Books, For Readers

Are You in a Toxic (Reading) Relationship?


I’m currently off on a dangerous and secret mission involving time travel, espionage, and peace-talks with dental hygienists. Please enjoy this post from the archives during my absence.


I love my husband. I do.


There is something about him I desperately want to change — his reading habits. Not only (in my opinion) does he not read enough, but he’s not reading the “right” books, and he’s definitely not adequately pondering the works when he does.

More pondering, please! 

I knew about his crazy reading appreciation deficiency coming into our marriage, but thought my constant nagging encouragement and Barnes and Noble purchases would be enough to get him to realize his inner-reader. Or, at least, enough to fulfill my daydreams of discussing the symbolism of Miss Havisham’s bridal gown while holding hands at the breakfast table. 

Not so.

I know I’m not alone in this bibliophilic bonding discord. And those of us who suffer can’t remain silent forever.

For fear that such a reading relationship should become toxic, sometimes you have to venture outside of the home for comfort.  Don’t worry, this is much more innocent than it sounds.  For me, I find solace within my book club discussions, through blogging, and in conversations with my reading friends and relatives. Literary harmony in the home can then be restored.

However, not every reader has a ready network to which they can turn. How does a fiction junkie persevere among a sea of non-fiction mothers in her child’s playgroup? How does a romance addict cope with the constant swooning when there is no one around to catch them? And, how should a biography buff proceed when in contact with a science fiction groupie? 

The answer is, “very carefully.”

If you keep your ears and mind open, there is hope for such dysfunctional relationships. Befriending those with different reading habits can open you up to new authors, genres, and ideas. 

My husband has been pleasantly surprised by some of my recommendations — others he uses as doorstops on windy days. We may end up discussing I AM AMERICA (AND SO CAN YOU!) instead of Great Expectations, but it’s worth living part of the dream. 

And sometimes we even hold hands.


Find me on Twitter @amandahoving

30 thoughts on “Are You in a Toxic (Reading) Relationship?”

  1. Now Husband Dan has an attachment to books I flee from: ponderous language, and/or veiled allusions to historical events, and/or the kind of mysterious foreign film dialogue I left behind when I exited the 60s. Recently, I gave him “Everything is Illuminated,” one of my all time favorite books. He read the first 20 pages or so and stopped. I asked him what he thought. “Interesting,” he said, which for NHD translates to “Throw this poor woman a bone.”


  2. Ian and I definitely have different reading tastes–and I must say, I love what he brings home–aways non-fiction (he’s a biologist) and stuff I wouldn’t normally check out but am usually sucked into–I don’t know if he would say the same of my reading pile, though:)


    1. I love that Ian is a biologist! Opposites do attract, don’t they? I have a numbers man myself, and he, er, doesn’t actually have a reading pile. (Except for the ones I stack up for him.)


  3. Please.
    The grass is always greener.
    Woman, you don’t know nuthin’ ’bout book sufferin’.

    My hubs falls asleep–no, wait, worse yet—creeps into bed with “Stock Options and You.”

    If he’s feeling particularly frisky, it’s “Hedging the HedgeFund.”

    Hot times, I tell you.

    I mock your pain.


  4. Good thing we have the blogs, indeed! 🙂 My husband just doesn’t read. He lets me tell him the stories of the books I read sometimes. And he actually really enjoyed 3 !! audiobooks on a long trip recently. So, there is occasionally hope. But like you, I turn to blogs – and the fact that I’m a librarian gives me the odd chance to talk books, too. 🙂 Although it should be said, I have to turn on a filter at work, so it’s not quite the same. (I can’t bash a book someone else likes at work. I don’t entirely speak my mind.)


  5. Jim doesn’t read anything either except photography and science magazines, and computer textbooks. He occasionally does audiobooks of Star Wars, and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (I don’t read science-fiction or fantasy). Thank goodness for the girls in my Book Club, and the customers in our bookstore!



    1. What’s with all of these stereotypical male readers, Wendy? Where are the ones who like to sink their teeth into some good literary fiction? We could start a support group from the comments right here.


      1. We certainly get male readers in the store who read “good stuff.” However, there are a lot of readers out there in relationships with “non-readers”…if I had a nickel for every person who’s come in and said, “If I buy another book, my spouse is going to kill me!”, I’d be rich! I’m always happy when I get a couple in who both like to read…I think it’s great that they found each other!

        It’s my theory that a lot of us who blog are with non-reading partners…we seek out other readers to network with through our blogs (assuming that most writers are also readers)!

        That’s my two cents…



  6. I’m currently in a toxic reading relationship with myself. I don’t read. That’s probably something I should get over…

    Hope that secret mission goes well for ya. 😉


      1. No teasing—I’m serious, I really don’t read on a regular basis. Which is just me being completely honest (hear that everyone? I DON’T READ!!!!)—but it’s true. I should honestly get cracking on something. I’m just so picky…

        And yes, City of Ember had its claws in me, but that was a veeeery long time ago…a year or so, maybe more…


  7. My husband won’t read anything beyond the TV Guide Channel. Wait, the Costco Connection magazine comes in and he will look at the pictures of electronics we can’t afford…does that count as reading?

    I gave up on him reading a long time ago 🙂


  8. My husband isn’t a book reader, either. I worry about that sometimes, because I want my boys to see that grown up men can spend some time with literature. However, he devours the news paper on a regular basis. I guess we all have the right to choose our favorite medium.


    1. I feel the same way, Maura. My husband also reads the paper, and has read the Harry Potter books, and some others on occasion, but reading is not his “thing.” So far, both of my boys love to read. Hopefully it will continue even as they get older, and have less and less free time.


  9. I live alone and so have to rely on my discussion groups and blogs to release my inner reader and her comments. My daughter reads a bit, but her tastes are entirely different from mine. She’s into vampires; I enjoy a wider and more diverse media.


  10. Yup, most of those habits just don’t change. I managed to marry someone who never read one thing I ever WROTE. Now, that’s a tough reading habit to deal with. If only I covered celebrity relationships.


  11. Hmm. I used to be a voracious reader. I married a lesser reader. He read non-fiction and I was a fiction aficianado. Somewhere along the line, I crossed over to his side. Now I read almost nothing that’s not for work. As a prof, that’s something I don’t admit much to people, but with three kids and a full-time job, seriously–who has time to read? Now I’ve crossed over to the other side, I see the reading people with different eyes. I wonder where they get so much leisure time. And why they care so much about people like Madame Bovary. I do go through jags when I experience phantom limb from my reading life… I know there used to be something integral to my life called reading, and I feel pangs of missing it–but mostly I get by just fine without it, and struggle to try to understand just what about all that WAS so integral. I pick up a book here and there for leisure but think I just must be getting bad recommendations–seriously, what WAS Maurice Gee doing in Access Road? So this is less about Gee how did I MARRY that non-reader than GEE how did I BECOME a non-reader, and the strange insight that has given me. I’ll continue to read your blog and others but often feel like a woman I once knew who sustained a brain injury in a car accident and lost the taste for chocolate and coffee. Not that she developed distaste for them–she just LOST the ability to taste those two things. I read you enjoying them and wonder hmm, will I ever get my reading libido back?


  12. It’s the same with me and my husband. He claims he “reads” all day at work and doesn’t want to read during his free time. I have to bite down hard on the inside of my cheek to prevent myself from reminding him that reading contracts isn’t “reading” the way I define it.

    I’ve been able to crack in with titles such as The Biography of the American Rifle, Born Standing Up (Steve Martin’s autobiography), and The Secret Life of Deer (don’t ask). We may never be able to discuss books we’ve both read, but I feel better just knowing I’ve encouraged him to read at all.



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