Here's a little anecdote for you. Back in the hazy days of the 1st grade, my utterly beloved teacher, Mrs. Olsen, gave each of her students a cardboard hot air balloon with their name printed on it. We could tape our balloons to the wall and move them around the room in a circle based on how many books we read throughout the school year. The student whose balloon traveled the furthest each week was rewarded with a root beer Dum Dum. It was bliss.
But my balloon traveled the classroom so many times that by Thanksgiving break, Mrs. Olsen’s stock of Dum Dums was looking a little thin, and I was hopping into my mother’s minivan every Friday afternoon with root beer breath. So I stopped reporting every single book I read, so as not to make my peers — already formidable at seven whole years of age — any more unimpressed with me than they already were. This continued school year after school year. The balloon would become a frog or a strawberry, but the basic premise was the same, and by holiday break, I’d have circled the room twice before remembering to dial it down a notch ... at least in public.
Thankfully, by the time I made it to high school, the reign of doe-eyed reader Rory Gilmore had begun, and books (at least among a particular group of people) were the it things. I was finally free to let my Baskerville-typeface freak flag fly.
But no matter how sexy that one guy made the Rory Gilmore reading challenge sound, not everyone is going to understand why you’ll always spend the last few dollars of your paycheck on books rather than sandwiches or bus tokens (you needed to practice your reading while walking anyway.)
Readers, I know I don’t need to tell you the struggle is real. But maybe the next time someone rains all over your book parade, you can forward them this list of nine things that people who love books are sick of hearing.
"You're staying in tonight to read?"
Let’s get one thing straight here: every night is a night I'd rather be at home reading. Books don't ask me to take the subway in high heels, or make uncomfortable small talk (Mr. Darcy is never boring,) or pay for expensive drinks that come in concerning dayglo colors. I don't even have to wear pants, if I'm so inclined. There is not a single nightclub on Earth that can compare to pantsless reading in bed. Now, thanks for the invite, and please shut the door on your way out.
"I wish I had time to read, but ..."
"You're buying more books?"
Go home right now and count all the pairs of underpants you own. (I'm not certain this will actually prove any sort of point, but it'll give me time to run back to Powell's and pick up that one book I forgot to buy earlier.)
"Oh, I don't really read."
So, what you're telling me is that if I come over to your apartment and look at your shelves, they will be filled with ...? All those ceramics you made at Color Me Mine? Antique cake toppers? String cheese? What is on your shelves?! (If they're filled with all the books you're not reading, can I have them?)
"You must have loved [the only novel people who don't read are talking about this year]."
I'm going to ask you to close your eyes for a second, and imagine you just dedicated upwards of 30 minutes to describing the first pair of Louboutins you ever bought. You with me? Now imagine I said: "Oh, you must love Birkenstocks then." Burns a little, doesn't it? (Not that I'm hating on the Birkenstocks. Girlfriend can get down in some Birkenstocks. But seriously, you know what I mean.)
"Can't you just wait for the movie to come out?"
"Why do you always have a book in your purse?"
Because at her first Chilton dance, Rory Gilmore told me to. No, but seriously, I do always have a book in my purse. Do I lament the extra weight and missing out on the cute clutch trend? A little. But at some point during this dinner / coffee date / bat mitzvah / séance / Boot Barn grand opening we're at, the conversation is going to get a little dull, or you're going to have to take a call, or need go to the bathroom, or I'm just going to get sick of using my mouth to form words, at which point I will find a quiet corner and read until I'm allowed to go home.
"Fiction doesn't count."
It has been scientifically proven that humans who read fiction are better than all the other humans. *mic drop*
"Can I borrow your copy of ..."
Just to be perfectly clear: I'm going to loan you my beloved copy of The Poisonwood Bible, or On The Road (but seriously, you haven't read those already?) I am going to remove the book from it's meticulously categorized location on my shelf — resulting in an empty space that will now haunt me relentlessly, day and night — and give it to you. I'm going to refrain from reminding you not to bend the front cover back too far, or crease my dog-ear-free pages, or read all the personal, color-coordinated flowcharts I made in the margins.
Then, in exactly 48 hours, I'll call to ask if you enjoyed the book, and when you tell me you haven't had a chance to start it yet, a small seed of resentment will nest in my heart and remain there forever. Because you are not going to return my book. Like, ever. Maybe you think you will, but you won't. And one day, you'll forget you even borrowed it. But I will not forget, and every time I see you, for the rest of my natural born life, I'm going to think about nothing but this book, until we can no longer be friends. Because when I look at you, all I will see is the cover of The Poisonwood Bible, and it will literally make me banana-pants-wearing crazy.
So let's all just stop saying these things, OK? And exhale.