There are things you notice about someone’s house when you go over for the first time. Maybe you always scope the kitchen. Maybe you are interested in the sound system. Maybe it’s what DVDs they have, what CDs, what’s hanging on their walls.
Me? I scope the bookshelves. When I get tours, I compulsively read the spines of books when walking by shelves. I don’t even realize I do it. I’m not the only one.
What books people own say a lot about them. What their interests are. Their guilty pleasures.
I judge people by their books, and not always fairly. I will mildly scorn a grown woman reading Gossip Girl in public. And I LOVE Gossip Girl. If you’re reading the latest best-selling mass-market paperback on the metro, I will peg you for a tourist. If you’re reading Ulysses, you’re a student. Or pretentious. Or both.
Of course, I assume that other people judge me by the books I’m reading, so it creates a bit of pressure.
I go through a minor freakout when I take the metro into town, because what will I read?! DC has an unwritten code that during the rush hour, one must read the paper, The Economist or something similar. Not a lot of books to be seen, except in the hands of tourists. Outside of rush hour though? Do I really want to be caught reading Clarice Bean Spells Trouble? Even though I have to read it for work? Or should I save that guilty pleasure for the confines of my house? The latest biography of Mao would be a good choice, but is way to big to fit into my cute purse. I need something smart, hip, cool, and small. Banana Yoshimoto usually fits the bill.At the coffee shop, I can bring whatever. Sometimes I will bring Forever in Blue: The Fourth Summer of the Sisterhood and you can think of me what you will. But I’m much more likely to grab whatever the latest literary fiction bestseller I’m reading. The Kite Runner or Special Topics in Calamity Physics. (Actually, I highly recommend you leave that last one at home. I really didn’t like it.)
This might just be my own paranoia, but there has to be a reason that cross-generational favorites, like Harry Potter and The Confessions of Georgia Nicolson get released with multiple covers– the regular “kid” cover and a boring, sedate, I-swear-this-isn’t-a-kid’s-book “adult” cover.
One the other hand, I kinda like the pressure. It makes me read adult books.