To be bookish is, by definition, not to be overly fond of IRL socialising. Still, society and our mental health demands a certain amount of social time in between diving through the pages. With that necessity comes the risk of running into social embarrassment potholes along the road. Is it any wonder that we’d rather hide behind our books rather than talk to people?
Here are six of the most awkward situations that only bookish people will understand.
1 ft – When Everyone Around You Has Different Reading Tastes
It’s great to have friends who love books as much as you. But, saying you like books is kind of like saying you like sport. No one outside the reading verse understands that it’s a much too general term. Some people like classics, some fantasy, some romance, you get the idea. And, like trying to talk to a football fan about golf, there will inevitably come an awkward moment when you realise that, though you should get along in theory, you actually don’t have any common ground and you have no idea what the other is talking about. You might start avoiding the topic entirely just to avoid the awkwardness, which is an awful thing because you know you should connect over this but you just can’t. Now, if you and your friends venture out of your literary comfort zone regularly, this is less likely to happen. So, don’t be afraid to give those strange books a go. Better yet, organise a bookswap. You never know. Your friends might find they like your books after all.
2 ft – When You Don’t Like A Book And Your Friends Love It
This can apply to both IRL friends and online friends. At least, with online friends, you don’t have to say anything. It’s a lot worse when it’s IRL friends and a whole group of them are singing this book’s praises. You want to be honest but you don’t want to come off as insulting either. You can’t tell them to their face you thought the plot they found so exciting had more holes than a pepperpot or that you thought their favourite character was really annoying. So, all you can do is nod along, make non-committal noises and hope that the conversation moves on soon. And that they don’t invite you to the movie adaption. Just be careful not to be too convincing otherwise they might actually think you like it and that can lead to even more embarrassing situations that I’ll get into later.
3 ft – When You Reread a Book And You Don’t Like It As Much The Second Time
You’re excited you’ve found time in your schedule to go back to the old favourite – but the old favourite turns out not to have aged well or not to be to your taste anymore. You’ll doubt your capabilities as a reader. You’ll worry at how much you’ve changed over the years. You’ll wonder if you were going blind when you read it the first time because how could you have not noticed that uncomfortable implication staring you in the face? Then, you might remember a conversation with one of your friends. They might have told you about this bad feature and you shrugged it off at the time. Now, it turns out they were right and, if they know you’re rereading it (which is very likely), they’re going to ask you about it. It’s worse if you post book reviews online. A word to the wise, if you realise this is the case, resist the urge to look back at your old review. The cringe factor will become painful. On the other hand, you should resist the urge to pretend the old review never existed. The Internet is forever, after all. In both online and IRL cases, just bite the bullet and admit that you were wrong the first time. Admit to the IRL person that they were more perceptive than you and hope they don’t taunt you about it forever. You should also remember that there is no guarantee you got it right this time. You may be in exactly the same position a few years down the line when your reading taste has changed again.
4 ft – When You Try To Talk About Books With Non-Reader Family/Friends
I really hope you don’t end up in this position. It’s a nightmare. There you are, having come off a great book and still riding the high of the hype but you have no one to share it with. Everyone around you is talking about sports, parties, work and all the other nonsense bookish people talk about. At some point, you see an opening in the conversation. Maybe, a recent news event covers the same issue as that great book you just read. You think you might just be able to squeeze in and tell them how brilliantly the author showed their research (if it’s non-fiction) or how well the author represented it (if it’s fiction). You’re loving this discussion – until you realise it’s all one-sided. The others are either looking at you like you’ve grown an extra head for gushing so much about ‘just a story’ or are smiling politely until you stop talking and they can turn the conversation elsewhere. If your reading ever comes in the conversation again, it’s usually a condescending remark along the lines of ‘I can’t believe you find the time for all that reading’. You retreat back into a quiet corner and, in a moment, the conversation is out of your grasp again. Don’t worry, though. I find family gatherings to be great opportunities to catch up on some reading. My family has long since learned not to try and include me in the conversation when I’m reading and so will yours.
5 ft – When You Get You A Book/Bookish Gift You Don’t Like
People tend to be very bad at keeping up with your reading taste. So many times, I’ve had to bite my tongue to stop a teenger-ish ‘I stopped liking that ages ago’ slipping out when someone asks me about a book I’ve long since gone off. Occasionally, it’s been my own fault because I’ve done a good job of convincing the friends who like a book I don’t like that I love it as much as they do. Most of the time, however, it’s been That makes birthdays/present-giving holidays rather perilous as it opens up a whole spectrum of awkward moments. On the best end of the scale, it’s a book I liked but already own a copy of. Hey, at least, they got your taste right. You can’t blame them for not looking at your bookshelves properly. Further along the awkward scale, we have books they like but you probably won’t (in a misguided attempt to counteract my previous point about difficult book tastes), screen adaptation DVDs of books you didn’t like and, at the worst end, a book you know you are definitely not going to read. Nothing for it in all cases but to put on your best grateful face and then stick it somewhere in plain sight to make it look like you’re really, honestly, definitely going to read it. You can then get rid of it as soon as tact and memory span allow. To avoid this, you could try talking about your favourite upcoming books in the run-up to the big present day and repeatedly drop some titles in conversation to make sure everyone around you gets the message. If you don’t trust their memory or listening skills, you could do what I do: print out a copy of your TBR and stick it to your wall/fridge/somewhere in plain view. The people living with you will have no excuse not to pick something you’ll like. You’ll get a book present you’ll actually in enjoy, they’ll have spent their money well and everybody’s happy!
6 ft – When Your Favourite Author Does Something Bad
I’m not sure ‘awkward’ is a strong enough word for the feeling you get when your favourite author says or does something awful and it hits the mainstream news. Everyone knows about it and, knowing that you’re a huge fan of their work, you just know they’re going to talk to you about it. All the while, you’re trying to figure out how you feel and how you’re going to respond to it yourself. Going through that disappointment and disillusionment is bad enough. Having every conversation about your current reading lead to, ‘Oh, I saw X on the news the other day. Isn’t that the author of one of your favourites?’ can make you wish you could fold yourself up and hide at the back of your shelves. Just like you’re probably doing to the books of your former favourite author. Even thought you probably still love those books, you have to make your point clear to everyone. Tell other people that you don’t want to receive any of that book’s merchandise or any of that author’s books on your birthday/holiday. Explain why this is important to you. Endure the ‘don’t you think that’s a little out of proportion’ conversations. Endure the disappointment your relatives express that they can’t just fling a piece of that book’s merchandise at you on your birthday anymore and that they actually have to *gasp* learn what you like. Trust me, it’ll be much worse if you don’t and it’ll leave you right back at my previous.
As is the case in avoiding most embarrassing situations, good communication is the key. Some conversations and some silences may be awkward but they are better for you in the long run.
Do you agree with my list? Have you endured any worse book-related embarrassments? Let me know in the comments below!
I hope to see you again very soon.