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! 

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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

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