10 Things Only Hardcore Bookworms Do


You probably know more than one and, if you're reading this, there's a staggering probability that you are one. I'm talking about bookworms. You can also call them book fans, book people, book freaks, book lovers, etc. All those names work, but it's their actions that I want to talk about today. Bookworms are weird for a plethora of reasons and, when it comes to reading, books, and literature, they occupy a special mental/physical space characterized by stacks of books everywhere, constant purchases, passionate discussions, and a few other things. All those elements coalesce into strange behavior. Trust me, I know. Here are ten things most hardcore bookworms do.

1. Constantly buy books

We buy books. We buy books all the time. We buy books when we don't have money for other things, and when we have money for other things we buy more books than usual. We think in terms of buying books first and then about food, rent, and the electric bill. We buy books minutes after having to walk around stacks of unread books to leave the house. It doesn't matter that the apocalypse could come tomorrow and we could spend the rest of our lives reading and not run out of reading material. What matters is that we have books to read if we want to read them. We buy books because they are great and smell good and feel right and occupy empty space and they're our friends.

2. Buy the same book more than once

We buy books because they are great and smell good and feel right and occupy empty space and they're our friends.

"I don't have this edition." "This cover is too amazing to pass up." "This one is signed." "This is the one I had when I was a kid." "This is only a dollar!" "I'll keep it around and give it away to someone later." I've even used this one to rationalize the purchase of a third edition of Langston Hughes' The Dream Keeper and Other Poems: "I mean, I have two editions already, but this one's illustrated!" Yeah, hardcore bookworms will come up with amazing reasons why they "need" to buy a book they already have. On the other hand, we will also buy the same book twice by accident. It's there and it's affordable...and we're not going to drive home and look through our piles for it: we're going to buy it again.

3. Judge people by their books/shelves

I know this one is tough to swallow. I also know some of you will debate that you're better human beings than me and you are above and beyond judging others. Well, fuck it, I'm being brutally honest here and being judgmental has kept me alive this far, so I'm gonna keep doing it. If you invite me to your house and give me a tour of it and I don't see a single book, I kinda want to get out of there because who the hell doesn't own at least a couple of books? A house without books is like a body without a soul. If you do have some books, us bookworms will find a way to sniff them out and study them. Then, silently and with a smile on our faces, we will judge you. John Waters said "If you go home with somebody and they don't have books, don't fuck them,” and I think most bookworms agree with that sentiment wholeheartedly. Likewise, we will probably change the way we feel about you based on the quality of the books on your shelves. For me, the books you own/read and the way you treat animals are the two factors that lie at the top of the list. You read good shit and you're good to animals, I'll get down with you even if you're a mercenary. Is this horrible? Yes. Is this unfair because "good books" is a subjective term? Yes. Does it matter to us? Nope. Will we change or stop doing it? Yeah...no.

4. Get ridiculously excited about new books

We've had a bad day at work, but then we come home to a package. Inside that package is the new book we've been waiting for. Day made. The gloom that preceded the opening of that package disappears like morning fog once the sun comes out. We even get excited when a writer whose work we love announces a new book. Sure, it's months away, sometimes a year or more into the future, but we know about it now and we get excited about it now because books are awesome.

5. Obsess about which books to take on a trip

I sometimes bring less shirts than I'll need and I've had to wash my socks and hang them to dry on the curtain rod in hotels across the world, but I always bring some great reading material. I also bring much more than I'll need because...reasons. Normal people will bring their electronic reading device or a novel when they go on a trip. Not hardcore bookworms. No, we bring five or six novels. We might bring something we're in the middle of and a few new books to crack open along the way. We are experts at airport survival. We don't watch the crappy movies on the airplane. We don't care if we're alone on the plane. We got books, so we're good.

6. Keep books everywhere

This is not a joke; I really mean everywhere. We have books in the car, in our backpack, on top of the desk, in the living room, on the floor, inside our backpack, on the kitchen counter, in the bathroom, next to the bed, next to the sofa, in the shelves...you get the point. I even installed a single shelf on top of my toilet because you never know when you might have to stay locked in there for some bizarre reason. When we move, the books are a priority. When we clean, the books get cleaned first. When the water is coming in under the door, we save the books first and fuck the furniture.

7. We read everywhere and at any time

That's why we keep books everywhere. We read at home, in the car, in the bathroom, on the bus, on the train, while waiting for a doctor's appointment, while in line at the grocery store, at the bus stop, while waiting for the water to boil...hell, some hardcore bookworms prepare a nice bath and read while half submerged in warm water. We also read at any time. It's never too early or too late to read. It's never too cold or too hot to read. We just read. Reading is what we do.

8. Read various books simultaneously

Another tricky one. Some folks read two books at once. Some read five simultaneously. Some read ten because they like the constant shifting and enjoy variety and not getting tired of the same book. As a reviewer, I sometimes read 40 books at once. It's glorious. It's easy to see how the multiple-book mayhem happens. You're somewhere and someone whose opinion you respect recommends a book. That book is on your shelves or stacks. You crack it open. The next day, there's a new novel you've been waiting for in the mailbox, so you immediately start reading it. If you're a hardcore bookworm, you've been there, and you know that, despite what some regular readers think, there's nothing special or particularly challenging about it. Just like you can watch a few different shows or talk to different people every day, you can switch between books all you want.

9. Have a strange concept of time

Sometimes we think of time as pages or chapters. Other times, we completely lose track of time. You have to shower and get ready, but you want to read one more chapter. Congrats, an hour goes by and you're late. Again. We've all been there. For hardcore bookworms, there are times in which a narrative overpowers everything else and holds us hostage for an inordinate amount of time. Read through the night and be tired at work? Sure. Be late to an event because we were reading? A bunch of times. Cancel something you didn't feel like going to because that novel is just so damn good? Yup.

10. Get passionate about books

Hardcore bookworms are usually very passionate people. I didn't say loud, I said passionate. Talk to one of us about reading, our favorite authors, or anything else having to do with books and you'll see. Passion also translates into the ability to academically deconstruct a narrative in order to discuss it...and then turn around and have a screaming match about the fact that people who refuse to use bookmarks and instead bend the cover/pages back are monsters (looking at you, Max Booth III). We love books and we want others to love books as much as we do, and that's a good things because books and reading make the world a better, smarter place.

The funniest thing about this list? I could probably go to 20 without having to stop and think about it for long. But I won't do that. I want you to tell me what you love (or hate!) about hardcore bookworms in the comments. You know, so everyone can read it. Happy reading!

Gabino Iglesias

Column by Gabino Iglesias

Gabino Iglesias is a writer, journalist, and book reviewer living in Austin, TX. He’s the author of ZERO SAINTS, HUNGRY DARKNESS, and GUTMOUTH. His reviews have appeared in Electric Literature, The Rumpus, 3AM Magazine, Marginalia, The Collagist, Heavy Feather Review, Crimespree, Out of the Gutter, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, HorrorTalk, Verbicide, and many other print and online venues. 

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Jen Meyers's picture
Jen Meyers June 30, 2017 - 4:00pm

Books make my world go round...and up and down and everything in between. I've felt every emotion available while reading and every time I read a book over again the same emotions come out. It's beautiful. I refuse to imagine a world without them because THAT is a heartbreak I couldn't endure. I smiled reading this article, nodding along the whole time in agreement. Thank you for this article, it's wonderful and positive and cracks open the door to the world of the bookworm. And to all my fellow bookworms out there, of you haven't discovered it yet thriftbooks.com is an amazing site to plump up your collections with. It's worth it, trust me. Now please excuse me while I jump off the web and go find an unread adventure amongst my stacks! 

Cheers, fellow bookworms, read on!!! 

Matt Neil Hill's picture
Matt Neil Hill from London is reading Gnomon by Nick Harkaway June 30, 2017 - 9:49pm

Ah, to feel so perfectly understood!

It's kind of an addition to no.2, but I've bought editions that I know I'll never actually read - because they're limited/signed/too beautiful to have my oily pawprints on them - but that it genuinely pains me to think of not owning (and I'll do it again, I tell you).

Also, I'm sure I'm not the only bookworm to feel that dizzying combination of excitement and guilt when you stumble across some rare or signed book in a charity shop. See also: ordering secondhand books online and receiving one that's signed as a complete surprise.

There must be more, but my TBR pile is calling...

Carlos Segura's picture
Carlos Segura July 1, 2017 - 12:07am

I also by books that aren't meant to be read like a JR Tolkien dictionary of middle earth.

Jennifer Ravenscroft's picture
Jennifer Ravenscroft July 1, 2017 - 9:07am

I was shocked to realize I agree with all 10 items. An addition to #5: not only do I bring books when I travel, but I haunt the airport bookstores and usually will buy MORE books before getting on the plane.  

Sharon Mains's picture
Sharon Mains July 4, 2017 - 4:40pm

Great little list-thank you so much for writing it!!! My mother constantly yells at me for buying books when I don't have the money, or suggests possibly selling some of them to pay for other things, instantly creating a fuming argument about the importance of books in my life which she doesn't seem to understand.

Similar to #5 but sort of a new one as well: being drawn to books everywhere we go, unable to turn away from any yard sale or thrift shop that has even a single book for sale. I am camping this weekend...took an extra 40 minutes to go through my collection and decide which books to bring and ended up bringing about 10, grabbing stray books from various bags and night stands throughout the house on my way out the door. To my surprise the campground has a "leave a book-take a book" policy in their little section of the earth involving all books on the tiny 10 shelf corner of their cafe. Of course you can also choose to purchase any book for 1$...I spent almost 45 minutes (reading every title on the shelves and also reorganizing them according to author in my head) deciding on the one book I would purchase to return over and over again to get new ones daily-I hid 4 books in the bottom corner of the bookshelf so that I can come back to get those when I finish this one. I know full well I will end up just buying them all anyway. 

Sidenote: the first book I purchased was a high school library reject stamped with "discard" all over it from 1999 - a forgotten gem!

Also, all my friends know: if there are books around wherever we are going, steer her clear or leave her behind because waiting for her isn't an option-unless of course you don't want to eat or see that movie we came for...

Patkev's picture
Patkev July 5, 2017 - 7:32am

Regarding  #9, I once missed a long distance bus because I was engrossed in a

novel.  I had to wait four hrs. for the next bus, but that just gave me more reading time, so

I was content!

Kathleen Baierl's picture
Kathleen Baierl July 6, 2017 - 12:16pm

I have known my 93 year old mother to read a book into and even through night.  Of course she doesn't work, but she only has so much time!  Whan she hears about a book, or sees a new book from favorite authors, she brings up our library website, where she can put the book 'on hold'.  Whenever it comes through the system, it gets held for her and she is notified.  Her list of holds is often quite long, and usually has 3-4 ready at once!  She actually does not own a lot of books, but it would take over her house if she bought or kept every book she has read!  She is also very glad of the electronis devises to read with - imagine bringing 10 large print books on a plane trip - quite a difference!  Then, when she gets to her destination, hunts for the nearest library to see if there's anything she has missed.  I'm as bad as she is sometimes, but health prevents me reading as much as I want-and its hard to read and do crafts like crocheting!


Claudia Wagner's picture
Claudia Wagner from Colorado is reading Wuthering Heights July 7, 2017 - 1:20pm

I do all ten.

Plus, I experience near panic when I finish a book. The only thing that can calm me is to immediately start another. It doesn't have to be one I've not read before. It just has to be a book -- to eat with, to go to sleep with, to watch TV with, to leave the house with . . . .

Bill the Boat's picture
Bill the Boat July 10, 2017 - 4:09pm

I was brought up to believe that eating with people is a social activity.  You should be conversing with those who are eating with you so No Reading At The The Table!

Now I'm married so my one luxury when hubby is away is to eat alone and read to my heart's content

Rattooth's picture
Rattooth July 15, 2017 - 8:30pm

 Thank God for digital books. Years ago I would get such anxiety if I thought I was going to finish a book after the book store was closed, before I had my next book.

BigSisDi's picture
BigSisDi July 19, 2017 - 12:18pm

An addendum to #3: I Have thrown a date out of my apartment, and never talked to him again after This exchange:

Him, looking at my two overflowing bookshelves, "Have you read all of these?"

Me, "Sure, some more than once! Don't you read?"

Him, with a sneer, "Not much, only porno magazines."

Me, "... ... ... ... I'm sorry, you have to leave! NOW!!"