It’s a problem that many of us hardcore book nerds have to face, and there is a surprisingly lack of literature on the issue. Today, I tackle the problem of how to cope when you’ve married or are dating a non-reader.
It might be because I’m younger or because they love getting me off topic, but my students tend to ask me about my husband, Greg, a lot. I think sometimes I make him out to be this mythical metal-head, calling him only Gregory–because Greg is too informal and Mr. Hirzel sounds weird–and carefully crafting his epic tale for my students throughout the year.
One memorable student once asked me, “Does Gregory also love books? Do you and Gregory like sit by the fire and read poetry to each other?” I literally laughed in her face (probably not the kindest response), then I had to tell her I have no idea the last time my husband read a book. The whole class looked at me like I had grown seven additional heads. “But, Mrs. Hirzel, he’s married to you.” I know, kiddos, I know.
To be fair, it’s not like Greg doesn’t read anything. He’s voracious in his love of reading comic books and while I’m getting lost in a fantasy world, he’s reading news articles to figure out what’s actually happening in our own world.
It does sting that I can’t share my passion for novels, poetry, and memoir with my best friend and the love of my life. I’ve always had that fantasy of sitting in bed and reading together: two bed stands holding two lamps, two people sitting up in bed with two books. Lost in two completely different worlds, but still together. If you have that, cherish it, because someone over here is extremely jealous.
One of the most significant ways I connect with people is through reading. Whether it’s with my students, my best friends, or complete strangers, I love being able to discuss literature. Although reading is primarily a solitary activity, I find it to be one that connects us, one that changes us. I love being able to pick poetry apart with people and discuss the different messages we find in the carefully crafted lines. I love being able to fangirl and gush with my fellow nerds over the newest YA fantasy novel–I’m reading A Court of Mist and Fury right now…can we just talk about how great that book is for a second? I love being able to dive deeply into difficult literature, and, when I come up for air, have someone to talk to about how it affected my worldview. Sometimes I just wish Greg was the one I could share all this with because it’s so much a part of who I am.
However, if I’m honest with myself, it hurts my pride the most. Some years, I can get the most reluctant readers in my class to find someone they love to read: Stephen King, James Patterson, Sarah Dessen, Neil Gaiman. However, I am married to one of the most reluctant readers I know, and it’s a code I haven’t been able to crack.
Ways I’ve Tried to Get My Husband to Read:
- Replacing all his bathroom magazines with a novel I think he’d like (he was displeased)
- Trying to schedule “reading time” for us (that only lasted for about 15 minutes)
- Buying him books for his birthday and Christmas (ultimately, this became a fruitless and expensive venture)
- Researching gateway books, what I call books by authors with a lot of titles, that he might like to get him into reading for entertainment (again, no dice)
- Consistently saying “I think you’d like it” after almost any book I think I could MAYBE persuade him to read (met only with an “I’m sure I would.”)
- Crying…a lot.
Eventually all of my not-so-subtle attempts at making reading something we could do together distilled down to me bluntly picking fights by asking “Why don’t you read?” in a whiny, nagging voice over and over. So, as you could guess, this is what worked. He finally read a book after I nagged him about it, and now we read poetry together and have deep discussions about literary themes!
Anyone with a pulse knows I’m kidding here. At this point, I think I have to admit he’s just not a reader, and that I’m not helping the situation. Which I should have foreseen because berating someone for not reading never works in the classroom either. Berating someone for anything never works, period.
So what’s a girl to do? How do I reconcile that I may never get my husband to read a book?
Honestly, I turn to my favorite book for comfort. Years ago I realized that I am married to a man who is a version of The Great Jay Gatsby (stay with me here). He is ambitious and loving with grand goals for us. However, unlike Gatsby, Greg is not the kind of man to look out longingly across the sound, underhandedly grasping his way towards the unachieveable. He’s the the kind of man who would disassemble the porch of his impressive house, strip the wood, and sweat deeply until he fashioned a boat to take him to that light.
I am a woman of words, but he is a man of action.
We’ve always been opposites: the poet and the businessman, the bibliophile and the cinephile, the dreamer and the doer. However, we’ve also always been teammates. It’s always been us against the world. We’ve always found the places where our interests overlap, and we’ve built a life within those folds.
Although I don’t think I’ll ever stop trying to get him to read a book with me, I think I’ve come to a version of peace with it. At the end of the day, he’ll fall asleep the second his head hits the pillow, and I’ll stay up listening to an audiobook so the light doesn’t wake him. We’re two people lost in two completely different worlds–one of dreams and one of fantasy–but we’re still together.
How do you handle when your SO doesn’t read? Comment below.
Lit & Love,