I am a book creeper. I love looking over strangers’ shoulders to see what they’re reading; whether they borrowed it from the library or it’s worth buying in hardcover, whether the author is a household name or someone that is still mostly unknown. E-readers are the bane of my existence.
Public transportation is the best place for this, particularly trains and subways. I’m usually reading too, so the way I see it, it’s fair game.
But a few weeks ago I was on the train to Baltimore and the unimaginable happened – I had no book to read. I tried to keep myself entertained during the ride: I fidgeted with my phone, scanned the emergency procedure pamphlet tucked in the seat in front of me, studied the scenery. It worked for about twenty minutes.
I was also trying to figure out which book the guy next to me was reading. I knew it was one of the Millennium Series novels, but I couldn’t figure out which one without being completely obvious. So, I broke the rules of book creeping (desperate times called for desperate measures) and I asked him.
Turns out, he was one of those bookworms who didn’t mind being interrupted from his book.
Honestly, I can’t remember what his name was, but let’s call him Matt. Matt was on a mission to read the book before he saw the movie. He’d realized that Hollywood rarely did justice to the original story. Which was why he was reading The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo.
As we talked I realized that Matt was a late bloomer, in the bookworm sense at least. He admitted that he never really liked books until recently and he talked about the novels he read with a new found excitement. He was probably one of those guys in high school who scanned Sparknotes and asked kids like me was the major themes of the book were.
“It’s kinda a shame that I didn’t read more sooner,” he said, “books are really great.”
It was actually a really nice conversation. I think I recommended I, Robot and I am Legend as well as The Girl Who Played with Fire. But it made me wonder what makes reading a passion for people. Why do some people gravitate instantly to it as soon as they have a basic understanding of letters while others discover it later? And why do some people never find it at all?
I think it’s partially attributed to attention span. But mostly I think it’s based on the reader’s ability to believe in someone that doesn’t exist and to be able to empathize with that imaginary person. Books become a passion when you’re not just reading words on a page, but taking them in and believing them without reservation.
Right before the train got to the station and we gathering up our things, Matt leaned over and said: “You know the Harry Potter movies? They suck compared to the novels.”
And so J. K. Rowling welcomes another fan to her legions.