Don’t Tell Anyone You Read This
by Lauren Maresca, Poetry Staff
On an episode of Book Riot (a great podcast all about book news, highly recommend), one of the co-hosts, Rebecca Joines Schinsky, presented the challenge to read a book and not tell anyone about it. To read a book and keep it a secret. She clarified not only to not tell anyone that you had started reading such-and-such novel but to never acknowledge that you had read this book. Ever. Your professor brings it up in class? You didn’t read it. A stranger in line at the coffee shop is clutching it to their chest? You’ve never even seen the cover before. What was the best book you’ve read recently? Certainly not that book, no matter how much you enjoyed it.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember the last time, if ever, I read a book and didn’t talk to at least one person about it afterward. We are taught to be social readers, to share what we’ve read. There’re whole arenas for this: book clubs, English classes, Bible studies, author meet and greets, Goodreads—just to name a few.
Reading, however, is framed as more than social. It has become performative. From a young age, we are handed summer reading book lists to check off and rewarded for reading with programs like AR points and Read Across America (or at least that’s what my elementary school did). We are told if we can’t summarize the plot of a book we might as well have not read it at all. And don’t get me started on book fairs—buying books to brag to your friends that you bought books.
Yes, these programs are so important for encouraging young readers, but it also creates a mindset of reading for show.
Now, reading in a crowded coffee shop, that’s quite a performance. You deserve a standing ovation for that one.
I’m not trying to say we should all go find dark closets to go read in alone or that we should wrap our books in brown paper so no one knows what we are reading. What I am saying is when we choose a book to read, what other factors go into our selection or into our motivation to finish it? Would you have read that 500-pager in the Q if no one knew about it? Or that trendy self-help book with an iconic cover if you couldn’t post it on your Instagram story? I’m talking about you, You Are a Badass.
So, in 2021, I challenge you to read a book and not tell anyone. Read a book completely for yourself. Maybe a book you were already planning to read so you can sit smug with a secret when the title passes others’ lips. Or maybe a book you wouldn’t want to tell anyone you read anyway. Go pick up a Magic Treehouse or something. It’ll be your little secret.
So, what’s it going to be?
Wait, don’t tell me.