Books, For Readers

You Can’t Judge a Person by Their Book Covers

woman in blue striped flannel shirt holding a book indoors
Photo by Daria Shevtsova on

There are so many reasons why I love going to the library: the books, the all-knowing librarians, the books, the atmosphere. The books.  And, now that my kids are all in school, I can actually go to the library by myself and spend more than the usual fifteen seconds looking around. Even better, though, I now have time for something else — time to notice the books that other people are checking out.

I love being surprised by what people are reading. It can give a fascinating peek into the person behind the pages, often showing a side to someone you would have never guessed existed. My last visit to the library was akin to walking into the Biblio-Twilight-Zone — all reading stereotypes were smashed to the core. Is this how it’s always been?  I wondered. I was enlightened, intrigued, and (in one case) flabbergasted by the choices of my fellow library patrons.

A sampling of the stacks…

Piles O’ Romance (Harlequin Style)  

Reader Stereotype: Thirty to forty-something year-old female surrounded by cats and online dating brochures. (Side note — according to Romance Writer’s of America, Romance readers are usually women between the ages of 31-49, however, most are in relationships. But, they do have cats.)  What I witnessed:  An eight-ish-year-old girl fully engrossed in a bodice ripper that was encased by an extreme blush-inducing cover. Hello parents…where are you?

The Iliad of Homer

Reader Stereotype: Professor-type who laments the state of modern literature. Tweed and argyle may or may not be involved. What I Witnessed: a seventy-ish-year-old long-haired male, wearing a black t-shirt and sporting a Bugs Bunny Tattoo down his forearm. He was openly laughing in sections while taking notes. Student? Writer? Recent escapee?

Maxim and Sports Illustrated (the swimsuit issue), and (probably) a hidden Playboy at home

Reader Stereotype: Sports-loving, beer-can-on-head-crashing, monosyllabic, bimbo-loving, bona fide male.  What I witnessed: A sports-loving, beer-can-on-head-smashing, monosyllabic, bimbo-loving, bona fide male. (Just kidding.  He was drinking whiskey, not beer. The library has become so lenient these days.) Yeah, yeah, I know guys. You get them for the articles.

High Times, and Gardening for Dummies *

Reader Stereotype: Long-haired, oddly smelling, peace-loving hippie-type. Oh, and of course…an avid gardener.  What I witnessed: A professional woman in her early thirties dressed in a crisp business suit with baby in tow. Perhaps they were about to embark on a Science experiment?

The Daring Book for Girls

Reader Stereotype: Well, um…,a girl. What I witnessed: A young father of two toddling females devouring every. Single.  Page.  Good on you, sir! It’s always a smart idea to keep one step ahead of the enemy.

Yes, overall, a very interesting and inspiring trip — giving hope against all of the naysayers who constantly proclaim that “Reading is dead!”  Maybe genres are simply changing hands and finding new audiences.

Happy Reading!

*(Okay, so I saw this person at a book store, and not my conservative-ish library, but just go with it).

20 thoughts on “You Can’t Judge a Person by Their Book Covers”

  1. Hi Amanda:

    You’re bang-on with this post!

    One of our customers at the bookstore is a guy who works construction, likes fishing and hunting, and rides a Harley. He also plays golf and reads good literature!

    We have another customer who fits your “hippie” stereotype, who loves old bindings! She’s purchased several books from us (and brought her friends in too).

    I have a friend who’s the biggest advocate for women’s rights that you’ll ever meet, but she loves romances!



  2. hahahahahah…I can’t believe you spotted someone reading High Times! They still print that?

    You know, I’m surprised by all of these EXCEPT your Harlequin reader. I was raised in a very Catholic family. Where else was I going to find out–*ahem*–what I needed to know? So yes. I indulged in a bodice ripper or two (or seven…or 24).


    Maybe I’m not surprised by your Iliad reader. I had to read that for a humanities class in college, and assumed it took a different kind of person to want to read that for fun. (It’s a bit…dry.)


    1. Yes, High Times is alive and well, Maura. I was going to link to their website, but thought, well…maybe not appropriate? 😉

      I read quite a few Harlequin’s myself since they were the only books that were ever available on the “Take and Leave” shelf at the train station. (And, yes, also from a Catholic family, so it was homework, so to speak.)


  3. The library–remember when the librarian could just look at you and know what you were longing to read?
    Our’s seldom have suggestions for my 14 year old–so we mainly go when we need something google can’t provide.
    I loved seeing what people were picking out–
    The gardening mom was doing what she felt she should..I have been there but recovered quickly )
    Thanks this was fun!


  4. When I read your posts, I feel sometimes like you’re who I’m going to be in a few years – still loving the library, still loving books books books books books, and still watching people and finding them interesting. I hope that I do keep these qualities just like you!

    Seriously, though, isn’t it bizarre how people don’t fit the stereotypes sometimes? I mean, bizarre in a completely awesome way. I love seeing teenage girls chewing bubble-gum reading science fiction and shy, geeky, tuba playing boys reading hard-rock magazines and the like. YAY for the shattering of stereotypes!


  5. Yup, you can have an adventure at the library, and not just by reading. Good post. Yesterday I saw a woman reading a book that she had made a cover for out of brown paper – I REALLY wanted to know just what she was reading that was making her smile that way. . .


  6. I’m lucky, in that I work next door to the library, and as we are the Community Education centre our roles overlap alot of the time and we see the same people. It is interesting to see what people are reading/interested in.
    My favourite was the little old lady of 85 who had us all searching out the goriest of crime fiction.



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