You probably think my request is weird. If I wanted to talk about books, why not hit up Goodreads, some other online community, or maybe even one of the many book blogs out there? That is true of course; the Internet has made it so much easier to discuss almost any book under the sun, no matter how obscure. Yet… it does not replace the feeling of gushing over (or even bashing) a book in person.
You know what I’m talking about. You and someone else find out you’re reading/you’ve read the same book, and excitement ensues. I don’t care if that other person is a stranger, you will be itching to bound over and talk to them if you find them buried in a book you’ve already read. You will be eager to know what they think of it. You will feel happy if they share your feelings, good or bad, and you most definitely will feel sad if they disagree, yet it will be accompanied with a thrill. Thinking maybe you can show them the book from a different perspective, you will want to try to change their mind. And even if silence falls between the two of you, you (or them) will find a way to puncture it again with an afterthought regarding the book. And you’re probably nodding along to everything I’ve said in this paragraph.
I had this once. I remember swapping books with my friends, waiting impatiently for them to finish so I would know what they thought of it, eyes shining, feeling totally in my element. There’s just something different about being there with the person, seeing their reactions and emotions playing across their face. Being very expressive about books myself, I love it when I’m able to witness it in others.
Then I moved and I swear… I have never before lived within a community that thought so little of books. I have a huge bookcase in my room, but it is extremely rare for anyone who comes in to admire them. If they say anything, it’s more along the lines of, “You spend way too much money on books”, “How do you find the time to read?” or even “Your carpenter did a fabulous job. Could you give me his number? I’d like some shelves for my kitchen.”
Public transport should’ve been my salvation, right? I mean… theoretically, many people take advantage of their commute to read. I have used public transportation almost everyday for almost seven years, and the number of “literary encounters” I’ve had amount to a measly one. Yes, ONE. I yearn to find someone other than me reading book that isn’t academic or course-related, or for someone to take notice of the books I almost always have with me, but nope. Once I came across a girl at a bus stop holding a well-worn copy of The Fault in Our Stars. The “book patron” in me felt indignant about the state of the book, but what I was really thinking is, “Oh please please PLEASE let us board the same bus so I can talk to her about it!” Unfortunately, we didn’t. I won’t lie, I felt pretty bummed about it.
In my desperation I’ve sort of befriended my sister’s best friend, a girl eight years younger than me who – very much unlike my sister – does love reading. I’m embarrassed to say that I try to hog some of her attention when she visits, but it makes me so unbelievably happy to be able to discuss books with her or show off my new purchases.
So I will take this chance to make an open plea – if you see someone reading a book, even it is one you haven’t read, talk to them about it. Chances are, like me, they’d be welcoming of a little bookish chat, and you never know, you could walk away with a book recommendation and quite possibly a new friend.
Which do you prefer – online or personal discussions? Have you ever talked to a total stranger about books?