Unfortunately 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!
- 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?