By Klancy Hoover
Nothing is worse than that intense, spine-crawling feeling of being judged. Browsing the stacks of young adult books at my local library, I couldn’t help but notice that someone was watching me read the dust covers of books. Occasionally, the person would glance over at one of the teenagers in the same row as me, watch for a little bit, and quickly look away whenever I caught them staring. Of course, they could have just been waiting for me to leave the stacks so they could browse, or not-so-discreetly attempting to see what book I was obviously interested in, but as someone who has been asked when I am going to start reading “real books” that aren’t part of the YA genre, it’s hard to ignore the embarrassment that washed through me at that moment. Quickly, compelled by the urgent need to escape the person’s notice, I placed the book I was considering reading back on the shelf and left.
Having left the library flustered and fumbling for my keys to unlock my car door, I finally climbed into the front seat of my car. I remember taking a breath to calm my nerves. Then, replaying the situation in my head, I became angry. Not at the person who had glanced at me in the stacks, but at myself for allowing negative comments about my reading tastes to give up a book I know I would have enjoyed. Negative comments that I’m sure other avid readers have heard such as, “when are you going to start reading adult books,” “there’s no way you could have enjoyed the book if you read it that fast,” or “listening to audiobooks doesn’t count as reading.” As if muttering these comments to someone can somehow solidify the ever-changing, varied realm of readership.
But just how not every person is alike, not every reader is alike either. Someone who enjoys reading classic literature and typically reads over 50 books a year is obviously going to have a different idea of reading than someone who exclusively listens to fantasy audiobooks on the weekend, such as the Harry Potter series. The important thing to remember is that every reader is valuable. What you choose to read is valuable. Your ideas about genre, format, and reading speed will shape who you are as a reader, and shouldn’t be diminished or pushed aside.
So next time someone asks what you’re reading, don’t try to hide the cover of your book. Choose to embrace your preferences. Whether you like to read swoon-worthy romance novels or science fiction books that feature futuristic robots, you are a part of the reading community. Your ideas help shape and inform more diverse conversations surrounding books in the publishing industry. Embrace that and continue to read what you love.
Edited by: Corinne DiOrio