A few months ago, I came across this 2014 listicle by one Rachel Cordasco: 10 Obnoxious Things People Say to Hard-Core Readers. Curious, perhaps, or maybe just bored, but definitely in the mood for some mild ridicule, I clicked through to Book Riot to have a little look-see. After all, I like a clever listicle as much as the next twenty-something, and I like Book Riot even more.
But instead of howling with laughter (not that I ever do this, hopefully) at an utterly relatable series of spot-on observations, I ended up sitting, confused, at my desk chair, wishing I’d never logged on to Facebook in the first place. Far from agreeing with Cordasco’s introductory declaration that “we hard-core readers have all been there,” I wondered whether anyone has ever “been there.” Of all the things that people say, to bibliophiles or otherwise, I don’t think these are among them.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I just happened to pick non-douchey friends, and my family strives against the odds to keep their judgments to themselves, and all the strangers I’ve ever encountered have, by pure coincidence, been the type to withhold their snoot concerning my reading habits. Maybe I’ve just been extraordinarily lucky for a so-called “hard-core reader.”
You tell me.
I’m totally serious. I’d love to know if even one of these comments resembles anything ever uttered aloud IRL. Victims, please share your stories below. Bystanders, give us a play-by-play. Because until I hear the testimony of some actual
eye ear witnesses, I refuse to take the scare quotes (a.k.a. sneer quotes) off the title of this post.
Let’s take the list one by one, shall we?
1. All that reading will destroy your eyes.
Is this a thing? Even, like, a well-meaning-if-misguided kind of thing? Some old wives’ tale I missed out on, perhaps—or just some run-of-the-mill concern trolling? Because I can remember my optometrist telling me, about 20 years ago, to avoid reading in dim light. But he was, you know, my optometrist: a medical professional dispensing advice in the context of an eye exam. This kind of sounds like some fire-and-brimstone preacher trying to terrify small children into renouncing sin.
2. You’re going to spend all of your money on books and then you’ll starve and you can’t eat books, now can you.
Well, that escalated quickly. This is obviously completely made up, right? All the way down to the snide italics at the end?
Also, isn’t there a famous quote along these lines featured on bookstore tote bags, or something? Oh, yes, here it is. I wonder if Rachel Cordasco was making a half-assed attempt to plagiarize a tote bag. Stranger things have happened, you know. (Just not this “quote.”)
3. You read books outside of class?
It’s one thing, I guess, to mock somebody for being a book nerd (see #8). But I’m pretty sure everyone has heard of reading as a hobby? Like, that’s kind of on everyone’s radar, even if they think it’s uncool?
4. You read books for fun? What kind of masochist are you?
Again, most of the people who occupy the world I’ve lived in for decades are aware, at least, of the concept of reading for pleasure. And anyone who isn’t would not convincingly use a vocab word like “masochist.”
5. Oh, you read War and Peace? Weeeelllll, guess you’re too smart for me to talk to, huh?!
This kind of sounds like something Rachel Cordasco fantasizes about people saying to her, so she can assemble an arsenal of witty comebacks. Sadly, the occasion has yet to arise, and I fear for her sake that it never will.
6. You know, those poor trees would still be on this planet supplying us with oxygen if it weren’t for you and your kind.
“You and your kind”? “You and your kind“??? HUMANS DO NOT TALK LIKE THIS. I’m not sure any human, living or dead, has ever talked like this. We’ve now reached the point, here at #6, where we must ask ourselves: Is Rachel Cordasco human? Have we fact-checked her humanity? Because this is seriously nuts.
7. Why waste time reading books when you could be doing other things? Important things? Like following the latest celebrity gossip.
Is the person in question saying this ironically? I would have to assume so, but I’m not sure Rachel Cordasco does. The only other explanation is that they’re paraphrasing something an authority figure said in a Roald Dahl novel. But if that’s true, how would they have come across the reference in the first place? A Justin Timberlake quote in People magazine? An earnest tweet from Nicki Minaj? The caption to a photo about What Kate Wore to some children’s hospital? For the love of God, just tell me before my brain implodes.
8. What are you, some kind of nerd?
This is vaguely realistic in a pinch—if you went to high school with Dudley Dursley or, like, Gaston. But all of the bullies I’ve come across would themselves be bullied for saying something this lame.
Also, the world is run by nerds now. They’ve officially taken their revenge. “Nerd” is barely an insult anymore. You know what is an insult? This listicle of lies.
9. You’ll have to buy a bigger house to fit all those books heh heh heh heh heh heh *guffaw*.
OK, wait, is Rachel Cordasco just fucking with us? Has she just been fucking with us this whole time? There is nothing in or around this article to indicate any prankster-ing on her part, and I’m not catching a whiff of satire. But she can’t really think this is a thing that is said, right? Not even the daddest of dads could deliver this punchline without making himself cringe.
10. You should stick to the real world.
Because… people hold fiction in contempt? What? Is this something preachy jackasses also say to anyone who enjoys movies, or video games, or theater? Do they go to malls at Christmastime and protest Santa just to watch the toddlers cry?
An alternate theory: The person who said this was actually a TV critic recommending The Real World over, say, The Bachelor.
And, if so, let the record show that I agree.
Brenna Clarke Gray published a rebuttal just a few days after Cordasco’s original, also on Book Riot. However, she did not take issue with the article’s authenticity; she merely pointed out that “non-readers don’t have a monopoly on being obnoxious” (so true; I find everyone obnoxious).
She went on to include a list of remarks she has actually overheard readers direct at non-readers—and while this isn’t evidence in itself that her list is credible, Rachel Cordasco makes no such claim.
The issue at stake here isn’t just the sleepless nights I’ve spent muttering Rachel Cordasco’s name into my pillow—it’s journalistic integrity and the very bounds of ethics. Is any of this real? Is Rachel Cordasco real? Am I real? Because one of these may be true, and possibly even two, but definitely not all three.
If you have any information regarding the whereabouts (i.e., time and place) of one of the quotes above, please contact me in the comments below.