The Social Etiquette of Reading

My mother consistently told me, “always bring a book.” Following suite saved me boredom many-a-time from the long-winded appointments, delayed flights, and unreliable internets. Oh, to have the reputation of someone whose “nose is stuck in a book.” And such a hobby in this tech-savvy culture disposes one to romanticize about finding another whose face is likewise scanning white pages instead of blue screens. The general concern against phones is that they distract. But is distraction not possible of anything? What is the reputation of reading, anyways?

Concerning the cultural reputation of reading, there seems to be more approval than one might think. While a book-worm’s dedication is isolating, pop culture has taken notice, sometimes nodding with approval. Consider the popularity of Victorian heroine’s like Belle from Beauty and the Beast and Jane from Becoming Jane, or Taylor in “You Belong With Me.” The viewer naturally comes to admire the reader’s child-like curiosity, despite the nerdy disposition. But women would be ignorant to think we have a monopoly on the market. The Instagram phenomenon #hotdudesreading proves otherwise, cataloguing men like some National Geographic’s discovery. There’s something undeniably attractive about the habit. But perhaps I misunderstand the approval for fascination, or apathy—who’s to say?

For those who mourn the transition from physical books to phones, it’s easy to approve reading books in any and all circumstances. But context dictates there is a time and place for everything. Thus, while reading is good, reading is not appropriate for all occasions. Books are tools, just like phones. Thus, while being prepared with a book is amiable, the purpose is just that, to be prepared, not distracted.

As much as reading in all contexts sounds wonderful, it is no more appropriate than using a phone at all times. Because, as much as I hesitate to admit, books can be distracting too. This does not mean books should be left on the shelf. On the contrary, I readily condone my mother’s teaching. The consideration about reading is context. Whatever is brought for those lulls, we should consider what is being chosen, to what end, and when it would be appropriate to use.


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