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Read what you want! This is a shame-free reading zone

I recently overheard an interaction between two bookish acquaintances that got me thinking.

A spicy romance caught a young woman’s eye, and she picked it up to read the first few pages. An older man walked over and said, “Why are you reading those trashy books? You need to read Bill O’Reilly’s history books.”

Um, excuse me, what?! If your reaction is anything like mine, then your eyebrows have disappeared into your hairline. Granted this was delivered with a teasing tone, but I did not find it funny. Neither did the young woman at whom it was directed. She felt embarrassed and humiliated to have this attention drawn to her.

Also, this was not the first time he had done this. I was coming in on just the latest encounter. The young woman had resorted to just uncomfortably laughing him off.

I could not stand by and watch this. “Hey, now. This is a shame-free reading zone.” I am generally not this bold outside of my own head, but I took it a step further. “I bet I could find you a romance you’d enjoy. I just finished reading a great series called The Bromance Book Club. It’s about a group for super masculine dudes who read romance books to become better men.” (Did your eyebrows go back up again? Mine, too).

He declined. But to my knowledge, he also stopped his tired gag after that.

Political commentary aside, I feel this encounter is a reflection of a larger issue that needs addressing. These two people were in a space that should have felt welcoming to both of them, but ended with one feeling intellectually attacked for their personal preferences.

Any reading is good reading. Whatever you pick up, you are expanding your mind outside of your own thoughts and improving your vocabulary and cognitive recall. You are also taking a moment for yourself. When you make the effort, and sometimes it is an effort to pause the thousand and one things that seem to always be on your to-do list, to choose some me-time and pick up a book that’s calling to you, the last thing you need is someone, especially some rando, judging you for it. Out loud. To your face.

Let’s make a pact, you and I, right now to approach others with kindness, an open mind, and respect for their differences in opinion. Honestly. Is that really asking so much?

No more “guilty pleasure” reading. Read it loud and read it proud. Whether your go-to read is spicy romance with all the juicy smut, historical nonfiction from political commentators, cookbooks cover to cover without using any of the recipes, or Star Trek: The Next Generation fanfiction.


A lifelong reader of all genres and an aspiring fiction author, Carissa Kellerby has worked at several locations during her 13 years with the Tulsa City-County Library and is currently the manager of the Jenks Library.