Newsletter 1

There’s No Such Thing as a Real Reader

Brenna Clarke Gray

Staff Writer

Part muppet and part college faculty member, Brenna Clarke Gray holds a PhD in Canadian Literature while simultaneously holding two cats named Chaucer and Swift. It's a juggling act. Raised in small-town Ontario, Brenna has since been transported by school to the Atlantic provinces and by work to the Vancouver area, where she now lives with her stylish cyclist/webgeek husband and the aforementioned cats. When not posing by day as a forserious academic, she can be found painting her nails and watching Degrassi (through the critical lens of awesomeness). She posts about graphic narratives at Graphixia, and occasionally she remembers to update her own blog, Not That Kind of Doctor. Blog: Not That Kind of Doctor Twitter: @brennacgray

I like to imagine the first guy Gutenberg told about his press. “Movable type? Huh. I guess you’re not a Real Reader. Real Readers like that books are produced through typographic block printing. Books are supposed to be rare and full of imperfections. Every book is supposed to be different. Why are you so intent on wrecking reading?”

By way of writing my way into a difficult topic, I present to you a selection of quotes from the comments on Facebook about recent Book Riot posts:

Any serious bookhunter would love to dig through stacks of books. You want neat and tidy, go to a chain store – can can afford to pay people to keep it cold and orderly. I’ll stick to the indy shops who are in it for the love of books.

Also, never trust anyone who has never reread a book.

It has to be printed books . Not the software and hardware inside a computer laptop or I pad . The look and feel of a book only touches your heart.

Technology is for sissies.. Concerning e books anyway .. : )

Listening to Audio books isn’t cheating but it isn’t reading either. Listening to an audiobook but saying that you read the book is a complete lie.

Look at it this way: for every minute you do this silly analysis, you could be READING

Anything that has no other function but to fake books is atrocious.

Writing in a book is defacing a copy of great art.

I read slowly, which, similar to eating, is the most advantageous way to read. It gives time to digest properly.

Definitions of a real reader abound on the Book Riot Facebook page, and they make me sad. Sometimes they make me angry. Often they make me really want to not hang out with people who read, because man… People who read kinda sounds like jerks. Real readers only love to dig through stacks; real readers hate sterile new bookshops; real readers only read printed books; real readers hate ebooks; real readers don’t read audiobooks; real readers don’t write in books; and real readers read slowly. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. In the comments on our posts, in the comments on our Facebook, in the messages we get on Twitter, we at Book Riot are regularly told how we (and the readers who like our take on things) don’t measure up as readers.

We build our lives in books. But we are not Real Readers.

I’ve written about this before; you know it and I know it. Sometimes I feel like a broken record. But I also feel like I have to keep saying it, in defence of unReal Readers everywhere, because I keep seeing comments like those I’ve posted above:

There’s no such thing as a Real Reader.

And a corollary:

You are not the platonic ideal of readership.

All those things you might believe make someone a Real Reader — that they read the classics; that they treat their books as sacred objects; that they prefer print to digital; that they love to hunt for books — those are things you like. And that’s great. But why do you think you should get to define what it means to be a reader?

We all love stories. We might love stories published in different media, and we might show our love for them in different ways. But shouldn’t the important thing be the stories?

I’m calling for a moratorium on statements about how people ought to consume stories. I challenge you, reader, to stop yourself before you judge a fellow lover of stories. Whether they love a story you don’t, or they treat their books in a way you wouldn’t, or they craft with their book or only read on their iPhone or only read a few minutes a week or only listen to audiobooks. Ignore all of that. Let it go.

And shake hands with a new friend. A fellow story-lover. Ask for a recommendation.

Leave your judgement outside the library doors.


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