before they start talking about some other stuff. =)

  49. I think a lot of non-readers are thinking back to school days when reading was work and boring. They don't see it as something enjoyable, so when you say you read as a hobby they equate it to saying "i wash dishes as a hobby" or "I scrub floors as a hobby". i think they believe at best reading is neutral but certainly not something anyone would find fun. so if you do read it must be because you are smart or want people to think you are.

    that being said, i haven't personally had too many issues with people being really defensive. i read a lot at work between calls when it is slow. I did have someone ask once if i really was reading the books or just bringing in a different one every few days. I found that a bit insulting as it implied i was lying but mainly the reaction of my coworkers is good.

  50. Hm. Books don't come up in conversation very much, but I get this for not having a TV. People see it as a protest and a condemnation, when really it is just a preference. I try not to mention it, but it comes up. One of my TV-loving aunts harbors such deep irritation that whenever she brings up something pop-culturey, she prefaces it it with an accusatory, "Well you probably don't know anything about this, since you don't watch TV," then sighs and fills me in on the celebrity back-story I was arrogant enough to have missed.

    Nothing to say to that kind of attitude without making yourself unpleasant. I just put on the contrite, absent-minded-professor act and pretend to be interested.

    I suppose there *must* be people who like foreign films, weird music, old books, and obscure art *just* to make others feel stupid, since they are so prepped for that response. However, I think the greatest burden of social discomfort is on people who don't have popular tastes. We learn very early to be vague about our enthusiasms so as not to hurt feelings or inspire hostility. Whereas, the people who like stuff they can count on other people having heard of can speak freely about it.

    I can see it from the other side too, though. I must seem awfully unresponsive to people when all their usual conversational gambits fail, and my own are so labored and desperate as to seem positively condescending.

    Worst possible thing to say in casual conversation: "No I haven't seen [insert blockbuster film], but I've read the book it was based on."

  51. This is a fantastic post! I am not a closet reader anymore. Something happened to me this past year where I do not care anymore what people think of me. I proudly declare what I read and am not ashamed to say just how much I read. I love the fact that my love of reading, and the fact that I remain an unabashed fan of it, has sparked some amazing discussions with my friends. I have also influenced others to actually pick up a book now and then. That remains my goal regarding my love of literature. I will even support my friends with their love of Nicholas Sparks because it means supporting literacy.

    People can judge me for "wasting my time", but then again, is reading ever a waste of time? I don't judge them for the time they spend watching TV or shopping or playing video games. In the end, we should all appreciate each other's gifts and hobbies because they are what make each of us unique.

  52. What an interesting post. I think I've been pretty lucky. The people that I end up talking to about my reading have yet to really take a defensive stance against how much I read. I do see what you're saying, though, and it is kind of depressing. It's like reading, to many people, is the entertainment equivalent of eating broccoli and spinach something that's a "should do" that you know is "good for you" but in the end, you'd much rather be watching TV or, you know, eating a gigantic piece of chocolate cake. I hope that this sort of "should do" stigma can be broken and that people will crack a book once in a while and realize that reading a book can be more on par with chowing down on that chocolate cake than choking down a salad without dressing just because it's supposed to be good for you.

    I think book bloggers can combat that sort of stigma just by existing. It would be nice to know that people look at what we do and our natural excitement about books and think, "Hey, look at all these hundreds of people that are really enjoying books without *working* at it. Maybe this reading thing is actually worth setting some time aside to do just because it's ::gasp:: actually, secretly fun and not just something my english teacher hounded me to do in school!" I mean, I hope that's something we do. I'm not in for making people read because they "should," but I'm all about getting people to see that reading is fun and rewarding and definitely not a "should" but a *want to.*

    (And, yes actually, there are some people out there whose apparently natural enthusiasm about spinach has actually prompted me to eat and occasionally enjoy spinach. So hey, I guess it can happen in other avenues, too... ;-))

  53. I don't hide my reading at all. I read at work on my lunch hour and most of my family are readers. I do find that many non-readers tell me they "don't have time to read" b/c of having kids. I never thought that they might feel I am judging them but that they are judging me for my different life choices of not having kids. I always tell them I know lots of reads that have kids and time to read. I resent when they use kids as an excuse b/c they were non-readers before.
    Reading is important to me, very important. it may not be important to others and I can respect that, just not when they make excuses.

  54. Wonderful post Nymeth! I often am shy about talking books or reading with those I don't know very well, for many of the reasons you mention. Even my reading friends tend to laugh behind their hands about my obsession with reading, and often, it hurts my feelings. Why shouldn't books and reading be a central part of someone's life? Why should someone be made to feel ashamed of having an interest that so encompasses their attention and free time? I never belittle anyone for how they spend their time, or tell them that what they like to do is a waste of time and energy, and I get really offended when someone does it to me. I often get the defensive attitude when people ask me how much I read. They almost seem to sneer a little bit when they find out how much I love to read. I try to tell myself that it doesn't matter, but often it makes me very upset. I can't imagine a more rewarding and edifying hobby than reading almost anything you can get your hands on, and I have learned so,so much from my reading, but often people will act like I am wasting my time and am ignoring the better parts of life because I am a bookworm. I know just what you are talking about, and I often wonder how to handle it.

  55. Most people who know me realize that I read all of the time. I've never shied away from telling someone that I read way too much and that at time I force my husband and son to eat sandwiches because I'm too involved in a book to fix them a proper dinner!! :D

  56. "I so wish we could talk about reading without the conversation becoming about measuring different life priorities or goals against each other. " I hear that loud and clear. I love this post. I don't understand why it seems to become a competition. I also don't think I should have to hide how much I read in order to avoid making people feel uncomfortable. They don't hide their children from me because they are afraid I might not feel bad for having kids. We are who we are...

  57. Woops...that last comment didn't make sense. I meant, they don't hide their kids because they are afraid they will make me feel bad for not having kids.

  58. I usually tell people that my reading is my main hobby and then compare it to a hobby they have. For example I'm a reader first and crafter second. I'm always amazed by my friends who are crafters first and churn out 5 sweaters a week. When they comment about my reading habits or number of books I've read, I ask them to picture all the times they knit/stitch and tell them while they are doing that I'm reading. Then I explain this is why I only finish 5 craft projects a year.

    Usually they feel less like I'm being a snot.

  59. Best post Evah! I deal with this crap all the time too and I'm sorry to hear that you do too :( Especially at work...people will ask what I do and I say "I like to read". That gets a strange enough look. And then when people ask how many books I read and I say anywhere from 75-100 books a year it's like I grew a fing horn out of my head :/ But you're so's just my past time. It's what I enjoy. It's my passion. It's what I put my time into.

    And by the way, I think you should TOTALLY do a post on gender and reading too. I also get weird looks because I'd rather read than play sports :/ But I honestly don't care about that. It's just sad to me.

  60. Great post, Ana! I kept nodding my head the whole time while reading your opinions. :D

    I suppose this all points out to how much a reader (or non-reader) will make the time & effort for reading. Overall, I think it's unfair to judge a person no matter if they're a reader or non-reader, or what they read for that matter. After all, this is all about individual's taste/preference. There's no right or wrong about it.

  61. That was an interesting post Nymeth. Thankfully I have not had a lot of negative or defensive reactions.

    My husband before we got married said that I was weird, but in a good way, because I read so much.

    As Melody said, it's not fair to judge anyone on the basis of whether they read or not. If people are being defensive it means they are somewhere insecure or are judging themselves.

  62. I had quite the struggle with this when I was younger. I used to always have a bag so I could hide that I had books with me. And then one day, I just decided that it wasn't worth it.

    But I completely understand your point. When I figured out how many books I had read last year, I was really proud of myself, because it was a few more than I was expecting. When I told my mom, her response was "Think of how many loads of laundry you could do in that time!"

    We had a long discussion about how much laundry I actually do, and how much reading I'm still able to squeeze in.

    I'm so glad you're writing and thinking about this, bringing it up.

  63. The key is openness to reading.

    We have an idiom here in the Philippines that basically translates to "It's hard to wake up someone who's pretending to sleep." (Of course it sounds better in my native tongue). One cannot force someone into reading. One must be open, receptive to it. As a future librarian, your challenge is to inspire others to read! Easier said than done, I know, but it's a challenge worth doing. Considering that you've made a lot of readers read more books through your blog, I'm sure that your interactions with your future clients would yield the same results. Good luck with that, Ana!

  64. I sometimes am a closet bookworm, but only when it comes to how many new books I've acquired and put on the shelf without reading. But I know what you mean about people getting defensive. It's such a shame that avid readers feel like they have to say 'sorry' for reading so much. I normally tend to answer that with my book reading and buying, I help keep up the economy. Shuts most of them up. While I was writing my thesis and studying for exams, I often preferred TV over books, because it's sometimes easier to relax when you don't have to put in any effort. But I never leave the house without a book and I enjoy my 10-minute reading time on the bus in the morning.
    So, don't let them get you down - we bookworms will rule the world one day. :)

  65. I don't discuss my reading with anyone in real life. It's sort of like a secret vice; I like to cosy up in bed with War & Peace. :)

  66. Great post Nymeth! I have given this a lot of thought back when I was in collage for I had only one friend who liked reading as much as I did and there were times when people got down right aggressive about us reading so much. Reading is the one of those activity that’s associated with intelligence (I’m not saying that it is true or not but it is what the general idea is) which could explain why hearing certain numbers can automatically get some people defensive…
    There is this thing about reading- if you’re an opera freak, see a different play every night or simply know about all the sculptures in the world, no one will feel patronized when you say it out loud. I mean, they will think you’re pretty weird, interesting, even amusing but I doubt that it’ll annoy anyone.
    Reading however, is a different story. Nonreaders really do get defensive so what I do is, I simply say, “hey- I’m a writer, it’s my job to read, just like it’s your job is to … (type in whatever the annoyed person is doing) :)
    I just “happen” to skip the part where I actually enjoy my job! ;)

  67. Wow, you've had quite the response! A great post. I agree that I'm becoming a closet bookworm ever since I finished uni. Uni made me being shut up by myself with a book legitimate but apparently that ends once formal education ends. When people ask me what I do with my time outside work, I find myself playing down reading. When I do say I read, they always go 'and?' with the slightly raised eyebrow.

    It's funny that reading a lot would sound like a time waster but watching t.v and talking on the phone doesn't.

  68. Since I mostly socialize in academic circles, I no longer have conversations about reading that are like this. Usually the other person tells me what arcane books he's been reading in his speciality, and I tell him all the fun stuff I get to read since I'm not a "serious" academic. Then he looks down his nose at me, and I go away happy because I'm not spending my life delving ever deeper into the books of his specialty--or mine.

  69. One of my general life goals is just to get people to read in general. What saddens me is when people say they never read, or that they haven't finished a book since college (or high school). I try to present it to people as one of the big 4 options of entertainment--videogames, tv, movies, and reading. I think life is more fun if you partake in all of those, and not just a couple of them. I try to get people to look at and talk about it as entertainment and brush off my rather large reading count as just being due to the fact that I'm an "abnormally fast reader," if it ever comes up.

  70. First, let me say holy cow. Has a post ever spurned such a return of comments and long, thoughtful ones?! Excellent post, and I believe its essence is here: "it’s in the fact that readers make reading a priority."

    I actually don't apologize for the reading I do. Truth is, I don't have the time to read near as much as I'd like to. I would love to spend the first three hours of every Saturday morning drinking coffee and reading. I would love to spend an hour every evening in the tub with bubbles, wine and a book. Every day that it rains (as it is doing here today), I'd love to have a couple of hours on the sofa with Annie napping on my lap while I'm immersed in another place.

    And because this is not how it is, I know that I have my priorities in line correctly. My family and work comes first. But as soon as I have time for me, I read. And so I never apologize.

  71. Apparently the latest stats show that Canadian children watch six hours of television a day. A DAY. (I rely on obscure canlit mama at for my data.) That's a novel a day, people. It's a simple matter of priorities, and I don't think anyone should have to apologise for making books a priority.

  72. I can relate to this on so many levels, and apparently so can 71 other people since there are so many comments already.

    I'll just say that I have at points in the past been rather embarrassed. But since some "in real life" friends of mine found my blog and mentioned it to each other, I have felt less embarrassed. No one has told me that "they have better things to do" but they often express amazement that it is possible to read so much as a wife and mother to a busy toddler. I guess I just see it as my outlet, not tv, not even music. And my son is now loving reading too, and I think that is a good motivation to keep up the habit :)

  73. Thank you everyone for your thoughtful comments! And apologies for not replying one by one - I'm horribly behind on everything so I might as well cheat a little bit and try to catch up :P It's comforting to know some of you have experienced similar things, and it's also interesting to see that some of you haven't.

    I agree that the judgemental behaviour goes both ways: non-readers may feel judged, but they often don't hesitate to judge readers in return, to accuse them of wasting their time, and so on. I really wish this didn't happen so often. And I really hope that I didn't sound like I was judging people for not reading myself. I meant to say that because of how most people think about reading, it's easy to sound that way even when being judgemental is the last thing we mean to do. Like Molly said, it's easy for people to expect to be admonished for not reading more. Yet it's also easy for them to sound smug about how productive they are - unlike readers.

    The point Amy made about how reading isn't necessarily pleasurable for people who have difficulty doing it is an excellent one - and it's something I should have thought of. That makes campaigns that focus on the appeal of reading problematic as well, because they're sure to make people who find reading so difficult inadequate. I guess the only thing we can do is stress that with adult literacy programs, it's never too late to learn again? It's a delicate issue, though, exactly because society associate being able to read well with intelligence. Sadly I think there's no way people aren't going to feel embarrassed at the very least :\

    Also, what some of you said about how people bring up having or not having children as an explanation for reading or not reading really angers me, and it's something I expect I'll hear more and more as I grow older (along with *other* less than flattering comments about my choice not to have children...). Plus what Madeleine said about people blaming reading for her divorce horrified me :\ I'm SO SO sorry you had to deal with that, Madeleine!

    To Suey and Amy and anyone else who enjoys TV: I don't think that being passionate about both is weird at all!

    Jill - Learn how to attach chains to your glasses? Ha, I'm actually looking forward to having someone tell me something like that. The potential for snarky responses is endless :P

    The insinuation that we bring a different book to work every few days just to pretend that we read a lot and to look smart: ha, I've been told that too. I don't even know what to say :S

    Thank you again for commenting, everyone, and I'm sorry I'm not responding individually!

  74. Very off topic, but relating to your response, Ana - I know what you mean about the kid comments! I so hate the implication that you are somehow selfish because you don't want kids! Also the insinuation that you'll change your mind as you age. Sigh.

  75. very good post

    Im quite honest about the amount I read but I do tend to follow it with 'but I dont watch much TV' which is true but I wonder why I say that.

    The only time I felt a little bad was when someone at work was bragging that she read 6 books a year and I replyed that I could clear that easily in a month. I then worried that she might think I was 'stuck up' for saying that but I was just making conversation.She didnt take offence it was just me worring over nothing.

  76. Hi Nymeth. I appreciated Amy's comment as well! I fits right in with what I remember from school, and the way I've heard other people describe their "reading group" experiences as a child.

    I hope this isn't presumptuous, but I can't resist a book recommendation: Beyond Motherhood by Jeanne Safer. It was written in 1996 so the experiences are mostly of our mother's/ grandmother's generation, but it was a great book, largely autobiographical, by a delightful writer (a psychologist). The subject doesn't lend itself to kindly, balanced books, but this was a bit like a bunch of older women showing you the ropes.

  77. Excellent post and most interesting comments too!
    I've never been all that secretive about my reading, loving books is part of who I am, just as much as my love of videogames and my hatred of most tv shows.
    Most of the people I know read, even though it most read less than me. I've never had a problem with people becoming defensive in conversations, but I have felt judged as nerdish or having no life. Sometimes when friends are going to the clubs or having Sex & The City martini marathons I decline because I honestly want to stay home with a book. And then I get teased. Granted my friends do it in a good-natured way, but I still wonder to myself why wanting to read a book rather than drink myself silly makes me not have a life? There is no answer really, but at least I remain happily a hangover free bookworm :)

  78. Great post Nymeth. I wish I had more time to read. But with the baby, it's been pretty hard the last months. I love to read and if I didn't have such a busy life, I would probably spend my days in bed, reading:)

    Anyway, I try to make time to read, and I try to read whenever my little one is asleep during the day. But now, she doesn't sleep as much as she used to, that's why I don't read as much as I used to:((

    Hopefully, I will manage to read more in the near future, as it's a passion, it's necessary for me:) It's my 'me' time, where I can relax and forget about anything that surrounds me!

  79. I think this is a fascinating post, Ana, because I have often considered the "time" issue from two different perspectives.

    First, like you- there's reading. I don't know if it's necessarily seen as high-brow or just low priority? I don't think people consider certain genres high brow, so I don't know if the act of reading itself can really be "high brow." But I can see where you get that impression, which worries me. Particularly when I put it next to the other issue I often see this come up with.

    I also really enjoy cooking. I LOVE cooking for friends/family and having them come over for a meal. Apparently, this is odd. I am not sure when cooking became a hobby instead of a necessary skill, but I can't count the number of times I have had someone tell me "I wish I had time to cook, but X," as though it's perfectly normal and acceptable to eat out ALL THE TIME. In fact, I often get the impression from subtext that I don't work that hard if I have time to cook, or that I am way too traditional or goodness knows what else. In which case, cooking takes on a "low brow" connotation.

    In my opinion, people are fairly self-absorbed, naturally. So whatever they do in their spare time, they consider to be at the correct social strata. Whatever they do NOT do is either really snobby or really... what is the opposite of snobby? Common? I feel like most people don't consider that everyone has different priorities, or that people get more enjoyment out of certain activities than others. When value judgments are made, they're made based on YOUR perceptions, not on someone else's. And so the defensiveness comes out, I feel, to justify what they spend their own time doing.

    Anyway, that's what I think, often :-)

  80. Amy: Sigh, I hate it too :\ Sure, we could change our minds, but so could people who have always wanted kids. Yet *they* are not patronised all the time.

    Jessica, thank you! I'm so glad that person took no offense :)

    Trapunto: How could a book recommendation from you ever be presumptuous? I live for book recommendations from interesting people! And the book sounds amazing - I could do with older women showing me the ropes, as the ones in my own family tend to express their disappointment over my choice in loud, stern voices :\

    Joanne: Yes, exactly - it's just a *different* sort of life.

    Andreea: I completely understand - life circumstances really do affect how much someone gets to read. Which is why I really don't pay much mind to numbers at all!

    Aarti: Like I told you on Twitter, I really appreciate that your comment made me think about this differently. I'd never compared this with attitudes towards other hobbies because sadly I haven't *had* any other hobbies in years :P Well, there's blogging, but that's an extension of reading. But yes, people do tend to dismiss whatever *they* don't think is a priority as a "waste of time". I'm going to watch out for this tendency myself!

  81. I am an out of the closet bookworm. I wave my bookworm flag proudly. And that has gotten me into more than a few conversations like the one you describe. I encounter it the most with my women friends who definitely take the defensive tact with me. When they tell me they are too busy to read as much as I do I don't bother to argue any more. I just say "wow, that's too bad, you are really missing out".

  82. I don't talk about my reading much at all, but I have had people just assume that I was smart because I read all the time. Considering I typically read for just pure entertainment value, I always found that really odd.

    I also liked how said most people assume reading is more enlightening than watching TV or movies. I think people believe watching TV is easier than reading, so they'd just rather do the latter. Kids who struggle with reading when they're younger obviously are not going to want to do it for fun when they grow up, right?

  83. I'll add my voice and say YES! Great post here, lots to talk about but I'll try to keep it short. I hate talking about reading with non readers, it all gets so complicated. I always feel like a bit of a fraud anyway when they get that 'you are a reader, you think you are so smart' look in their eye because I have some pretty big gaps in my classics reading (doesn't everyone?). The other day someone said they were sure I must have read all of Jane Austen's books (in a judging way) and I had to reply that I'd only read 2, then try to explain that I couldn't bear to have no more Jane Austen to read for the first time. But le sigh it was like they'd discovered I wasn't as smart as I made out (I'm not sure I have ever claimed to be smart, or well read, just a reader). It is like a competition or something.

    And yes the difference between readers and non readers is not that we read to the exclusion of all else, but that the urge to read at least a little each day is there. I love to go out and I watch quite a bit of tv as well, but I make time for a lunch break every day so I can read.

    I am currently very busy hiding the fact that I am reading Anna Karenina, because really how do you reply to 'What are you reading?' with that answer unless you're among readers. You'd sound like a tool.

  84. I tell people if they ask. But usually I don't volunteer the info.

  85. Crap. this will be comment 85? I promise I'll leave you alone soon... :P

    This is a topic that has kind of come full circle for me the past few months. I used to get truly annoyed when people would tell me they didn't have time to read. Make the time! Although, I used to read before work and during my lunch hours and now both of these times have been taken away from me due to busier work schedule. Solution I guess could be get up earlier. Or give up the four hours I have in the evening with my husband before going to bed.

    Anyway, whining aside--interesting comment you make about the appeal of reading versus the benefits. I wonder if one might lead to the other? When I find a reluctant reader (husband or brother are examples), I find it more productive suggesting a book that I know they'll enjoy and will then be more likely to finish than something I think they should read. For me the hope is that they WILL enjoy that book and then seek out others to recapture that joy than be frustrated and give up.

    Like eating healthy. It's easier to sell people on healthy if it tastes good rather than sell healthy based on the fact that it's healthy. Does that at all make sense?

  86. Hi Ana, I get all sorts of comments about my reading habit but they're mostly good ones. I make time to read and I've read less this year compared to the last two but I'm OK with it. The key is to enjoy the process and read whenever I can even if it's for only 15 minutes.


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