BFTP – Friday Hoyden: reading in public

This post is part of our Summer Slowdown repost series, and is revisited in solidarity with 15 year old Reddit user Lunam who met a deluge of sexist bullshit in the atheism subreddit after daring to post a photo of herself holding a book. Comments on the original version of this post in October 2008 showed how often a dim view is taken of women reading in public.

How many of you always carry a book to read?

Do you find that your commute time is actually the time you can have to yourself to get that reading done?

On the platform, reading



Is your ideal lunch-hour finding a park bench all of your own, or a spot in the sun, and devouring a few chapters?

Reading a book in Central Park

Reading in Erie Park

Reading in the Park


Statue of the Peanuts Character Marcie Reading, Rice Park, St. Paul, MN

When you went on holiday as a child, were your parents always telling you to get your nose out of that book?

Reading in the flowers

Royal Reading

Is the fact that you’ll have more free time for reading still the best part of going on holiday? (Judging by the many photos of stacks of books titled “Holiday Reading” on Flickr, we are far from alone!)

Holiday Read

Hardy Reader

And finally, the two big questions:

  1. Have you ever kept on reading while travelling, even though you were getting motion sickness, to the point of actually throwing up because you didn’t want to stop turning the pages?
  2. Have you ever actually flipped your wig when someone has interrupted your reading in public to have a conversation, on the assumption that you must only be reading because you were bored or lonely and would much rather be chatting to a stranger? Or have you just always gritted your teeth and borne it?

Image credits: all pictures found on Flickr – click on a photo to go the the photographer’s photostream

Categories: arts & entertainment, fun & hobbies, gender & feminism

Tags: , , , ,

14 replies

  1. I used to do 1 all the time as a kid.

  2. YES to all questions!
    Currently Reading: A Dance to the Music of Time, which will take me a fair while.

  3. I get motion sickness so easily I usually don’t even start reading on busses and in cars (trains are fine), and I don’t think anyone has ever interrupted me reading in public (based on the number of other women who’ve experienced this, I’m starting to suspect I exude “don’t mess with me” vibes) – otherwise the answer is Yes.

  4. Coincidentally to this post, a friend of mine was reading in a pub last night and a man came up to her and tried to snatch her book away, asking her, “Why the fuck are you reading in a pub?”

  5. I used to grit my teeth at strangers interrupting my reading, but now I say, ‘I’m reading’ and go back to my book and pointedly ignore them until they go away. It feels horribly rude, but as soon as I’m back into the book, I forget all about it. Generally I’m OK with interrupting my reading for family and friends, but only OK. It’s mutually frustrating because I really love reading quietly but with lots of other people around doing other stuff.
    The photo of the women lying in the snow to read is great. Peace, but damp.

  6. I read all the time in public, even if I’m motion sick, but not to the point where I throw up! I hate when people interrupt. I feel like the bookworms of the world need a “I’m reading here!” gif of some sort.

  7. I find that having headphones in sometimes deters people from interrupting, but your mileage may vary on that one (particularly with douchebags in pubs).

  8. I’m definitely prone to motion-sickness, and have read in moving vehicles to the point of headache and nausea, if not actual vomiting.

  9. I go through books too quickly and don’t have enough on my list these days, I’m always running out. Thank goodness it’s free to request books from the library again though.

  10. Yes to all! (except the motion sickness one – not quite to the point of throwing up – but I don’t get motion sick all that much, and if I did I would probably be more inclined to read longer)

  11. Thankfully I didn’t get motion sickness while/due to reading. I clearly remember one of our many long road trips to a far away holiday place, laying on the back seat (only child), and just finishing The Black Stallion (which I loved) as we began a slow traffic jam (road maintenance in the forests to Lakes Entrance)… so I read it again.
    It’s been a while since I did a commute by PT, but reading was a lovely buffer between work life and home. During my last degree, I got all my assigned reading done on trams.
    Re; flipping my wig. I’ve never really been interrupted by strangers during reading. I feel like its such a common thing, especially during peak hour, that everyone’s agreed it’s a consuming, personal activity and I always thought it equalled “Do not poke the bear”.
    Home, though, is somehow a different story. This is what is used to be like during bed-time reading:
    Him: I just read this bit-
    Me: I’m reading.
    Him: Can I just tell you this good bit?
    Me: No, your interrupting. I’m reading.
    Him: I know, but it’s really good. Anyway, I’ve interrupted now.
    Me: I won’t like it.
    Him: [reads deliciously/delightfully witty/thoughtful/evocative passage]
    Me: You’re ruining that book for me, you know.
    Him: Yeah, but its good though, right?
    Me: You suck, you and your book.
    Him: Can I interrupt you?
    Me: Hang on… ok, go.
    (Goes both ways, obviously.)

  12. Heh, I remember this post the first time around – nice to revisit it again.
    I’m a coffee shop reader from way back and often used to get the ‘whatcha reading?’ stuff from strange men. Like Pen says:

    I used to grit my teeth at strangers interrupting my reading, but now I say, ‘I’m reading’ and go back to my book and pointedly ignore them until they go away.

    I think doing this during my 20s was the start of me realising that it was OK to say ‘no, go away’ and that I didn’t have to ‘be nice’ all the damn time, especially to random strangers who felt entitled to my attention.

  13. These photos make this old librarian very happy. I love to see people reading anywhere.

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