Some might look at us readers tucked into our cozy armchairs or stretched out on our beach towels with a book in hand and think the book lover’s life is an easy one.
Oh, no. That’s where they’re wrong. If you’re a seasoned reader, I’m sure you’ve realized there are multiple pitfalls and perils that dog the reader’s every step—I mean, page. Here are a few of them, arranged in order of approximate danger level.
Oh, the indignity of that sharp slice of pain, when all you wanted to do was lovingly turn those beloved pages. It’s a wound that cuts deep, even though it cuts shallowly. This is especially common in suspenseful books, when you’re trying to turn pages quickly to see what happens next.
Tip for Combating This Danger: Apply a generous amount of self-pity, then blame your least favorite character in the novel for directly attacking you. This should dull the pain and allow you to move on. If this is a frequent peril, consider using an e-reader instead. Or wear gloves or a handful of thimbles.
Mild Disdain from Other Readers
You know who they are. They’re the ones who demand everyone think their book club pick was flawlessly brilliant. The ones who post scathing one-star reviews on your favorite books and tell you to your face how “predicable and trite” they are. The ones who brag about having completed 99 of the “100 Classic Novels to Read Before You Die” list…and they only haven’t gotten to Les Misérables because they’re working on their French so they can read it in the original language. If you venture into the bookish world, be warned: you’ll be sure to encounter these critics and naysayers and their superior looks.
Tip for Combating This Danger: Amazingly, if you simply don’t care what these readers think about you, your favorite author, or your go-to genre, they have no power to ruin your day. Poof. Gone. I mean, I’m all for challenging yourself and occasionally reading outside your comfort zone, but part of the beauty in the world is that we all have different tastes and preferences. There are books out there for anyone, but not every book is for everyone, and that’s more than okay; it’s great!
(Also, the disdainful readers just approved of the fact that I used a semi-colon. They like semi-colons.)
My sister informed me last week that she was reading a kids’ mystery to put in her classroom. When a new character was introduced, she saw, in the margin of a library book, a scrawled, “HE IS THE KIDNAPPER,” rendering the next two hundred pages useless. Can you imagine such dastardly devilry? And at such a young age! But it’s not only tiny troublemakers you have to watch out for here. Indiscreet Amazon reviews that dump the entire plot before your curious eyes, accidentally openings to the wrong page, and excitable friends who just can’t help themselves all fall into this category. Watch out, or you’ll tumble into the Abyss of Knowing, and you’ll never get out.
Tip for Combating This Danger: Pre-order books you don’t want spoiled, and then isolate yourself until you’ve turned past the last page as an extra precaution. A bunker would be nice, if available. And if you’re one of those deluded people who read the ending of a book first…I’m sorry, there’s no help for you.
This is a broad category, encompassing everything from the force of gravity pulling your cracker crumbs into the binding of the book from which they will never escape to sudden rainstorms when you’re reading outside, forcing you to securely swaddle your book in your hammock and flee a mile back to your vehicle, soaking wet and completely bedraggled while the book remains dry. (If you think both of these are based on personal experience…you’re right.)
Tip for Combating This Danger: There are innumerable forces and factors that might try to keep you from your book or ruin your reading experience (carsickness on a road trip, an unsealed coffee cup lid, library pandemic shut-downs), so it’s hard to give a one-size-fits-all solution. The only advice I can give is: be vigilant. Threats to reading are everywhere.
Whether you keep the tissue box handy because you’re reading a tear-jerker or just because you hate to say goodbye to beloved bookish friends, the best stories will sweep you up into the characters’ trials and triumphs…and sometimes leave you with a post-book emotional hangover.
Tip for Combating This Danger: Take a deep breath. Then share the book with a friend, gush about it online, thank the author, or otherwise transfer those emotions to the real world. Don’t bother reminding yourself that the characters and their worlds aren’t real; this is no fun and also probably won’t help.
Suffocation by Collapsed TBR Pile
You know how it goes. Your favorite author has a new release, so you order it. Your book club coordinator hands you the novel for next month. Your friend is just dying to talk to you about the latest thriller. A stunning cover practically leaps off the shelf at you when browsing at a bookstore. There’s that one movie adaptation, and of course you have to read the book first. And the next thing you know, the delivery driver knows you by first name and is friends with you on Goodreads, and your house looks like some kind of towering literary maze of madness. If you venture among the stacks of tomes, you could get crushed, especially if you try to pull out a title from the bottom. Will it ever all get read? Who can say?
Tip for Combating This Danger: Keep an emergency whistle around your neck so you can call for help if needed, or find some sort of reinforced steel supports to maintain your stacks of worthy novels. (What, did you think I was going to tell you to read the books you have before buying or checking out more? What do you think this guide is, a humor piece?)
Sometimes it feels like the whole world is trying to keep you from your book, but we know that true readers will prevail! Together, we can watch each other’s backs, fight against obstacles to reading, and finish “just one more chapter.”
We’re sure we forgot a few perils, reader. What do you think are the most dangerous parts of living in the book world?