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! 

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Awkward conversations with non-readers: Part 4

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

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

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