If you’re not a reader yourself, the book world can be strange sometimes. Fiction readers especially will say or do things in response to your seemingly perfectly-normal statements that might baffle you. But don’t worry, we here at Bethany House are here to help. Read on for a helpful guide to understanding your reader.
Sometimes, crying is a good thing.
I know, I know. Seeing a reader plow through a pack of tissues while turning pages is usually cause for alarm. You’re only trying to be sensitive when you suggest putting the book down for a while. Probably, though, the reaction you get will be a strong one. Sometimes, readers actually want to cry. That can be a sign of a great book. (Although not if those are tears of rage at the author. That’s different.)
The movie is almost never better than the book.
Most of the time, it isn’t even close. So, even if you kind of enjoyed the movie, always nod along to your reader’s strong opinions. Here are a few good lines if you need to say something: “The costume design was fine, but the characters just didn’t have the same depth.” “Do you think the director actually even read the book?” “The parts they left out really changed the tone.” You’ll blend right in. Though chances are, you might not need to say anything—your reader might be content to rant alone for a long, long time. Sit back, applaud your own bravery, and pop the popcorn. There will be opinions.
They’re not “just” fictional characters.
We get it: technically, the people in novels are not real. None of them are really hiding from a serial killer, wooing a duke, or getting pummeled with the successive perils and obstacles the sadistic author decided to throw at them in the name of plot. But here’s the thing: if you remind a reader of that, you do so at your own peril. The beauty of fiction is that it encourages us to empathize—to cheer at ending victories and swoon over romantic lines and threaten the character (and author?) that they’ll face your wrath if they make one more bad decision. They’re not real, but they’re true, you know? Their emotions and situations and growth reflect the world we live in, so it’s not entirely crazy to react to fiction like it’s fact. (Within reason, of course. If your reader has actually started mixing up realities, it might be time for an intervention.)
You can’t really have too many books.
I mean, you technically can. If it’s gotten the point where you could go on Hoarders, or the local fire department checks in occasionally because your book piles are a safety hazard, or a local film student calls to ask if they can shoot a scene in your house set in the Library of Congress, then maybe things have gotten out of hand. Or maybe you just don’t have enough bookshelves. Hard to say. Whatever you do, do not suggest getting rid of books. (Especially not specific books.) Wars have been started for less.
Dropping by the bookstore will never be a short visit.
Never. This is true even if the reader in question claims to be “just picking something up” or “just browsing for a minute.” Not going to happen. So wear comfortable shoes. Cancel your appointments. Pack a lunch…and maybe a dinner, too (but don’t you DARE smear jelly on the precious pages). This is gonna take a while. The same thing goes for libraries, actually. And don’t even get us started on how “just one more chapter” is pretty much always a lie with good intentions.
So, there you have it, a simple guide to the care and keeping of your reader. I’ve just helped you avoid lots of strain on your relationships!
And for all of you readers out there: what are some things you say or do that non-readers in your life just don’t understand?