When I started dating my bookworm girlfriend, I thought we would mostly be on common ground. As a medical student, I’ve learned to keep a few books always at the ready (keep your friends close and enemies closer, I suppose?), but it’s once in a blue moon that I will pick up a piece of fiction to relax, especially for more time than it takes for me to fall asleep.
Reading as part of exam preparation and keeping abreast of updates in medicine means that I would much rather go out, play video games, or watch a show to unwind. I admit that I was a lot more of a recreational reader when I was younger, and I totally used my literary knowledge to win her over (a well-read woman is an attractive woman!).
When we moved in together a few months ago, I began to take note of some subtle differences that I think are shared characteristics of bookworms, from the perspective of the relative illiterates who love them.
1. TAKING GOOD CARE OF YOUR BOOKS
For my girlfriend, books are like fine china; they are prominently displayed in the house, are cleaned regularly, and spend 99% of their lives on the shelf. Organizing them (alphabetically, by colour, by size, etc) is a matter of taste but always follows strict rules (Aesop help me if I don’t put “A Storm of Swords” back between “A Clash of Kings” and “A Feast for Crows”).
Also, like fine china, a bookworm’s tomes must be handled with the utmost care. Hardcovers DO NOT get marked up, and even softcovers don’t get opened past a certain angle.
She recoils in disgust when she sees the dog-ears and sticky notes that I put in my reference manuals and anatomy atlas, and guards the condition of her sections of the bookcase like a mother tiger played by Liam Neeson.
2. THE VIRTUE OF SLOTH
My partner can spend hours in a chair with a book, a cup of tea, and our pets surrounding her, mostly motionless, turning pages or advancing the Kindle. Even Lora, our dog, will occasionally interrupt her with the need for a game of tug-of- war.
While I wouldn’t necessarily characterize myself as the active type, I still can’t fathom a long break from work being spent not moving around or at least watching a screen. If I have my eyes on a book, it’s usually because I’m frantically cramming for an exam.
When she does it, there’s a look of pure pleasure and relaxation on her face. Ah, for those days…
3. SOMETIMES FEELING GUILTY FOR NOT READING
I straight up feel guilty sometimes for browsing Reddit or Facebook on my phone to relax instead of catching up a bit on my fiction. This is often the case before bed when she’s getting through a few big bites of “Wuthering Heights” and I’m snickering at r/photoshopbattles (which is totally worth a look, by the way).
Having a significant other who’s a bookworm can make you feel like a Philistine at times, even though you’ll both find the occasional meme or video to laugh like idiots at.
Studies have shown that bright screen time before bed is a surefire way of falling into deep sleep later than your paper/e-ink counterpart, and she sure looks like she gets better sleep than I do.
4. A BOOKWORM’S SOCIAL LIFE
“Do you have plans Friday night?”
5. WE ARE THE KNIGHTS WHO SAY “READ”
After spending some time together, every couple has a conversational repertoire filled with inside jokes and little moments that they cherish from early on in the relationships when fires burned a little brighter and you were exceptionally passionate about getting to know one another.
When you’re with a bookworm, a lot of conversation can have book references slipped in. I’ve learned quotes, themes, and characters from books that I’ve never read but only have tangential knowledge of. A year after she told me how reading “Dune” would change my life, I’m still stuck on page 30, but we still use “spice must flow” as a meme when we’re cooking in the kitchen.
6. DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES ON THE LIBRARY
We have completely different perspectives on what the library means. For me, it means work, highlighters, earplugs, and a race against the clock to finish a section before the rest of my hair falls out.
For a bookworm, however, a library is a magical fairyland where words are little marshmallows for the brain. A non-bookworm should have a fair amount of envy for their loved one when they enter a library.
Bookstores are even worse. While I am often browsing for hours to find the one book with the information I need, and often going home without buying anything, a bookworm will almost never leave a Barnes & Noble without a fresh new set of inked pages in their bag. It’s still better than going with her to shop for clothes (which we both kind of hate).
7. THE ROLE OF READING WHEN ON VACATION
Multiple books are a vacation must for a bookworm, even when you have a Kindle.
For me, a true vacation is one where my bags are unencumbered by the written word and replaced with maps, card games, and a phone loaded up with podcasts.
My partner needs, at the minimum, a kilo of books for the beach, bus, and the bar.
A few bookworms I know even bring books on vacation to give away or trade with new friends they meet on the road, which is a super-cool way of making new connections that I hadn’t thought of before I started dating one.
8. BOOK SMART IS BAR SMART
Books become a big part of a bookworm’s social life.
While it sounds like an oxymoron, bookworms can often be found congregating together in real life and on social media, discussing themes, elements of stories they love, and characters they love to hate.
I’m sometimes left out of the loop at a bar or coffee shop in the presence of my girlfriend and her well-read colleagues, and that’s when I break out a dumb joke like “Is that the one where Dumbledore dies?”
Often, a bookworm’s friends will be the best way to pick up recommendations on things they should read next; it’s the original Amazon suggestions algorithm!
9. BIG BOOKS IN LITTLE SPACES
I can think of more than a few times when we are going out with friends and I’m prepping my pockets for the essentials: keys, wallet, phone, and headphones. Meanwhile, my girlfriend is running late, not because she is taking her time in the shower (I’m the one who spaces out when hot water hits my face), but because she’s trying to cram a book into a just-slightly-too-small bag, or a Kindle into a tiny pocketbook.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen her having the opportunity to read at a dark discotheque or in the middle of a crowded table at a bar, but when your books are your friends you need to find space for them wherever you go.
10. BRINGING BOOKS INTO YOUR LIFE
If you love a bookworm, don’t make them choose between you and their books, because you’ll probably lose. When my significant other has made the difficult choice to sell a book or a set for some extra money, it’s clear that she’s departing with a friend, with small comfort in the fact that her book(s) will give someone else a renewed chance to fall in love with reading.
As I fell in love with her, I knew that there would be tough competition (I sometimes give the book on the night-stand the stink-eye when she’s not looking), but I’ve learned to share, because a bookworm’s mind and soul is ever-expanding and making more room for people and characters in their lives to love and enjoy.