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{Reader’s Life} How to Hide What You’re Reading in Public

How to hide what you're reading in public | Book Dr.

Why might you want to hide what you’re reading?

Once, a friend and I broke up with boyfriends the same week. We had actually met through these same boyfriends. It was rough.

However, we were both readers so we grabbed at the first solution we thought of. “Let’s go get breakup books,” we said, and headed out the Grove, that gigantic outdoor mall in the center of Los Angeles, about 5 minutes away from my apartment at the time.

We did not hold back. An hour or so later, we emerged from the enormous Barnes & Noble, plastic bags stretched taut with bright-colored paperbacks promising to turn us into happy single ladies on the prowl in no time.

And then we ran into her boss.

Thankfully we did have bags, but even so -after a few minutes of chatting with the boss chat, her boss went rogue.

“What did you get?” she asked, starting to reach for one of our bags. We cowered and backed away.

“You know, nothing much,” my friend said. “Nice to see you!”

We evaporated.

This was not the first time that I craved reading privacy.

In graduate school, I often read books that were a bit, shall we say, awkward to carry around in public.

Books with titles like Never Good Enough. These titles, meant to help people plagued with shame and perfectionism, seemed to think nothing of shaming and poking at their readers’ wounds with insane covers.

I submit exhibit A:

never good enough book dr caroline donahue

Honestly, this version is better than the one I read. I remember the title being all caps, bright red. This looks a bit softer, more playful even.

There are many reasons you might not want to walk around with books on display. Anyone reading self help probably wants some privacy. Whenever I’ve been nursing a broken heart or dealing with grief over the death of a job, a pet, a dream, or a loved one, I’ve been raw, to say the least. I don’t want to chat about what I’m reading. I want to hide what I’m reading and keep myself together by applying the words like balm on my ragged self. And sometimes only books will do. We can regulate the pace of the conversation, you can put a book down when it’s getting to intense, and just breathe.

This is ok. In fact, sometimes it’s the very best thing you can do.

Which leads me to this…

Let’s cover the obvious first: Kindle or iPad (or whichever device you choose.)

It’s true. There were no Kindles when my friend and I got sideswiped by her boss. And there definitely weren’t back around the turn of the millennium when I was getting my masters. So, in the past ten years, e-readers have changed the way we consume self-help. No more must you parade your inner self around out in public.

Sure, it’s fantastic to read novels in restaurants and hope some debonair thing offers a glass of wine to discuss your reading. But that is unlikely to happen while reading Never Good Enough, When Things Fall Apart (how many times has that book been my best friend?), or if you want to read Escape From Cubicle Nation in the office cafeteria during your lunch hour.

Yep- if you haven’t bought the book yet, getting it on Kindle is an excellent call.

But what if you don’t have an eReader? What if you’re just not into them?

How can you hide what you’re reading if it’s a physical book?

I’m glad you asked. Just because you prefer a physical book doesn’t mean you have to be exposed to the world. Your best bet is…

Buy the book in hardback.

Yes, you heard me right. Look it up used on Amazon and buy an old hardback copy.

Why might you do that? Because you can take the jacket off. You can even throw it away.  Do you think anyone can tell what book this is?

How to hide what you're reading in public | the Book Dr.

Ok yes, if you’re super sneaky and get up close to read the spine, you can. But from across the room? Nope.

**Bonus- removing the color scheme of the jacket removes the context of the book. This book presents as a novel. Maybe something like Henry James. There are no pastels or wavy lines or pictures of people looking downcast on the cover. This will go right under the radar. I tested it… no discussions were initiated, no questions, nada during my lunch.

It was lovely- I felt safe to read and enjoy without feeling worried about the perceptions of others in the room. Maybe they wouldn’t have noticed at all, but I felt safer, and I enjoyed the book much more.

But, you may ask, what if I already own the book? I don’t want to buy another copy in hardcover!!

Of course not.

So for you, option 3…

Remember the old school brown paper bag textbook covers made out of shopping bags?

I do, too. That is definitely an option, excellent if you’d like to doodle all over the cover.

However, I was so charmed by this young man’s tutorial about how to make a fabric book cover in less than 5 minutes, I just had to share:

If you, like me, have a lot of fabric laying around from unfinished projects, perhaps your mind will be blown on this one like mine was. I see myself covering books left and right… This looks so tactile and satisfying.

And I love the idea of treating a book well that is taking care of me.

Our selves can get pretty beat up from time to time in life. The act of wrapping a book in some beautiful fabric feels like a ritual to wrap up the part of me that is needing support and love.

Let’s all take good care of ourselves, and do what we need to do out in the world to make it a comfortable place to be, even when we might be having a hard time.

I hope this helps you read wherever you m ay want to… bus stops, doctor’s offices, restaurants, bars, airplanes… anywhere you need some gentle care.

What books do you prefer to keep private? Do let me know in the comments, or drop me a line at info [at] carolinedonahue [dot] com

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