When I’m Reading In Public

Here’s something I’ve been working on for a long time: Spending time out in public by myself. I don’t mean a grocery store run or a Starbucks drive-thru, I mean taking myself out to a restaurant, a coffee shop, or even the park. I’ve actively taken this on in the last few months, and it’s been really nice. I’ve been notorious for spending Friday evenings after work through Monday mornings in my room by myself, lounging in my bed binging on Netflix. Before you knew it the weekend would be over, I wouldn’t have read a lot, I wouldn’t have accomplished anything, and would end up spending most of my Sunday evening feeling gross and lonely and lethargic and supremely nervous for the upcoming week. 

So here’s where reading has been my saving grace- I have slowly but surely learned that I can be antisocial but also spend some quality time doing the thing I love in the process. This has led to me actively spending time outside my house- in my backyard, the diner near my old place, going to the several local coffee shops, and visiting the occasional bookstore. Ever since I’ve moved out to my new place, where I don’t have a kitchen to cook in, I’ve been frequenting the restaurants and cafes nearby, so dinner, drink, and book is the thing I look forward to every evening. However, here’s some things I’ve noticed that seem to happen a lot and I don’t really care for them, so I thought I’d share with you guys to see if these have happened to you as well: 

People saying: “Are you reading?”, “Oh hey, you’re reading a book!”

You don’t have to acknowledge that I’m reading a book. I in fact, am fully aware that I’m reading one. Your observations skills are on point. 

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People sitting next to me on public transport that see I’m listening to an audiobook.

If you see me on public transport with earphones on, I’m probably listening to an audiobook, and I definitely don’t want to hear about how audiobooks aren’t real books, because I will fight you. This is not a theory you want to test. 

Servers/bartenders checking in on me every two minutes because I’m seated alone at the restaurant.

If you’re the server or the bartender, and you can see there’s this giant thing in front of my face and all of my attention is being directed towards it, please don’t keep asking me if I need anything just because I’ve been nursing the one drink for more than 20 minutes or my food hasn’t arrived. I’ve actively selected your business because it’s relatively quiet and isn’t bustling with activity, and your tip certainly doesn’t depend on how many times you ask me if I like my drink or my food. I will not resent you for even just leaving my food or drink in front of me without saying a word. In fact, that is greatly appreciated. 

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Asking for book recommendations. 

Don’t ask me for book recommendations if you’re not prepared to be flooded with them. People that know me have made that mistake and it hasn’t done them any good. Also be prepared that I will be asking you a bunch of question about your bookish tastes before being able to actually recommend anything. 

“If I could only read one book this year, which one should I read?”

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Wrong question. Since it is unlikely that you have read every book that has ever been published before you asked me that question, it is literally impossible for me to mathematically derive a conclusion as to which one book you should read this year. Seriously, I don’t know how to answer that question. 

This probably paints me as quite the curmudgeon, it’s just that I’ve been asked these so many times, and have gotten into more than one interaction on the bus or the train about the merits of different ways of reading, that sometimes I can’t help but roll my eyes at this stuff. 

Have any of these things happened to you guys? What other weird/annoying things have happened to you when you venture out in public with a book? I’d love to know!

-J

Author: The Shrinkette

Speed reading aficionado. Unapologetic book pusher. Diversity junkie. Noncompliant. Scotch pundit. Ace. She/her. Point me to the nearest bookshelf. My blog is dedicated exclusively to supporting and promoting marginalized voices.

16 thoughts on “When I’m Reading In Public”

  1. This was delightful and funny, Janani.
    I spend most of my weekends at home, usually reading, as well. Sometimes I go out to read at Barnes & Noble and have coffee, but I should try more cafes and restaurants. Though, I’m not going out to a park until it stops being 95+ degrees, which in Texas won’t happen until late October probably…
    Thanks for sharing your experiences with us. :]

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  2. I’m so happy you’ve had such a positive time being out on your own! I tend to be out most often with my boyfriend or friends, and while I want to spend more time by myself (going to dinner by myself = best form of self-care), I hate how being a young woman out on her own immediately sets me up for at best annoying and at worst uncomfortable/scary interactions with men. It doesn’t happen all the time, of course, but I can’t leave the house alone without thinking about it. Fuck the patriarchy.

    Also, who the hell starts a conversation by insulting your current activity (audiobook-ing)? Fuck the patriarchy AND those people. Ugh.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’d have a hard time not admonishing the person who asked about reading only one book this year. No, I would admonish them, gently of course. 🙂 I’m sorry you get so many questions about your reading. I wonder if it’s because everyone’s staring at phones now? But I’m glad you’re getting out and about on the weekends. Kudos!

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  4. Thanks for sharing your experiences. I too have tackled that question by most of my friends during the college days 😀
    At first, i was frustrated at them and from sometime then, i gave suggestions to just try vocabulary workbook and insisted them that would help ’em to read a life changing book for the following year.

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  5. Congratulations on getting yourself out of the house to a restaurant to read! My Sunday treat these days is a trip to Panera for lunch and couple of hours with whatever non fiction book I’m plowing through. Like you, I chose it because it’s relatively quiet & doesn’t have obnoxious Muazk. Sine it’s more of a fast food place, I don’t have to worry about a server waiting on me, though sometimes they do offer to take my empty tray.

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  6. One time I brought a book with me to an internship (It was Perdido Street Station by China Mieville) and everyone COULD NOT STOP asking me what it was about. If you’ve ever read it, it’s over 600 pages long and really, really hard to describe; I felt like an idiot because I could not explain what it was I was reading, and it took me so long to finish it that I was reading it during lunch for several weeks. Then I finally finished and started reading The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion, and one of my bosses had read it, so we got to bond.

    I feel like when I read in parks or coffee shops, no one tends to ask me about my book or for recommendations. I love giving recommendations but I tend to always ask people what they like to read and then give them suggestions based on that.

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  7. Sometimes people share with me the reactions they had to the book I’m reading. I don’t mind that but I do get annoyed when I’m reading a great part, say the climax, and I’m interrupted so basically I’m left on a cliffhanger.

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  8. Oh God! I can so connect to this post! I read in restaurants, at teh gym and even took a book to a concert once (and read it while my husband enjoyed the music). And as annoying as people around can be, one of the best things about a reader for me is the ability to tune out teh world and read in public. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hahahaha, this is all terrible! I’ve been out in public alone reading fairly often without people asking me a load of obnoxious questions — I would probs be happy to tell people what one book to read if they’re only going to read one that year. I’d say “what was the last book you loved” and go from there. I love giving book recommendations.

    My worst-ever (and it’s pretty bad, but it’s also the worst by a huuuuuge margin) experience with reading in public was that I was in a bar reading my book and waiting for my friend to get there, and I was wearing a scarf for my football team, the New Orleans Saints. And a dude came up to me at the bar and said “I didn’t know Saints fans could read!” Worst human.

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  10. Yes! These types of awkward interactions happen to me too, especially when I’m reading on the train. I’m not antisocial–I’ve recently come to realize I’m an extrovert–but when I’m reading, I really want to be left alone with my fictional friends. No real people are allowed to intrude.

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  11. I love this post. I hate when people point out to me that I’m reading. I’m holding the book in front of my face and seeing the words; yes I am aware that I’m reading. And headphones are the international sign for “leave me the hell alone!” Why do people try to talk to you when you’re wearing headphones?! And of course audiobooks are books. A blind person listening to an audiobook didn’t really read the book? Ugh, people drive me insane which is exactly why I’m antisocial!

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  12. One of my friends brought a book to work, and her much older coworker went into a rant about how there were no “real writers anymore” and the world needed more Hemingway’s and Faulkners. Completely unasked for. I wanted to beat him for it.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. I work in a high rise and I’m always carrying a book with me when I go on breaks which usually gets people asking me what I’m reading, mostly in the elevator. But sometimes people actually say, It’s so nice to see someone reading an actual book and not staring at their phone.

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