Does This Book Make Me Look Fat?

Misty MasseyMisty Massey
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When I worked in the middle school library, one of my patrons was a young girl who loved books…even though she didn’t actually read them.  She would come in once every other week, check out three or four Harry Potter books, and then carry them around so that other students could see her with them.  Along the way she picked up the basics of the stories, and eventually she did read them herself, but it always amused me to watch her using the books as attention-getting props. 

We talk all the time about books we wouldn’t be caught dead reading in public.  Twilight and its sequels, the 50 Shades books, The Da Vinci Code (well, anything by Dan Brown, really)… all of these are books that sold millions, and are regularly checked out from the library every week.  Still, we insist we would never allow a copy in our homes and God forbid we carry a copy where anyone could see us.  All of us have rolled our eyes a time or two at the mention of such a thing. 

I’d like to come at this from a different direction today.  Like my little friend, sometimes I find myself so proud of whatever book I might be reading at the time, that I want to hold it up high enough for the other patrons in the coffee shop or riders on the train with me to see what I’m reading.  It becomes more important to my ‘look’ than the necklace I’m wearing or the shoes I chose. It’s not entirely my vanity driving the behavior.  Maybe someone of like mind will notice the author’s name and decide I must be a terribly interesting person because I’m reading that book.  It’s almost a tribal symbol in that respect.  Think about it for a second – you walked into a sandwich shop and saw two people at separate tables, each reading.  One is reading Ann Coulter’s latest booklength rant, and the other is reading D B Jackson’s Thieves’ Quarry (out today – go buy your copy!!)   With which person would you rather sit?

I remember a time in my junior year of high school when I had a serious crush on a senior boy.  He was cute, but my interest was fueled by what he read.  I worked the pass desk in the library during lunch, so I saw what he checked out every day or so.  Asimov’s Foundation series, Zelazny’s Amber books, Moorcock’s Elric saga…he would check out books and I would go right behind him to read what he did.  Eventually we started talking, and he agreed to lend me his copy of Frank Herbert’s Dune (a book  I love to this day.)  I read that book every day while working the desk, holding it up high enough that everyone who might look could see what I was reading.  I felt smart and well-read, and I wanted the world to notice.  

Have you ever caught yourself holding your book a certain way, hoping that people would see what you’re reading?  What book was it?  Where were you?  Did you manage to make a connection?  And most importantly, have you bought your copy of Thieves’ Quarry yet?

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17 comments to Does This Book Make Me Look Fat?

  • I actually originally started reading the Dragons of Pern books because this boy I had a crush on in junior high was always reading them, and I hoped he’d see me with them and want to talk to me. I have no idea where the boy is now, but Anne McCaffrey is still one of my favorite authors. :)

    Happy book release day to David! Amazon informs me that my copy of Thieves Quarry should be waiting for me in my mailbox when I get home today. Of course, I may have to fight my husband for who gets to read it first.

  • kwlee

    Not a fantasy novel, but I read Gone With the Wind because my current-wife-then-fiance gave it to me to read. I wasn’t sure what I was going to make of it, with the romantic Fabio cover and all, but durn skippy it was a really good book. I have no idea what sort of impression it made upon others, but I carried it around everywhere because I couldn’t put it down.

    The characters are great, the details are great, the heroine is great. Read it if you haven’t done so. There.

  • Megan B.

    I can’t think of any book I purposefully held high, but there have been books I kept tucked in my lap while I read in public. I read a lot of children’s books for my job, and not all of them are things I want to be seen reading by people who don’t know I’m a librarian :)

    I do know what you mean, though, about wanting to hold a book high.

  • I’m sure I did this in college, hoping that the fact that I was reading something sensitive and erudite would make women think that I was . . . well, sensitive and erudite. Then I got to grad school and read nothing but history texts, and there was nothing I could do to keep everyone from knowing that I was a geek. Although, hopefully, a sensitive and erudite geek.

    Thanks for the shout-out, Misty.

  • I will be buying Thieve’s Quarry next Thursday when David and I have our signing at the BookNack in Rock Hill SC from 6 – PM. http://thebooknack.com/

    Of course I’ve already read it. LOVED it. LOVED IT!

    And now I’ll address the seen-by-the-world book. No. It’s weird. I have never cared what others thought about my reading habits. I remember telling my preacher’s wife that I was currently reading erotica. SHe got a funny look on her face…

  • Ken

    YES!!!! I just got a copy of Thieve’s Quarry…ran out on my lunch break and got meself an early Birthday present. Happy Book Release Day David!!!

    (Back on topic)

    I’ve never read a book hoping that others would see me reading it. If anyone noticed anything about me and books, it would have been the (Rare) times when I wasn’t carrying a book with me. I have been in the middle of reading a fantastic book and, coming up for air, felt like I should let someone else know about how freaking good this book was. I can’t remember any episodes where I approached someone while in the throes of storyness and expounded…but I could be intentionally blanking on that.

  • I can’t recall a time where I specifically wanted anyone to see what I was reading, but this brings to mind a semi-embarassing scene when I was in high school. I read during every spare minute, always rushing to get to the next class so I could read for another 4 minutes. For a couple of months I put aside my usual SF/Fantasy books and read many of the Louis L’Amour westerns. I was reading one before Humanities class and one of the jocks walked by and said “Louis L’Amour?” (pronounced “Lois” as in Lois Lane), “You’re reading romance novels?” and looked at me like I was a lot weirder than he already thought.

  • Thanks Faith and Ken!!

  • Hepseba ALHH

    I actually think of books more as a social shield than as an invitation. To me, the public reading of a fantasy novel says “this book is much more interesting than you; please leave me alone,” whether it’s me doing the reading or someone I see at, say, the airport. I wouldn’t sit down next to the person reading Thieftaker. They’ve got much more interesting things to be doing than talking to strangers…

  • ajp88

    Back before the show, when the promotion train was just beginning to chug, I would carry around my battered, older editions of A Song of Ice & Fire and read them in coffee houses. In between writing my own stuff, I’d read a chapter for every scene I wrote as a treat but also in the hopes that it would spark a conversation and I could gush about how great they are and how good the show will be.

    I’ll be grabbing Thieves’ Quarry tomorrow! (Assuming my local B&N has it in stock. For the first one, they took a little longer to get copies. And I always prefer the brick and mortar process than online shopping.)

  • In high school and college I always had a backpack bulging with books and notebooks. I lugged it home every Christmas break, did almost nothing with it and lugged it back to college. But it was my talisman, my “I am a serious student! I am not lazy!” signal. It was also my ward against boredom – I always had something to read or write on. I didn’t realize how ubiquitous my book bag was until I graduated from college. On the first day of my new job one of my brothers blinked at me and said “Since when do you carry girlie little purses?”

    In HS I smuggled books. My friend Megan would sneak her mother’s Herald Mage series one volume at a time and slip them to me at lunch. I’d read the book in study hall and on the bus and have it finished by lunch the next day. I was so sheltered that I didn’t know the words gay and homosexual, but I certainly knew this set of books would not pass muster with my parents. The book stayed at the bottom of my dutiful, homework filled book bag while I was in the house.

  • Books were always my ‘Leave Me Alone’ shield. The books that got noticed, though, were Moby Dick, The Grapes of Wrath, Captain Blood, and some of the other classics. I’d get comments like, “Are you taking Comp?” or “You can’t seriously be reading that for fun???” My response was always, “No, don’t have to read it; want to read it. Go away.” To me all books are fun and all books are worthy of holding high.

  • I can’t think of ever showing off a book to get someone’s attention. I think I’m more likely to hide the cover just to keep anyone from chatting to me about whatever I.m reading. That’s not really fair of me, though, because I always look to see what others are reading.

    Thieves’ Quarry is ordered!

  • Vyton

    Interesting post. I didn’t meet anyone else who read SF until I got to college, so it didn’t matter whether I read one thing or another in high school. I took refuge in the Science Fiction Book Club by mail.

  • Augh. I went into Chapters/Indigo, the Canadian big book chain, and they had *no* copies in stock in all of Greater Vancouver. So I ordered one in. (This happened with BLOOD TRADE, too. I am very disappointed because I’d rather not support Amazon.)

    I totally do this sometimes. Show off a book I’m absolutely in love with. But sometimes I’ll hide the title, either because it’s a category romance and some people I work with *do* judge, or because like SiSi, I don’t want to be bothered. Not that it stops people sometimes. If they want to talk, they don’t clue in to the fact that “I am reading. I do not wish to be disturbed, and my holding a book does not mean I am lonely or bored, it’s because I want a break from *this* reality, please and thank you.” Seriously.

  • I was eight years old and thoroughly enjoying “The Best of James Her”, and I held it up (with great effort, it was a big book and I was a little kid) for everyone to see what a huge difficult book I was reading.

  • *Best of James Herriot. Multitasking too much :P