I like to consider myself a reader, although with so many books left to read, and so many half-read and poorly-read read ones, this is a bit presumptuous. I have barely scratched the surface of what my intellect can consume and digest. I honestly do not fully grasp why I pick up a book often. I know I enjoy it, and that is good enough for me. Sometimes, it occurs to me that I do it out of lingering insecurities: the desire to be respected and admired, the longing to fit in, and the feeling that I may not be intelligent or knowledgeable enough.
Or plain vanity – the, I imagine, swagger of holding a book with a certain dramatism, squinting at its pages in concentration, giving off airs of superiority. With this comes the desire for someone to approach me to ask what the book is about, hoping that they will like me in the gravity I convey as I waffle my way to an answer. A bitter-sweet occurrence, this, because one cannot simply answer that question, and it takes more than just having a certain look for someone to genuinely like you. In this case, it will definitely not work. I would be a pretender and I would be unearthed soon. Luckily, or not, this has never happened.
If such simple exchanges do occur, I would long for more than a cursory and expected answer, possibly lifted off the blurb, a sparring of wits, a back-and-forth. I would love to share my observations at length, putting that book down and also have them tell their tales of reading, reading the books through them, living the lives they have lived and seeing the things they have seen. Maybe reading could also be about putting down the book and giving someone your ears.
A book, any book, is about many things. You have to actually read it to get a grasp of it, at which point it would be moot to ask what the book is about. It is interesting to note that I now write about reading and about writing. For young readers and writers, I feel that this is frowned upon, and understandably so: we have not yet earned the authority to write about reading and writing, our faculties only just beginning to blossom. That said, however, what does it hurt to add my voice to the cacophony?