Reading Undercover

Ask someone what they are reading, and nine times out of ten, they'll be too embarrassed to tell you.

My students, for example, are reluctant to admit what they're reading.  I had a young man come into my office carrying a book.  When I asked to see it, he handed over an urban fantasy novel about vampires.  Blushing, he explained that his girlfriend had gotten him hooked on the series.  And one morning in class, I asked my sudents if they had recently read a book for fun.  One woman raised her hand, and when I asked her what the book had been, she admitted it was 50 Shades of Gray.  Saying those words made her turn 50 shades of red.

I have the same problem.  The other day, I brought a book to the dentist's office.  When the dentist asked what I was reading,  I hemmed and hawed and finally spit out that I was reading a young adult book called, My Dead Boyfriend.  And if people find out that I teach English at a community college, I feel doubly pressured to be reading something 'worthwhile' rather than 'trashy.'

Readers seem to feel that if they're not reading War and Peace or an Oprah bookclub book, they're not really reading.  It's like being caught eating at a fast food restaurant.  We feel that we should be reading (or eating) something good for us despite the fact that what we want is something fun or tasty.

E-readers such as Kindles and Nooks have given bibliophiles more than a portable library.  They've also given us the gift of anonyminity.  Without cover art, we are no longer holding up a sign that says, 'romance reader' or 'young adult reader.'  Very few people are embarrassed about the kind of music they listen to or the movies they see.  Yet, books will almost always bring out the red in our cheeks.  It's too bad, really, that we feel such a need to impress others with our reading selections.

Ever since my shame in the dentist's office, I've decided to be proud about what I'm reading.  No matter what, I will not apologize.  Whether its 50 Shades or Twlight, I'll speak the title loudly and clearly without blushing.


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