July 15, 2010

The voyeur inside you

So let's say you're in a bookstore. And let's say you're hanging around, doing your thing (which is almost always covertly checking where the other people in the store are going). And then one of them picks up a book, and instantly you are just dying to know what that book is. Or you're on the subway/BART/train and you see someone reading, and you almost get a neck cramp trying to contort your head enough so that you can read the title, or at least get an identifying glimpse at the cover. (I must admit I may have, in the past, subtly followed people around, trying to get a peek.)

What is it about books, that the second they're picked up by someone, they get infinitely more interesting? That book with three pandas on the cover is not going to be interesting until someone picks it off the shelf and starts browsing - then, of course, I must go over and check it out myself. (Except let's face it; three-panda-books will always be interesting, so there's a flawed premise.)

This translates (not as dramatically or voyeuristically) into reviews/blogs as well, I think. There are many books I would not consider until someone pointed them out to me in a review. Which makes me think maybe we're not all complete voyeurs (thank god, right?). Maybe the world is just too big a place (did you know upwards of 175,000 titles are published in the United States every year?), maybe it's kept manageable by the lists and the reviews and the recommendations, even if it's only barely manageable at that. (See my to-read list on Goodreads for evidence of that - 2800 and counting...)

But I still have to confess, even if we seek out others' habits to nurture our own, there's still more to my people-watching addiction. Just like the urge to eavesdrop on other people's conversations (and it can't be my fault if they make it so flipping easy), I'm often struck by the urge to know what other people are reading. Not to get recommendations for myself (everyone knows I have far too many already) - no, this is just because of my infinite curiosity about other people. What they do, where they go, who they see. What they read. The bookish voyeur, that's me.

What do you think? Do we all have a little voyeur inside of us? I've certainly yet to meet another reader who isn't immediately interested in a book (in knowing, at least, which book it is) when they see another person reading.

3 comments:

  1. I suspect that good writers may often be nosy, because how else do you gather the raw material for your stories?

    I can eavesdrop much better with my new hearing aids but that's not why I like them. Of course.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I am a complete book voyeur. It makes me happy to see people reading. I'll admit to being nosey and trying to see what books people are carrying/looking at.
    If someone is reading a book I've read, I'm so curious as to what they think about it, where are they in the book, what they think each character looks like, etc.
    Great post!

    ReplyDelete
  3. That does seem to be a common thread with writers (the nosiness bit). It's certainly nice knowing I'm not alone... :)

    ReplyDelete