Roadrunner Musings

Reading a Book in Public Invites Conversation

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Photo by Alex Blăjan on Unsplash

I know many of my friends and family are big fans of e-books, but I’ve never been able to love them. It’s not that I disapprove of them or am daunted by technology. I actually think it’s brilliant. I have the Kindle app on my phone and occasionally buy the e-book version of a book so that I can take it with me on a trip more easily or, when I’m reading a more provocative title, read it more privately, but I just can’t love them like I want to.

The truth of the matter is that I simply enjoy having the books that I have spent time in on my physical shelves, no matter how crowded they get. When I walk into the room, I can see them, and I get an instant sense of accomplishment. It’s a physical representation of my effort. I remember them and visit, like seeing old friends. When I’m bored, I scan through the titles sitting so prettily on my selves like small sentinels of my past. Sometimes I pull them off the shelves and leaf through them, see my notes, and read a paragraph. It warms me and brings me closer to… What? I don’t really know. All I do know is that it feels good and I don’t want to let them go.

Today I read this in “The Bookshop on the Corner” by Jenny Colgan,

“I think I just stopped seeing books around,” the man went on. “You know, on the bus, everyone used to read books. But then they were fiddling with their phones or those big phones, I don’t know what they’re called.”

“They were probably reading on their tablets,” said Nina loyally. She loved her e-reader too.

“Yes, I know,” said the man, “But I couldn’t see. I couldn’t see what they were reading or ask them if it was good or make a mental note to look for it later. It was if suddenly, one day, all the books simply disappeared.”

It brought up something I never thought of before and not in a negative, “these damn things,” kind of way, in a “something is missing” kind of way.

When I love a book, just by having it out in my hand in public, I’m sharing it with the readers around me. And if I see someone with a title or book cover that looks interesting, I can make a note of it without saying a word. We communicate with the people around us even when we don’t think we are! It’s a covert operation. The perfect introvert sharing opportunity.

When we’re looking at our e-readers, most people assume we’re busy talking to another person, so they don’t want to interrupt. But having a book out sitting next to you at the coffee shop, reading at the park or on the bus, is a conversation starter for those around you. “Oh! I love that book!” or “I was thinking about getting that. Is it good?” are great ways to start talking to a stranger. If they don’t want to be bothered, they’ll cut it short and I can move on. But if they’re interested in sharing about the book, they’ll keep talking and I’ll be in heaven. It’s a win/win situation.

I think I’ll start carrying a purse again, one big enough to have a novel in it that I can pick up and read while I’m in line or waiting for a friend. Who knows what conversations it might start or who it will inspire to pick up and read it too?

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