There are many ways to get passionate reactions out of hardcore book nerds. Tell us Twilight deserves a place in the pantheon of great vampire literature next to Stoker's Dracula and Rice's Interview with the Vampire. Ask us where we stand in the e-book vs. print book debate. Mention the ongoing Amazon-Hachette feud. Bring up any book-to-film adaptation, ever. It's not a question of whether we'll have opinions, but rather when we will stop beating you over the head with them with all the force of a hardcover edition of Les Miserables.
However, if you really want to whip a book-lover into a Tempest-like frenzy of emotions, all you need are four little words: "I don't read books."
I've heard those words, or similar variations ("I haven't read a book since high school," or, even more mind-blowing, "Reading is boring") many times in my life, and without fail, they inspire within me a tangle of emotions that leaves me speechless, at least momentarily (which is no easy feat). I understand that not everyone can enjoy reading as thoroughly as I do (actually, that's probably a good thing; if that were the case, I'm pretty sure nothing productive would ever be accomplished), but to genuinely dislike the act of reading? You may as well say you don't like breathing or eating.
Conversations with fellow book-lovers reveal that we all tend to have the same reactions to these rare and mysterious creatures: What ... How... Why...
It's for their benefit, as well as the benefit of those who dare blaspheme our precious pastime with callow disregard, that I sat down to sift through the varying emotions book nerds experience when we hear those heartbreaking words: "I don't read books." The struggle is real.
You ... don't ... read ... books? You mean, like, you don't read novels, but you read nonfiction and stuff like that, right? No? You just straight-up do not read words printed in ink on paper and bound between two covers.
I see your lips moving. I hear words coming out of your mouth. They sound like English, but I can't comprehend them. You can read, but you choose not to.
But why? Do you not have books? Do you need books? What did books do you to you to make you scorn them so? Did they take you out for a nice seafood dinner and then never call you again? What do you do instead of reading, sit around and stare at things? So. Many. Questions.
If I've known you for awhile and you reveal this, suddenly everything I thought I knew about you has been called into question. You're lucky enough to be among the 86 percent of American adults who can read and you choose not to exercise that privilege?
This feeling can happen simultaneously with judgment. Do you even understand what you're missing? Books let us travel to more locations than we could ever visit in a lifetime, as well as awesome places that don't exist in the real world. They introduce us to amazing friends and give us kick-ass heroes to root for. They teach us, inspire us, evoke our emotions. But you're depriving yourself of all that and it just makes me so, so sad.
It's not that you don't like to read, you just haven't found the right book yet. What interests you? Humor? History? Sports? Dwarfs? Humorous historical dwarfs playing sports? I don't care how many hours we have to spend in the library, I will make you love books. I will make you love them!
No? Really? You're absolutely, definitely not interested in one of the most beloved pastimes of the last 600 years? *Sigh* I don't understand it, but I guess it's true that it takes all kinds of people to make the world. Don't worry — I can love books enough for the both of us.
Image: Pedro Ribeiro Simoes/Flickr