Let’s Talk Bookish: Why do people lie about reading books?

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion. Discussions pertain to topics related to reading or books. Share your opinions, and spread the love by visiting other “Let’s Talk Bookish” posts.

Prompts: Some people will say they have read books when they really haven’t; why do you think that is? Have you ever personally lied about reading a book? How do you feel about people who lie about reading books? Do you think there’s a certain type of book people are more likely to lie about reading?

**Please note there may be some sarcastic remarks in italics **

Close friends usually tell me like to tell exactly what they think when I suggest they read a book I liked. This ranges from, “I don’t want to,” “Make me,” “I hate reading,” and the infamous “I’ll pick it up later.” (Translation: I will not be reading it, but I know this might make you feel better, and I know that it will make you stop pestering me about it for the moment.) I love my friends, and this is how it should be! We shouldn’t feel the need to lead each other on about whether we will or won’t read a book, but, on occasion, people may not be as forthcoming about reading books.

Social desirability bias refers to a response bias where participants in a survey provide the socially acceptable answer. Because participants want to be looked upon favorably, they give the answer that is expected of them.  For instance, if individuals are asked whether they voted, they are likely to respond that they did because it’s the socially acceptable answer. Being asked about reading likely works in a similar way. When individuals are asked if they’ve read a book lately, they may be likely to respond affirmatively because reading is viewed as “good behavior.” If I tell you that I read, maybe you’ll see me in a better light. Reading is often perceived to be associated with intelligence. If you are a reader, you must be smart! (Right?! Also the opposite assumption must be true then.)

However, not all reading may be considered positive. Let’s take this one step further and consider genres. Certain genres are seen as more acceptable or even more superior than others. For instance, romance novels are often viewed negatively whereas classics are viewed positively. Science fiction and fantasy are often perceived to be only for nerds and geeks. Romance novels are often perceived to be read only by women. Due to social desirability bias, these stereotypes can influence responses. Generally, people may be more likely to say they do not read romance novels, even if they do. The stigma surrounding romance novels may prompt these negative responses. Similarly, people may be more willing to respond that they’ve read books by Toni Morrison or Jane Austen because books by these authors are deemed literary classics. Smart people read classics. (Obviously!)

Why do people are people not as forthcoming about reading books? There are plenty of smart people who do not like to read but it is hard to say no when society tells everyone that it’s what they should do–it’s what smart people do (apparently). Of course, only certain types of books are acceptable though. While I love reading, I understand there are so many things other people may enjoy more. Time is a scarce resource so we should spend it doing the things we love. I might try to convince you to read a book but I also respect that you don’t want to.

What your thoughts on this? Why might people not want to disclose that they aren’t readers? Why might others lie about reading a book? What can we do to create a culture that doesn’t shame individuals who cannot read or do not like to read?

Under A Painted Sky (2015)

by Stacey Lee
ASIN/ISBN: 9780606383912
Publication: March 17,2015

Under A Painted Sky is Lee’s debut novel. I’m a few years behind, but it could have been worse. I might have missed it altogether. It’s a stunning debut that immediately hooked me from the first line: “They say death aims only once and never misses, but I doubt Ty Yorkshire thought it would strike a scrubbing brush. This harrowing tale of the long and dangerous trek west on the Oregon Trail is told through Samantha, a young Chinese girl who accidentally kills a man in self-defense. Although only trying to protect herself, she knows she will be charged with murder simply because the law will not take the side of a Chinese girl. Samantha is rescued by Annamae, a slave who seizes the opportunity to pursue her freedom, and together they flee west disguised as young men, Sam and Andy. En route to their destinations, they’re joined by cowboys Cay, West, and Peety, individuals also fleeing from circumstances of their own.

Lee is able to convey the harsh realities of the Oregon Trail from stampedes to the threat of bandits on the loose, but she provides a more nuanced tale by having the main character be Chinese American, someone born in the U.S. yet still viewed as perpetually foreign. Utilizing a person of color as the main character provides a different perspective of the world during this period. Anti-Asian sentiment is featured prominently in the story beginning with the predicament Sam finds herself in and the all-around vitriol environment from the use of racial slurs to how she is generally treated. One of the more pivotal moments strikes when Sam appears on a wanted poster except the picture isn’t her at all, feeding into the stereotype that all Asians look alike. Lee also captures the U.S.’s racist history through Andy’s stories about her siblings, which are heartbreaking as she relates them to Sam. 

Sam and Andy’s relationship is the highlight of this story. They start as strangers thrown together by extenuating circumstances and are forced to trust one another. This shared experience forces them to bond with each other but eventually, it grows into something stronger. They look out for one another and inspire courage in each other. They begin to regard each other as more than friends; they begin to feel like sisters.

Found family is a heartwarming trope I love, and I especially enjoyed it here as Sam, Andy, and the trio of cowboys slowly worm their way into each other’s hearts. The conversations they have are often hilarious, and Cay’s antics provide much-welcomed comic relief. As their fondness for one another grows, Sam also develops a crush on one of the cowboys. Unexpectedly, I was gutted by the romance in this novel and was left upset for a few days. It wasn’t even a full-blown romance but more of an unrequited crush. I would reread some of the scenes over and try to make better sense of why it affected me so much but would come away slightly more devastated each time, repeatedly breaking my own heart. (I don’t understand why Lee did this to me!! Why???) I’m attributing it to having connected with Sam and the pain that comes with having a crush.

Overall, this was such a wonderful read centered around loss and friendship. I couldn’t put it down, and even after I finished reading it, I still didn’t want to. I just kept right on thinking about it. Stacey Lee is a phenomenal writer and reminded me why I used to adore historical fiction. If she is at the helm, I’ll be reading more books from this genre.

Asian Readathon: May 2021 Wrap Up

Start Date: May 1, 2021
End Date: May 31, 2021
Status: I was so close!!

  1. Read any book written by an Asian author.
  2. Read any book featuring an Asian protagonist.
  3. Read any book written by an Asian author in your favorite genre.
  4. Read any nonfiction book written by an Asian author.
  5. Read any book written by an Asian author that’s not US-centric.

HOW iT STARTED

OriginalTBR-052021


As expected from a mood reader, the TBR didn’t go as planned…yet, I continue hoping that at least once it will! I’m an optimist. I wish I had been as smart as everyone else and chosen something else for non-fiction like a book of poems or a cookbook, but I thought I would pick a book that I actually needed to read. Because need doesn’t necessarily equate to want, I just kept pretending it wasn’t there. I will have to get to it before summer ends…eventually.

HOW iT WENT

Author/Protagonist (Korean)
Fave Genre (Vietnamese)
Not U.S-centric (Chinese)

I was productive because the semester was coming to an end, and I finished grading just after the middle of the month. Also, with only five challenges and books being able to fulfill multiple challenges, it didn’t feel as daunting. What was difficult was trying to ensure I had different ethnicities/nationalities to fulfill the challenges.

Although not pictured above or listed as part of the readathon challenges due to overlapping ethnicity/heritage, I read other books that could easily be interchanged with the above selections (titles link to Goodreads). You will also note that I went on a Stacey Lee marathon. I’m hoping to post about how much I adored her books soon.

This was a fun way to celebrate API month by doing what I already love to do anyway. I will definitely be there for next year’s Asian Readathon. Hopefully I’ll be able to successfully complete the non-fiction challenge and will try to not use the same book for multiple challenges.

For the Wolf (2021)

by Hannah Whitten
ASIN/ISBN: 9780316592789
Publication: June 1, 2021
Series: The Wilderwood #1

For the Wolf was a challenge to read because I’d been anticipating it for so long. I had to read it in blocks so I wouldn’t overwhelm myself. My final verdict? It was worth the nearly year-long wait and the teasing from Whitten on Twitter.

Eamonn is our tortured hero, whose tenure as Wolf has made him more than just the keeper of the Wilderwood. As the woods begin to weaken, his desire to protect others from similar paths drives him to repair the woods by himself. Red is the sacrificial second daughter destined for the Wolf. Her entire life has been shaped by this single fate. When she enters the Wilderwood she eventually learns that some stories alter the truth while some stories are passed from one generation to the next because they aren’t just stories at all. Sometimes the things you’re scared of are less terrifying than what those things are keeping out.

For the Wolf is a reimagining of multiple fairy tales, including Little Red Riding Hood and Beauty and the Beast, but to solely call it that minimizes how wholly novel the book feels. It’s a dark adult fantasy rife with love, obligations, and sacrifice. Whitten’s attention to detail, from the plot to the landscape, transported me to the Wilderwood and Valleyda. Although the descriptions can seem lengthy, maybe even excessive at times, they contributed to an atmospheric read that allowed me to immerse myself in the story and the relationships. Furthermore, the complexity of the magic and the world we get a glimpse of is what contributes to this being such a good read. There’s a lot to the book but I am focusing on the relationships.

The relationships are one of the highlights of the novel with the most compelling one being Red and her older sister Neve. While they are destined to traverse different paths, their devotion to each other is moving. Can you imagine giving up one of the people you love the most in the world to a sinister fate? Neve’s character arc in the book is based on this need to get Red back. It serves as justification for Neve to embark on a mission to save Red even if she doesn’t fully understand what she’s getting herself into. We get snapshots of how Neve is faring through Valleyda Interludes. These chapters also contain characters who are as painstakingly secretive as the Wolf, and it was frustrating.

The romance between Eammon and Red is a slow burn. They’re bound to each other because of their circumstances, and feelings gradually grow from there, including frustration, desire, and eventually love. As much as I enjoyed the their relationship, it was also frustrating. I tried to understand Eammon’s behavior but I was increasingly irritated with him and his unwillingness to provide Red with answers. Although he believed he was helping her, he instead took away her agency, or at least what she had left of it. She deserved to not only make decisions for herself but to make these decisions with the most information possible. I get why he did it but I hated that he deliberately made it so difficult for her. (Okay… I go back and forth about this relationship because I just keep wondering if there’d be anything there had it not been for their connection to the Wilderwood. Like, how much is it the Wilderwood and how much of it is them? Am I reading too much into this? Ack…)

Then there is the Wilderwood with its many complicated relationships. It’s at once beautiful and terrifying. It would be fairly easy to describe the sentient woods as evil, and in the beginning, it feels that way. It is demanding and asks a great deal of those connected to it. It serves as both friend and foe, wholly immersed in its own survival. The Wilderwood takes more than many are willing to give, but it’s important to understand that in the larger context, it only asks as much as is required to maintain the bargains made.

Throughout the novel, I felt a certain amount of anxiousness, and I largely attribute it to my anticipation of the novel and the unknown. I had guesses, but I didn’t always figure out what was going to happen next. Additionally, I desperately wanted parts of the book to move along faster so I could get to the end. And the end is worth it. I realize that I continually remark about how frustrated I was with the book but as much as it frustrated me, I enjoyed it a lot. While it may be the allure of an adult version of known fairy tales (and the lovely cover) that compels individuals to first reach for the book, Whitten’s novel stands well on its own as an original taleFor the Wolf is only the beginning, and I cannot wait for the next book slated for Summer 2022.