The life of a reader can often be a lonely and misunderstood one.
I come from a household that has little to no interest in books. My parents used to tell me that they were too tired from work to read, or I'd get the dismissive comment of “Come on, Ariadna, I'm watching this show” to brush me off when I suggested the shocking activity of reading, or they would ask me the baffled question “Didn't you already read a book yesterday?” after seeing me holding a book with a new cover (I'm shocked that it was noticed that one time). Uhm, yes, and I finished it, so now I'm reading another one. What in the world is your point, father? Their unwillingness to get lost within the pages of a book is a sigh-inducing bout of disappointment that runs in an endless vicious cycle.
The first time I visited my cousin's newest home I was so delighted to see that she had books displayed that I nearly fell over an ottoman and cracked my head open...again. I asked questions, I pulled out a few of the books, I read a couple of synopses, I exclaimed that she had to read that one I was holding that I'd heard great things about. And then I noticed the silence, glanced over, and saw her staring at me with a blank look in her eyes. Oh, yeah, she didn't read, but she thought that the books looked and felt great next to her newest plant.
Ugh, okay, whatever. Decorate to your heart's zen-iest content, people, but books want to be opened and read!
At work I usually keep my love of books greedily close to my heart like it's the best kept secret. It's my precious and no one is going to take it from me. During the two and a half years that I've worked there, I have come to find out that a grand total of three people enjoy reading. They don't really talk about it, it's very hush hush, and I try to take my cue from them because it seems that reading is their precious too. But I couldn't help myself from uncharacteristically shoving my nose into the conversation of one said reader during a chat she was having one afternoon about an upcoming Colleen Hoover signing she had attended. Alas, my regrets. The other girl scurried away in alarm, and said reader nudged me into the break room to talk in low voices, then hurriedly stopped and stared when someone else walked by.
You'd think that we were planning our newest drug smuggling operation.
I get it, I do. Sadly, a lot of people don't understand or enjoy reading. I get asked so many times, in baffled tones, why I like to read, and my ingrained sense of politeness always wars with my smart-ass mouth before I can respond. Which means that I usually, mutely walk away.
If I suggest to a non-reader a book that I believe they might enjoy based on what I know about them, they tell me that they can't sit still for so long just doing nothing...they'll be sooooo bored. I mean, how? Books mean traveling to all types of places and stories and different people! How in the world are you bored? Then again, I'm a reader, and my inner hermit is never as happy as when I get to stay home for days on end surrounded by books.
And we get desperate, us readers. Online sites like Goodreads are blessings for us because they're havens dedicated to us poor souls who don't usually interact with many about books face to face. Maybe I've just not been lucky in this regard, or found my group of people outside the world of the internets.
I'm not an overly social person. I'm fairly shy when I first meet people, slightly awkward, I keep to myself. I'm introverted to my very core unless I know those with whom I surround myself. So it has shocked me after the fact, to approach strangers at bookstores if ever I see them reach for a book that I love. Maybe “approach” is the wrong word. I was once in the Fiction section of a Barnes & Noble during my second hour of browsing, and as I got to the end of the line (for the tenth time) I saw a young woman pick up Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor. I don't even remember moving, but I was beside her in my next moment of consciousness gushing about the story, telling her she just had to read it, trying to explain to her how interesting the progression of Amber St. Clare's character is. The poor woman kept nodding with so much enthusiasm and edging away from me with such clear intent that I thought “Great! She's gonna get the book!”
She dropped it in a nearby table and beat it for the escalator.
Okay, maybe it's me.
Maybe my enthusiasm comes off as worrisome, maybe scary and short of terrifying to some. I admit, I'm a little hectic and desperate in these moments of bursting-joy to see others among stories, especially those that I love. To quote Neil Gaiman, “Human beings are storytelling creatures.” There's an inner and beautiful need to share these stories with other people, and some of us just express that need with more passion than others. It's not a passion that everyone understands, and that some are wary of, but I know that it's among us all. Because whether tales fall into the category of novels, articles, songs, movies, or the gossip that you heard last week, it all belongs to the same narrative scope.
So, I'm not going to stop seeking out other lovers of stories, or stop from trying to make non-readers (and even poor souls I accost in stores) discover their joy. If all else fails, I'll walk around broadcasting narrations in summary form of my favorite books, and hope that someone comes up to me showing enough interest that it lets me help them find a new literary treasure.