Sunday 9 August 2015

Are book lovers...weird?

This post actually sparks from a very interesting conversation that I had with a new friend on Twitter, @aoifemrtn while talking about the near-related topic of whether people watch 'Game Of Thrones' for the 'soap-opera' element, or because they enjoy Fantasy as a genre. It really struck me while chatting that actually a lot of people (including some that I know) would happily watch films/TV shows and talk about them endlessly, but are less inclined to want to read the books. Even if they have read the books, they are less forthcoming with their opinions on them unless they know that you are a book-lover too. Every day people come up to me and say "I saw the best film last night, you have to watch it!". This is not the case with books. Why is that?

I have a few theories on the matter I guess. Firstly, watching a film is much more of a social activity. It's something that a group of people can do together. You can call any number of friends up and ask them to come to the cinema with you, but it's much more difficult/antisocial to sit in a room and read a book together. As book-reading is such a solitary activity, it could account for why people keep their love for novels to themselves too. But I don't think that's 100% the case, as if I've just read a good book then the first thing that I want to do is shout and scream about it to the world (hence why I have a Book Blog and post my thoughts).

In all honesty, part of the blame must go to society as a whole. I don't think it helps that books are always paired with the supposed Geeks and Nerds of the world. From a young age, culture shapes us to associate books with being clever and learning, and so children/teens who show an interest in that are automatically at risk of being judged or bullied by their classmates. As we grow up those thoughts on book-lovers may change but the self-conscious, paranoid feeling that you are being judged for something you love doesn't. People embrace the Geeky side of them, but still feel like it's a 'them vs. us' situation.  Being a film-buff too, I will happily walk into work and ask who has seen the latest blockbuster and what they thought, but I would never do such a thing with my latest favourite read because I feel like they would somehow think me pretentious.

And that's the crux of it: humans always worry about other people's opinions. This weird idea that book-lovers are somehow different to everyone else crosses over into genre-types too. I recently found myself reading a post-apocalyptic YA fantasy book at work. One of my colleagues, who I knew enjoyed books also, asked what I was reading. I felt myself starting to panic. What types of books did she read? What does she think about YA or Fantasy? What if her 'thing' is really clever literary fiction? Is she going to think less of me if I tell her? I cautiously gave her a basic synopsis and as it turned out, those were her favourite types of books and I'd just recommended her a new read.

In a lot of situations, people are rude about readers. The fact is, when you pluck up the courage (in any situation) to loudly praise a book you just read and someone feels it's okay to shoot back with "Oh, I've never enjoyed reading. I find it so boring." then any person will start to feel shy about their hobby. And isn't that what reading is? Something we enjoy doing in our spare time? If people started talking about their favourite TV Thriller, and the listener wasn't overly enthused they would probably politely listen anyway. Why is it considered normal to halt a conversation with a reader with "Oh err, reading really isn't my thing...sorry." and look at you as if you've grown three heads?

I have many interests and hobbies, but I feel like I only get this with reading books. Does anyone else feel the same? Am I on my own here? Obviously I get that there will be people who don't like to read and prefer TV or films, and it's fine for them to not really be bothered about the fact that their favourite movie is actually based on a book that I read recently. But the fact remains that I am still just a human being with a not so uncommon interest. Is it appropriate for me to be feeling less of a person because of it? Write your thoughts in the comments below!

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