Book Shaming

Bookish Chat

Dearest Book Buddies, today I have veered away from your regularly scheduled book review to discuss a matter that is near and dear to my heart, and hopefully yours.

Book shaming.

Yes, a heavy subject, but one we MUST face and TRIUMPH OVER.

In short; STOP IT! 

Stop it right now and never do it again. 

I can hear the what ifs rolling in now.


What about if they are cracking the spine of the book?

What if they are writing in the margins of a hardcover?!

But what if they only read RPG or graphic novels… with… PICTURES!?!?!?!?! (I can hear the weeping and gnashing of teeth smh).

Listen. A graphic novel is still a novel. A book with a creased spine, still a book. And RPG means adventure!

The idea of trying to limit people to what you think is okay within the realms of books and reading goes completely against the entire concept of books and reading.

Remember, this is reading for pleasure.

Reading for pleasure is supposed to be fun. It should bring you a warm bubbly feeling inside. That is what the pleasure part of that phrase is all about. 

You know, pleasure, aka enjoyment, happiness, joy.

Why then have we associated so many boxes, ideals, and shame with reading for pleasure?

And people do it almost unconsciously, as though they cannot help themselves. Here is what I mean. 

A few years ago, my day job was full time copyediting and proofreading. Daily I spent hours upon hours reading text. Business texts. Due to this at night, I would listen to audiobooks. My eyes could not take the strain of trying to read an ebook or a physical book after those long days. While explaining this to a friend, he remarked, “Oh, that is not real reading!”

Excuse me? 

“Real reading is sitting with the book. Audiobooks and listening do not count.”

He is not the first person I have heard say that. (Breathe audiobookers, I am with you!)

Another example.

Ever been asked what book you were reading? And when you answered, the person either laughs or says, “That is not a proper book. Fiction novels are for children, maybe teens. But you should read something that teaches you, helps you improve your mind.”

First, children should NOT be reading the fiction I read, heh. And second, what do mean reading fiction cannot help me be a better person? Did you see the study of children who read Harry Potter novels? Do you know how many unresolved emotions those fictional characters helped me process? Fiction saves lives, mine and those people who fired up my wrath and, through a book, avoided my tongue. 

And again.

“How many books are you reading this year? My challenge is 150! I am halfway through! What about you?!”

My answer is always, I never count. Their face shuts down and then I ask, “Well, which one from your list did you like the most?” Usually, a softly falling jaw is my answer. Sadly, not because they could not choose from so many favourites, but because they cannot remember. They are reading to hit a number. More likely to post a number publicly. Goals are great, but what about the actual book, the words, phrases, the strokes of magic authors weave into stories? Those parts are really important too, aren’t they?

Remember, again, we are reading for pleasure. Is pleasure even a consideration in any of these situations? How is it human beings always manage to mangle a thing of beauty and joy with their personal limitations? It is almost as if they forgot pleasure is the point. 

Why would I destroy my eyes when I can lose myself in the dark, throaty sound of a charming narrator?

If I have a thought, and a pen, and it is my book, so what if I write it in the margins at the side? It will be like discovering old treasures in a re-read.

What is the point of hitting a high number if you cannot even remember the sumptuous delight of the words, characters, or faraway worlds?

Let people enjoy their books and stories.

Support your friends who love to sigh over romance novels that include dragons and grumpy men. 

And please, for the love of writing and authors’ sweat and tears, savor those words, the epic story building, and the tremendous effort that went into creating the little quirks of beloved characters. 

Author Nisha J Tuli had a video of hers go viral this last week (Over 3 million views viral), because she “included a highlighted and annotated look at the first line of the Trial of the Sun Queen”. (See my review of it here!) Nisha was laughing because so many of those views were from people freaking out that she dared to write in her own book. I mean, people going nuts because the author of the book wrote in one of her many copies of the book she wrote, is a sign that people are wound wayyyyy too tightly. We love our books, but as Nisha herself puts it, “Yes. Stories are certainly precious. The actual books? Not as much!”

Could not have said that better myself.

We should worry less about what others are doing wrong and instead surrender ourselves to our own joyful reading experience. The kind meant to bring us, yup, you know it… pleasure. Indulge in the books and book habits that shiver your timbers.

And remember, everybody is not you. That is the beauty of life and the bliss of diversity. Open yourself to giving grace and simply listening to those who rejoice in books differently than you do.

There are so many ways every single day we are made to feel small and less than. Reading books for pleasure, for actual pleasure, should never be one of them.

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