I come from a family of readers so rapacious that I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve awoken in the middle of the night to have one of them ferreting through my bookshelves. Were I a cynic, I’d say that they were making noise to wake me, because upon noticing my open eyes, they said not ‘Sorry I’m standing in your room in my underpants, pilfering books at this ungodly hour’, but ‘Do you have any new books I can read?’
So how I managed to once date a guy who didn’t read for pleasure, I’ll never know. In truth, despite a vague awareness of industry concern about how to get boys reading, I’d never actually encountered one who didn’t. The concept of a guy who didn’t devour books was so far outside my realm of comprehension that it didn’t occur to me to ask questions about it during the initial get-to-know-you dating phase.
It was, in retrospect, a rookie mistake and one I won’t be foolish enough to repeat ever again.
Relationship red flags in are normally things like: he said he had study to do and now there are photos of him on Facebook on a wild night out with random, scantily-clad girls, or she still lives with her ex-boyfriend, but it’s because they’re really good ‘friends’. They’re not normally things like he doesn’t read for half an hour before going to sleep or he doesn’t understand why a rainy day spent in quiet reading and contemplation is pure bliss.
It hasn’t been until recently that I’ve been able to acknowledge, much less tell others about, such a seemingly petty red flag. But what I’ve come to realise is that although there are worse traits than a lack of love for reading, for a writer and reader who exists only for reading and writing, it is a giant, red flag billowing in the dealbreaker wind.
Someone who doesn’t have such a fundamental, almost primal passion for reading cannot possibly ever begin to know or understand me, and nothing snaps me out of a maybe-it-could-have-worked depression than the three-word reminder that he doesn’t read.
Even better, my fantastic friend Imogen pointed me in the direction of a girl who clearly understands the importance of boys reading and who has created a blog to celebrate it. Entitled Hot Guys Reading Books, the blog invites people to submit photos of guys, well, reading books. It’s a simple concept, yet so heartening for those of us unsuspectingly stung by the non-reading red flag. Spoiler alert, the guys are less hot and more guy next door ok, but it’s the reading that makes them much, much cuter.