You are on a bus, and you see that someone a few seats ahead of you is reading a book. You peer around, looking for the cover. It’s a book you’ve read! Someone else is discovering words you love right now, and you’re witnessing it. What a glorious sight. But then the question comes: should you talk to them? what do you say?
I do not have the answers to this because I’m an excessively awkward human being. But I think it’s worth trying, if only to make more bookish friends. I love talking to people about books (often in a weirdly deranged and obsessive way because hey that’s what books inspire in me); I think all book bloggers do (even if it is just online). But there’s a real joy to connecting with other book lovers in ‘meatspace’ (stole that from illuminae, thanks illuminae) too.
Here’s a thing I did once: I was in an airport, and had been for many hours, because my flight had been delayed. The guy sitting next to me was reading a book that–well, I hadn’t read it but at the time I was partway through another book by the same author. I (after some encouragement from my mum tbh) turned to him and asked what he thought. We had a nice little conversation about books and then parted ways and have never seen each other again, but it’s still quite a nice memory.
There are many other times when I would have liked to talk to the bookish people around me–in the YA section of Kinokuniya in Singapore, in the library, at uni. But it’s hard to talk to people, and it’s hard to know what to say.
Also, I have been reading in a public place many times, and had people come up to me and ask what I was reading (like usually people I know not utter strangers but sometimes them as well). Now, I love talking to people about books, and often when I’m reading in a public place I’m more than happy to start a conversation. At other times, however, it’s really annoying to be interrupted. And maybe you don’t wnt to be interrupted, and you should extend the same courtesy to others. In general, if someone is reading, I would wait until they’re not paying attention to the book (e.g. looking up at a stop on public transport) before trying to start a conversation with them.
So with all those anecdotes/caveats/waffle, let’s go for things you can say to bookworms.
- What are you reading? This is a pretty basic one and will maybe just get the person showing you the cover and not saying anything.
- Would you recommend it? This is ideal if the person seems to be enjoying the book, like lauging at it or smiling or otherwise having a good time.
- What’s one thing you learnt from this book? I love asking people what they’ve learnt, it’s like one of my favourite conversation starters, and if the answer is ‘how to stab people quietly’…well, it’s probably a good sign?
- It makes me really happy to see you reading that book, it’s a really good one, I hope you like it. This is something to the effect of what I’ve said before. At the very least, you’ve succeeeded in conveying enthusiasm.
Things you shouldn’t do to start a conversation with a reader
- Spoil them. This is basic stuff, come on.
- Judge them for reading a book you wouldn’t. Again, obvious, but just in case.
- Start recommending them other books to read. This is a bad idea while someone is reading and when they just want to focus on the book that’s right there. If you start chatting more and they ask for recommendations, then fire away!