Stereotypes of Bookworms

25/02/2015 Discussions, Reading 21

Stereotypes of BookwormsUnfortunately we live in a world where people constantly make assumptions about others based on everything from the clothes they wear, to the way they talk, the company they keep, and even the pastimes they enjoy. As much as we would like to think we don’t do this, we all do – after all, it’s human nature to want to label and compartmentalise others. However, when it happens to you it can be pretty annoying, and even hurtful, which leads me on to the topic of this discussion post – stereotypes of people who read for pleasure. AKA, the bookworm.

Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing too terrible about the assumptions made about bookworms. We aren’t often mistaken for gang members, thieves, or delinquents, for example. However, I have often found that people do have very distinct ideas about bookworms, and make some pretty big assumptions about me as a person based on the fact that one of my hobbies is reading.

I also find that particular genres of books tend to give rise to different stereotypes, therefore in this post I thought I’d take a look at both general and genre-related stereotypes. Have you ever felt stereotyped in any of these ways?

Stereotypical ideas of bookworms

  • They are intelligent

Whilst it certainly isn’t insulting to be assumed intelligent, there are some people who seem to think you should know absolutely everything if you like books. They’ll be like ‘what do you mean you don’t know anything about quantum physics? I thought you were smart – you like to read don’t you?” Well yes, I like to read, but I prefer science fiction novels to quantum physics textbooks!

  • They always wear glasses

Yes, I like to read and I wear glasses. These two facts are entirely separate and in no way related. I have had glasses since I was three years old, and I was nowhere near as much of a reader then! But for some reason when you see any kind of representations of avid readers in films, or on TV, or in pictures, and even in books themselves sometimes, they always seem to be wearing glasses, which kind of confuses me. Reading too much doesn’t actually damage your eyesight! I imagine this probably relates to the stereotype of bespectacled folk as geeks/nerds, which leads me on to my next point…

  • They are geeks/nerds

Along with glasses, braces, high grades and a love of video games, a love of reading seems to be a badge of pure geekery. And I don’t mean ‘geek’ here in the modern, cool, geek-chic kind of way – I mean the old-school idea of a geek as being unpopular, weird and so intelligent that they have no social skills. Apparently voluntarily reading means you must be all of these things!

  • They are boring

So you enjoy a pastime that involves being quiet and sitting still? Then you must be incredibly dull. Never mind that you are being mentally transported to other galaxies, or worlds full of magic and wonder!

  • They never go outside

Just because I like reading doesn’t mean I do it literally all the time! If someone likes football, I wouldn’t expect them to run absolutely everywhere kicking a ball, so why do people assume that bookworms just sit inside and read all the time? The common consensus seems to be that avid readers are all pale, sickly looking, dark-dwelling creatures who rarely see the light of day, and it just isn’t true. I like reading The Lord of the Rings, but that doesn’t make me Gollum!

Genre-related stereotypes

  • YA readers

YA fiction and its readers tend to get a particularly bad rap, whether that’s from non-readers who question why any self-respecting adult would read a book that is purportedly ‘for teenagers’, or even worse, from snobby fellow bookworms who think all YA is badly written, and is primarily the domain of juvenile, squealing fangirls. And whilst it is true that there is some seriously bad writing in the YA genre, that’s true of every genre, and as any book blogger knows from the huge range of people in the book blogging community, all ages and all kinds of people can enjoy YA. Just because a book is about a teenager doesn’t mean it can’t be relatable or entertaining for adult readers!

  • Romance and chick lit readers

Romance and chick lit novels are often stereotyped as fluffy, unintellectual and with little depths, and unfortunately many people tar its readers with the same brush. For one thing, surely not all romance books are fluffy and shallow? And so what if they are? You can’t be reading War and Peace and Dickens novels all the time. Everyone needs to read something a bit light and fluffy now and then, and it shouldn’t be seen as a reflection on the person.

  • Fantasy and science fiction readers

Fantasy and science fiction in particular seem to be considered the realm of the geek, although I’m not entirely sure why. What’s so nerdy about dragons and wizards and spaceships and stuff? It all sounds pretty cool to me!

  • Literary fiction readers

Literary fiction readers are basically considered to be the hipsters of the book world. Some people seem to think that the only reason many people read literary fiction is to appear clever, or high-brow, but whilst that is sometimes the case, it isn’t always. I for one enjoy literary fiction, and it isn’t because I’m trying to impress anyone – it’s just because I like it!

So have you ever felt yourself stereotyped in any of these ways because you like reading, or enjoy a certain genre? And are there any more that I have missed?

21 Responses to “Stereotypes of Bookworms”

  1. Stevie Larwood

    Another great post! I’ve certainly been at the end of judgemental scowls from friends and such when I’m reading something that is romance or YA based. I know a few people that tend to stick to classic books and I feel that they get stereotyped as either ‘old fashioned’ or they’re accused of just having those kind of books on their shelves for show which is ridiculously unfair. It’s a shame that all people can’t just respect that everyone has different likes and loves!

    • Laura

      I couldn’t agree more! Everyone should just be able to read what they like without being judged or stereotyped.
      I read both YA and the classics, so I have experienced both those stereotypes. I find with YA people tend to try and make you feel embarrassed for reading it, like ‘aren’t you a little old to be reading that?’, and with classic books people either assume you’re boring or just trying to look smart, and it’s pretty annoying!

  2. Ardelia

    This is such a great look at stereotypes, Laura!

    I’ve run into people who hold a few of these. It’s kind of funny to watch them react to the fact that I don’t fit into their stereotypical view. My two favorite genres are literary fiction (thanks to my English degrees) and fantasy.

    I never realized that people who read literary fiction were considered hipsters. I’ve always kind of felt like a nerd for my love of the classics. This is definitely exciting news. 😉

    • Laura

      Literary fiction and fantasy are my favourite genres too! 🙂
      I got into literary fiction through doing an English degree too, but I think a lot of people can’t believe that anyone would actually read books like that for pleasure and assume they are just doing it for show, which is kind of what I was getting at with the hipster thing. Either that or they just think you’re really boring, so it can kind of go either way!

  3. Maddy

    This post is so accurate. I hate seeing people look at me like a bug under a magnifying glass when I say I like to read. Especially if I’m at a party, or dressed up, or anything not stereotypically “nerdy.” I don’t see why my interests should define who I am as a person.

    • Laura

      That’s so true! Your interests shouldn’t define you as a person.
      People do always think when you say you like reading that you must never go anywhere and do things like go to parties, which I find really weird – we’re just the same as everyone else, except we like to read!

  4. Eryn

    Hi, Laura! I really liked this post. That’s everything I’ve wanted to say and actually I’m experiencing one of the stereotypes which kinda makes me a bit mad. I had an argument with my mother a week ago and she said that me-being-able-to-have-harsh-rebuttals on her opinions came from my hobbies of staring down all the time at my tablet; reading fictions, fanfictions and other things. She assumes that whatever I’m reading, have gotten me brainwashed that I dare to argue her. I was completely mad beyond measure. It’s not my fault that I got her totally lost at the fight, because she didn’t have more supporting opinions like I did and I delivered them systematically, not like her who fumed aimlessly. I admit that my habit of reading books since I was a child, is what makes me have the capability of purposeful debating. Besides, I thought my mother should have been happy to see that I am like this, which means all money she spent for my education until now, is not a waste, right? lol

    • Laura

      I’m glad you liked the post!
      And that sounds tough with your mother. I think reading from a young age definitely gives you a bigger vocabulary and maybe helps you be able to construct more logical arguments, but that’s not the same as being ‘brainwashed’ into daring to argue with her. I suppose that’s part of a stereotype of readers as being ‘smarty pants’, and ‘know-alls’, which isn’t really fair.
      I hope you managed to work things out with her anyway!

  5. Kaja

    This is such a cool post. “I like reading The Lord of the Rings, but that doesn’t make me Gollum!” –> this made me laugh 🙂 And since I read YA, romances, *and* SFF, I get a lot of weird looks from my non-bookish friends and colleagues. Like: you have a university degree, why the hell would you want to read that romantic crap?

    • Laura

      I get that too when I read YA or fantasy! I did an English Literature degree so people assume that even now all I read is classics and literary fiction. And when I do read that I get people thinking it’s just for show or to be ‘clever’ (or they just think I’m really boring), so I really can’t win!

  6. Bee

    Hey! Just stopping by again to let you know that I just nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award. You can find it here if you want to participate <3 Bee

  7. Hillary Roberts

    YES!! People label me with many of these! I wear glasses because my contacts ripped my cornea in one eye and it hurts now if i use contacts. People take one look at me and decide I must be REALLY smart in ALL THE THINGS and when I dont know something they get all disappointed.

    • Laura

      Ouch! A ripped cornea sounds painful!
      And I get people being disappointed all the time if I don’t know things too. I’m sure people just look around for someone with glasses when they want to know something, and expect that you will know!

  8. Zed

    Great post! Yes, I’m stereotyped a lot for reading but I don’t wear glasses! I don’t mind being thought of as intelligent but I’m no genius and sometimes people are confused between the two..

    • Laura

      That’s true. I’d like to think I’m reasonably intelligent but I’m definitely not a genius, but people assume you are and will know about any subject they ask you about just because you read books!

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