Saturday, September 1, 2007

Confessions of a Closet Reader

By April D. Boland

What are you embarrassed to be caught reading?

Come on, you know exactly what I'm talking about. All of us readers have at least one writer/book series/genre that we don't want to read in public because of what others will think. Why else would they have invented book covers?

For some, it's Harlequin romances. For others, it's Harry Potter. Personally? I tend to get red in the face when people watch me reading fat acceptance books like The Fat Girl's Guide to Life (which is fabulous, by the way). I also try to hide when I read religious books like the writings of Anne Lamott, Donald Miller and C.S. Lewis. It's not trendy to read Christian apologists, you know.

I will admit that when money was tight, I took to editing erotic fiction to make a little extra cash, and let me tell you, I would not have wanted to be caught out in public with one of those steamy covers in a million years.

But why should I be ashamed? you ask. No one else is looking at my book.

Like hell they aren't.

If you're a reader, you know you have caught yourself snooping at another reader's cover, even though you don't know the person. See someone on the train or in a coffee shop at the next table with a book, and for some reason, we're dying to know what it is. Bookish people are funny that way. We're incredibly nosy.

I have a friend who was reading The Red Tent on the subway and was approached by a woman asking her where she was up to, and telling her that she would absolutely love it. Apparently this is commonplace among readers, though it hasn't happened to me. Literature gives us the kind of boldness to reach out and touch someone that AT&T couldn't even deliver.

Is it possible that intellectual curiosity in one of its most common forms - namely, literary nosiness - can bring people together?

Take that trashy novel out into the street today and find out.


Carl V. said...

"Literature gives us the kind of boldness to reach out and touch someone that AT&T couldn't even deliver."

Exactly, that is what I love so much about having reading conversations with others.

Up until just recently I don't think I read much of anything that I was embarrassed about. However, the very female oriented (i.e. shirt wide open chest exposed male) cover on Colleen Gleason's most recent novel, Rises the Night, made me glad I had an ARC to read rather than the actual book! ;)

Carl V. said...

A further question, are you the type of person who secretly hopes people will ask you about what you are reading? I know I am just because I love to talk about books and love to evangelize others to the books that I think are wonderful.

Literary Feline said...

On the flip side, I rarely if ever use bookcovers, but decided start since the trade paperbacks that are often stuffed into my purse showing signs of wear and tear a little to quickly.

The first time I was caught reading a covered book in the breakroom at work, a man I didn't know gave me a knowing look and asked me which man the heroine would choose (or some such question; I'm afraid my memory isn't always so good). He saw the cover and assumed I must be reading a romance novel. I thought of a lot of great comebacks after the fact, but all I could manage at the time was a long pause as what he asked soaked in and then I simply told him the truth, that in fact I was reading a book about an ATF agent tracking down a serial gun running serial killer.

My lovely little bookcover hasn't moved from its drawer since.

While I have nothing against romance novels of any sort, I did take slight offense at his quick assumption that because I was a woman reading a book with a bookcover, it must be a romance.

Too, I missed having people strain to see what I was reading. Some did ask, but people seem less likely to do so when a book is covered. Maybe they imagine you'd be embarrassed, hence the cover?

Callista said...

Sometimes I'm a little bit embarrased because I read books about homosexuality (I'm hetero) and a few months ago I read a book on menopause (I'm 24.) I know I shouldn't be worried about what others think though.

April Boland said...

Carl, actually, I am not that type of person. I love to talk about books, but I'm shy and don't really like being approached by strangers! :)

Feline, that is an interesting alternative to what I wrote about. Thanks for sharing.

Callista, we've all been there.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for stopping by at Counting My Blessings.

I actually think that it is not the trashy paperbacks which get the most response.