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Random Encounters With Readers

A screenshot from the Sims, of two Sims on a bench. One is reading, the other turned towards her.

Story time.

I think it’s one of the nicest literary pleasures – books, your love of them and another’s love of them, forming a connection even though you don’t know each other. Books are one of those obvious ice-breakers, unless perhaps you’re using an ereader (though that doesn’t stop the possibility, only limits it), as books are something that are visual, an insight into the person you can use to start up a conversation. It lets you form an immediate connection, bypassing small talk (yay!) and given how much we readers often lament the lack of opportunities for bookish conversation in our daily lives, it’s a real boon.

One day I sat down at the bus stop; it was one of those small basic shelters, yet to be updated, all irrelevant outdated poster timetables and little space. Chewing gum on the flip seats. A girl around my age sat on one, deep in her book. I hadn’t encountered someone reading ‘in the wild’ for some time, let alone a reader my age. Etiquette flew out the window as I asked her what she was reading. It was a very brief conversation as she wanted to get back to her book – she was reading Virginia Andrews. That was my introduction to the writing pair. I don’t think I was headed anywhere particularly mundane that morning but the conversation made my day. It must have – here I am remembering it all these years later.

A few months ago at the Curious Arts Festival – I suppose I’m cheating here as it wasn’t long ago – I was attempting to finish Before I Go To Sleep without showing off what I was reading because S J Watson was sitting nearby and I’d made an admittedly oddly specific reference to where I was in the book when I’d asked him to sign it the day before. (Page 425, if you’re wondering – why I thought he’d know what scene that would be I don’t know.) I’m very aware of the pally-pally thing, of that blogger meeting an author thing, silly really. (I once went to a concert with my father and we stood with a group of friendly women we’d been queuing behind. We unfortunately found later we were standing with people who took fandom too far. A few of these experiences later and I’m very keen on the get-item-signed-and-get-going approach.) Anyway, a girl asked if she could share my bench and wondered which Watson I was reading. We had a brief chat about it – she didn’t want to spoil the ending for me and we both had books to read. Her enthusiasm was infectious and although I was already reading as fast as I could at the time, I finished it just that bit sooner because of it.

My last story is more of a sighting. A middle-aged man walking past doing the book equivalent of eyes glued to the screen. I was more than happy to do the swerving – not only was he reading but it was a favourite book of mine. It wouldn’t have been right to stop and say something but how I wanted to. It made me interested in looking for different opinions of the book (this was before blogging) because it was historical fiction about an empress and whilst I was perhaps on the younger side of the target audience, in stereotypical terms he was an outlier. Still in stereotypical terms, however, he looked like a university teacher and thus apt.

These are my stories. I wish I had more but then would encounters have such an impact if they were more numerous?

When did you last meet a reader by chance?



October 21, 2016, 1:47 pm

One of the most wonderful “meeting a reader by chance” experiences I’ve ever had was when my family was in Hawaii for my parents’ 50 anniversary, Ron’s and my 25th, and my brother and his wife’s 12th. We were there for about a week and during that week the last Harry Potter book came out. Everyone on Waikiki beach–including two of us–was reading it under an umbrella. People would walk up and down and smile to see each other reading it.


October 21, 2016, 7:25 pm

I was at an author event Wednesday night and readers abounded. Most of them were reading books by the authors who we were there to see. I was reading a SF book that had nothing to do with the event. The woman sitting in front of me turned around, saw me reading and pointedly looked down at my book over the back of her seat to see what it was. She never said a word, just turned back around. I found it so funny I almost started laughing and thought about holding my book up so she could see it better but I was too interested to see how much she would twist herself around to try and see the title.


October 22, 2016, 7:09 am

My latest bookish encounter was in the waiting room of a hospital. I had my Kindle open and was engrossed in it. A young girl – a medical student it transpired – sat next to me and asked what I was reading. We ended up discussing how to broaden your reading horizons (she was thinking it was time to go beyond YA stuff).

Jenny @ Reading the End

October 22, 2016, 4:02 pm

On the bus! A woman on my bus craned her neck to try and see the cover of my book, and I noticed her doing it and showed her the cover properly. She said she loves reading fantasy and always wants to read more of it, and told me a couple of fantasy novels she’s been reading lately and enjoying. Of course MY mind went perfectly blank and I couldn’t think of one single fantasy novel I’d ever read. :p


November 10, 2016, 3:07 pm

Jeanne: I love that you were able to celebrate those milestones together! And everyone reading it like that sounds absolutely wonderful. Instant community!

Stefanie: Haha! I suppose in that situation you (her) know the person is going to understand exactly what you’re doing and emphasise so being obvious doesn’t matter… though I’m surprised if she couldn’t see it; she might have well asked!

Bookertalk: Excellent story! And given the setting it’s lovely you both got that unrelated conversation.

Jenny: Oh but of course – isn’t it always the way that you’ll have no answers exactly when you need them… You had plenty once you’d parted ways, I bet!



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