Poor – narcissistic – mindset

Featured imageLast weekend, I was rereading Anna Karenina by Tolstoy – which is one of my favorite classic novels, I just can’t get enough of it!-, when I found myself rereading one particular line multiple times. This line seemed to summarize exactly what I was thinking about lately: people on social media who brag about their many “good deeds”. I don’t know exactly why, but it makes me furious.

I love the fact that a lot of people try to do something good for others, but please do it for the right reasons! I just feel like a lot of people do this to feel good about themselves. Still happy they do help other people with their narcissism. Nevertheless I cannot help but feel a little irritated when I see a lot of glorifying comments on their “good deeds”-statuses on social media. This feeling got a lot stronger when I heard the following story from my best friend. It does not have do something to do with “good deeds” in particular, but it does underline exactly what I mean.

My best friend went on a trip to Thailand and Vietnam. She was traveling with a group of people when they met a girl who was backpacking on her own. I think they only saw her for a day, but all the girl did was ask everyone to take pictures of her – the entire time!- . At some point, the group – and the girl – arrived at a place where some (poor) kids were playing. The girl asked my friend (or someone else of the group, not sure) to take a picture. When someone agreed the girl went on, grabbed a kid, smiled for the picture, put the kid down without saying a word and left. I don’t know if it’s just me (well, it was not, because my friend was also stunned by this), but I could not believe this. I mean, how does this even come to a person? This is not normal. Those kids are human beings, like you and me. It was not hard for me to imagine her social media status about “how fun it was to play with those kids” and how “she made them smile” (I also see that kind of pictures a lot).

I don’t think this story exactly applies to the Anna Karenina quote I wanted to share (I will never know for sure if she did post the picture with the kids on social media), but it does embody what I mean about the people on social media I was talking about. Also, I felt like I just had to share this story. It is horrible. So, everyone, please:

“It’s much better to do good in a way that no one knows anything about it”

– Leo Tolstoy

On the bright side: Anna Karenina is a wonderful novel and it contains many beautiful quotes. I would recommend it to everyone who has not read it yet. Also, still happy a lot of good is done out of a poor – narcissistic – mindset. 

Poor – narcissistic – mindset

Awkward conversations with non-readers: Part 4

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 happened a while ago, about a bad very recommendation. 

This might not (at all!) be a surprise.. I spend a lot of time at bookstores. I love to walk along the many bookshelves and add numerous books to my to-read list (which is already way to long). This particular day I was looking at different Star Wars versions of some of Shakespeare’s work. I wondered if I really needed them (Nope! But they looked great and the text appeared to be funny), when one of the barista’s of my favorite coffee place walked in. He waved at me and starts looking around – looking kind of confused. I just decided to put down the Star Wars Shakespeare book (still proud of myself for not buying it!) and walk to the other isles, when I hear the barista ask one of the employees of the bookstore a question:

Barista: I am looking for a birthday gift for my daughter, but I don’t know exactly which book she would like. Can you maybe help me?

Bookstore employee: Yes, sure. Do you know what kind of books she usually reads?

Barista: I guess she is into the usual teenage stuff? She is fourteen years old. I know she loves the once who are kind of scary – with vampires.

As a regular customer at this bookstore, I know all the employees do know a lot about books. However, this one particular guy must not have been that into teenage vampire books or something. Because I see a little fear in his eye, he might not have had a real clue what to exactly answer. Quite frankly, this particular bookstore does sell a lot of books about history and science, maybe that was the bookstore employees genre.

I did get a little curious about his answer, so I faked interest in a book that I had already read and try to overhear what he was saying. After a few minutes, the bookstore employee recovered himself.

Bookstore employee: I think she would like this one by Sophie Kinsella. Also, I have a lot of similar once on that table.

(He pointed to a nearby table full of chick flicks. I could see he was hoping to just sell the barista that Sophie Kinsella book and be done with it)

Bookstore employee: But, I think she would definitely like this particular one.

At that point I was ready to help the poor barista (I saw his daughter once at the coffee place, and I was sure she would not like like chick flicks AT ALL). But I didn’t have to.

Barista: I think she has already read that one. I think I saw her reading it. I am going to take a look at that table. Thanks for helping me!

He walked straight to the table and I followed him.

Me: I think you should try that side of store.

I pointed him to the YA side of the store.

Barista: Thank you! That guy had no clue what he was talking about! Even I know my fourteen year old vampire loving daughter would not like those womanly books.

I told him which books I think she would like and left the bookstore. A few days later I went to get some coffee and he told me his daughter was really happy with the YA books. He told her what happened. She told him she is indeed not a fan of chick flicks.

Did someone ever recommend you a book that you definitely did not like at all? And which one was it?  Love to hear it! 

Awkward conversations with non-readers: Part 4

5 Fictional characters I would definitely want to know in real-life.

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Sometimes a book is that great, it makes me feel like the characters in it are ‘real’. Like I know them personally. As if these characters are close friends of mine. I am sure this is something many of you can relate to. I also think this is one of those things that determines whether I like a particular book, or not.  These are five of the – many – fictional characters I would love to know in real-life:

1. Sancho Panza – Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes  

This man acts as a squire to Don Quixote. He is loyal, realistic and funny: the perfect sidekick. I would definitely want him as my companion on some weird road trip!

2. Gandalf the Grey – Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien 

I have so many reasons for this one. But mostly just because I think he is the wisest man in literature. I need someone that wise in my life. Just imagine being stressed out about some deadlines when suddenly Gandalf appears, being all wise: “All we need to do decide is what to do with the time that is given to us”. I am sure everything would seem a lot easier after that!

3. Lizzie Bennett – Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen

To me, she is one of the smartest and strongest women in literature. I think she is a great roll model, especially in her time (if I remember correct the novel is set around the year 1700). I would be proud to have her as a friend!

4. Ron Weasley – Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling 

Ron is another great sidekick he is loyal and funny as well. He is also really afraid of spiders, which is a big plus to me. I hate spiders more than anything else and it would be great to have a friend who fears them even more than I do.

5. Lisbeth Salander – Millennium series by Stieg Larsson    

First of all, who doesn’t want to have a female friend who is that good in hacking computers? That would be one of the coolest things! Second, she is cool, strong and fierce. Would not want to get in a fight with her!

I am really curious about the fictional characters you guys would like to know in real life! I am sure I missed a lot of characters who are really worth mentioning! 

5 Fictional characters I would definitely want to know in real-life.

AWKWARD CONVERSATIONS WITH NON-READERS: PART 3

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 a few times. 

Occasionally, I ask a non-reader why he or she does not read. Not because I want to persuade people who do not read into reading. I am just genuinely curious about their answers and I will definitely do my best to understand. There are a lot of answers to this question, and most of the time these conversations are pretty fun. Nevertheless, once in a while I encounter someone who appears to be offended by these type of questions. Very Rarely, someone gets REALLY offended. This happened a few weeks ago, while I talked to someone I just met. He told me he did not like to read. So, I asked him why:

(offended undertone)

Collocutor: Why do you ask!? What do you mean by that?

Me: I am just curious. I don’t mean anything with it.

Collocutor: I can just as well ask you why you DO read.

Me: Yes you can, I would be happy to answer that question.

(Ten seconds of silence)

Collocutor: That is not what this is about. And I don’t have to be ashamed that I am not a reader.

Me: Well that is not what I am implying at all. Just curious.

Collocutor: You don’t have to go smart-ass on me, just because I don’t read. I am not less smart than you, I might even be smarter.

I was not stating anything about who is smart or not and I was definitely not rude to him. I was just trying to get into a polite conversation. Also, I was a little sorry I asked, because he seemed to get a little aggressive about it.

Me: I am sorry if that’s what you think I meant, but I was just asking. Didn’t mean anything with it.

Collocutor: Yes you do, you are trying to prove something.

Me: And what exactly might that be?

Collocutor: That you are better, because you read those stupid books. People who read are boring. You are boring. You try to hide it by proving I am dumb, that is not going to work.

The ‘reading is for boring people’-statement I have heard many times, in many forms. So, I am not even shocked by this in particular. I am just a little stunned because this guy seems to get more and more aggressive about it by the minute. To be honest, I am happy to leave it as it is. Luckily for me, the conversation didn’t last long.

Still, I was stunned. Why was this guy so offended? I love reading, but that does not mean I will treat people who do not read differently.

AWKWARD CONVERSATIONS WITH NON-READERS: PART 3

I am not ashamed of this.

I thinks it is time I confess some of my reading habits. 

1. When I bought a book of which I also loved the cover, I sometimes buy the Kindle version as well. Yes, just to keep it as new.

Some people can read a book and put it back in their bookshelf like no one ever touched it. Well, not me. I hate this about myself, but I always get folds and chocolate stains in it (I like to eat chocolate while reading, maybe I shouldn’t).

2. Sometimes I compare people I encounter with fictional characters.

I once compared someone to Shakespeare’s ‘Iago’ (from Othello), which was totally permissible.

3. I sniff my newly purchased books. 

I can’t help it! Love the smell. I can’t be the only one, right?

4. I have different “categorized” piles of books in every imaginable place in my house. 

I have a nice bookshelf which is half full, because I have all of these small piles of “currently reading”, “want to read”, “nice covers” and “just finished” -books. In my mind they are perfectly categorized, but to anyone else it probably just looks like a lot of piles of books.

5. I read at least three books at the same time. 

I need to have different books for different times of the day: a ‘before I go to sleep’-book, a ‘during the day’-book, and a book that is really light for when my mind is blur after listening to too many lectures in one day.

So these are my weird reading habits, anyone who recognizes this? Or anyone who has other habits to share? Please, tell me!!

I am not ashamed of this.

Awkward conversations with non-readers: part 2

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 I tell people I am a comparative literature student, one question almost always arises: “What is your favorite book?” I like to talk about books, and I am almost always willing to start a conversation about every literature related topic whatsoever. Nevertheless, I am always kind of afraid that this question pops up. To be honest, I can not name one favorite book of mine in particular, the list of books I love is pretty much endless, and it somehow feels like betrayal to name just one. Now, this is not something that is very weird, – I am pretty sure many of you book-addicts can even relate to this – but to people who are not that much into reading it sometimes seems kind of hard – almost unbearable – to understand. Mostly, the conversation that follows continues more or less like this:

Collocutor: There MUST be one book, just one, that you can name.

Me: Nope. But I do like most of/all the work of Tolstoj/ Márquez/ Stephen King /Whoever else I like to mention at that moment.

(10 seconds of silence to process)

Collocutor:  But there must be one in particular that is your true favorite! Which one is it?

Me: I really can not answer that question.

Collocutor: Off course you can! Think really hard!

This goes on for pretty much 2-5 minutes. At this point I am getting a little frustrated, because the conversation seems to turn into a never-ending discussion. To them, the fact that I can not name one book, is pretty much incomprehensible. Also, some people think asking the question in a louder and louder volume, might help; you never know, maybe their voice will suddenly hit the better part of my brain and – BAM! – I do know what my favorite book is!

At this point I often get a little frustrated, because I even begin to doubt myself: maybe I am weird for not having a favorite book? So, sometimes I turn to the one and only answer I allow myself in these type of situations: my emergency answer.

Me: Okay, my favorite book is Harry Potter.

(Long silence to process again)

Collocutor: Your favorite book is Harry Potter!? I mean, I like Harry Potter, but I thought you would name something more… literature-like, everyone can read Harry Potter.                          (note: this is so wrong, in so many ways)

So, this is where I put all my effort into leading the conversation to Harry Potter, away from the ‘name one favorite book’-question. To be clear, I do love Harry Potter. Also, I think everyone can read EVERY book, not just Harry Potter-like books. Lastly, I know everyone knows something about Harry Potter, which makes it easy to turn the never ending discussion into a normal conversation again.

I do still wonder if I am one of the few people who does not have one favorite book. How do other people, who do not have one particular favorite, handle these kind of situations? Anyone? Please, tell me! 

Awkward conversations with non-readers: part 2

Apparently, I missed a male/female divide in literature

A few weeks ago I took a two hour train ride to my parents. Unlike most people, I am always happy to travel by train. To me, a train ride means me time, also known as READING TIME. That day I was reading The Circle by Dave Eggers. At the first train stop a man at about 50 years of age sat next to me. I immediately sensed that he was the type of man that is always looking for a conversation, I could tell by the way he tried to look at my book. I already prepared for him to ask what book I was reading (that happens a lot while reading in public, and I am always happy to answer the question), so when he finally started talking I was kind of stunned for a second: “Isn’t that a book for man you are reading?” 

Continue reading “Apparently, I missed a male/female divide in literature”

Apparently, I missed a male/female divide in literature

An ode to R.L. Stine and J.K. Rowling: childhood nightmares and dreams

I am convinced dreams are as important as nightmares. Although dreams are more preferable, I think we do need an occasional nightmare for our dreams to remain valuFeatured imageable. When I was about eight years old I discovered both R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series as well as the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling: both scared the hell out of me (although the fear I got from Goosebumps was on a whole other level, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named appeared in many of my nightmares as well). Nevertheless I am also very grateful to have read both as a kid. 

First, I would like to thank R.L. Stine for starting my endless love for the genre called horror, no doubt it started with his Goosebumps (and later on, Fear Street). I have read them all, and every single one of them gave me nightmares and numerous midnight cries. My parents always wondered why I kept reading them (luckily they never took the books away from me), and I myself do not have a clue either, except for the fact that they are also just a very good read. And still, I do this to myself: I know I get scared by scary stories, but I read (and watch horror movies) all the time. Recently, I have read and reread a lot of R.L. Stine’s work, every single one of them was as scary to me as it was eighteen years ago. It made me happy.

Although Voldermort was almost as scary to me as R.L. Stine’s Slappy the Dummy (in Dutch he is called ‘meneer van Houten’, which sounds way less scary!), J.K. Rowling is the one I would like to thank for my childhood dreams. My parents gave me my first Harry Potter book (which I do suspect to be an attempt to distract me from my Goosebumps collection, and additional nightmares). From the first page I was in love with Harry. I dreamed to be in Hogwarts all day, I have never hoped more for a fictional world to be real. I think all this dreaming made me a more creative person then I would have been otherwise: I created my own ‘wizarding world’ inside the one J.K. Rowling presented to me, a world that I could be part of. It started my own love for writing, and fed my love for reading.

An ode to R.L. Stine and J.K. Rowling: childhood nightmares and dreams

I have no words for this.

WFeatured imagehen I woke up this morning the sun was shining really bright, which made me instantly happy. So, I packed a book, some nice food and went to the park. Reading time!

When I got to the park, I instantly noticed that a lot of people were actually reading. And by a lot, I mean A LOT, like seventy percent of the people a lot. This is something that made me very happy, because lately all people read are other peoples social media statuses. Although it made me smile, it also made me kind of a creep. I´m way to curious about books and also other peoples reading habits, so I was (subconsciously) starring at other peoples books, eager to know what they were reading. Which took one really weird stare from a boy (who by the way was reading The Circle by Dave Eggers) for me to realize that it might creep the hell out of people. So I decided to focus on my own great piece of literature (which is One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez, not finished yet, but already love it).

After an hour or so, a mother and three young children sat next to me. Two of her children instantly ran to the playground. After ten minutes they were already sick of the swings and slides, so their mother gave them her iPhone to play games and not bother her while getting a tan. The third kid, on the other hand, starts reading a book (sadly, I could not see which book it was). After half an hour the mother suddenly stood up and grabbed the book out of the girls hands, yelling (in Dutch): “You have read enough for today. Go and play with your brothers, NOW!” I was stunned. Like, I was pretty sure I didn’t hear that correctly. I mean, I understand it is important for a kid to play with other kids. But, this mother stopped her daughter from reading a book, so she can play on an iPhone with her brothers. I would have completely understood her position if she had grabbed the tablet as well, and sent all three of them to the playground. I had to watch the girl go from smiling at her book to reluctantly watch her brothers play a game on a phone. It broke my heart.

I have no words for this.

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.

Awkward conversations with non-readers