Awkward conversations with non-readers

As a comparative literature student and a self-proclaimed book-nerd, I often find myself in situations and conversations with people who do not like to read (at all). These conversation tend to range from very serious to hilarious, and I am sure many of you can relate to these type of situation.  I would like to share and take a look in the world of ‘a reader’, and share one of my stories every week. 

This week’s story outlines a situation that I have encountered many times – in many forms.

When in public, – a social event, at work, etc. -, meeting new people, one of the first questions that almost always arises is: “What do you study?” When I first started studying I was always thrilled to answer that I am a comparative literature student. I thought it was cool, something few people (at least in my country – the Netherlands) did. That has changed, A LOT. Lately, I catch myself literally shuddering when someone (especially people who never dare to touch a book)  ‘pops the question’. Don’t get me wrong, I like that people try to be interested in something that they do not care for. But most of the time they don’t even try to hide it, which leaves the rest of the conversation hanging between really awkward and predictable. Nine out of ten times this is how the conversation continues:

Me: I study comparative literature.

(10 second silence)

Collocutor: So, do you have to read a lot of books?

Me: Yes, I read at least three books a week.

(10 seconds of shock)

Collocutor: THREE BOOKS A WEEK? That is a lot. Do you still have time to do things you like?

Me: Yes, but reading is one of them.

(At this point most of the people forget they were acting interested. Also, they have reached a level beyond shock. It might be that they just realized for the first time that some people actually like to read books)

Collocutor: I don’t get how one can like reading, it’s the most boring thing. I never read. Well, sometimes when I am on vacation I do.

(a few seconds of silence – probably trying to remember the title of one of the two books he/she once read. – I do like to learn about other peoples reads, but in this type of conversations this is almost always the worst point, by far)

Collocutor: I did read (this can be any type of book, but most of the time they name some kind of Fantasy book I have never heard of.) once. It was great! Did you read it?

Me: No, sorry, never heard of it. But If you name me the author I can l maybe look it up (If it really is great, I would not want to miss it!)

(Stares a few seconds in true horror)

Collocutor: You don’t know it!? I thought you studied literature. How can you not know it!?

At this point I am almost upset, which is in some way also targeted on my own short commings as a human: a human life is simply not long enough to read all books ever written or even all the books on my (never ending) to-read list (oh, how I wish I could read them all). And I am sure many other readers once came to this conclusion. Maybe I should keep in mind that it is not something that has crossed a non-readers mind. So, for once and for all: no! I did not read your favorite book, I did not read A LOT OF BOOKS. Thanks for asking.

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Awkward conversations with non-readers

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