You don’t have to read my books

To my friends, acquaintances & family: you do not have to read my books! Truly. My being a writer is not meant to oppress you in any way! Read what you want or don’t want. Forget I write books at all! Be free!

Okay, scratch that, family, you do have to! But everyone else is in the clear.

Reading an entire book is a big time commitment. And the older you get the more painfully aware you become that you are not going to be able to read all the books you want to before you die. It’s a very long time since I finished a book I wasn’t enjoying. If it’s not grabbing me within a page or two then we are done.1

It’s also a long time since I’ve picked up a book in a genre that doesn’t interest me. I have loads of friends with zero interest in YA. That’s cool. I’ve known people who write genres I have zero interest in—cosy mysteries—and I don’t read them. I would never in a million years expect any of you2 to read one of my books because you felt you had to on account out of our friendship/acquaintanceship3. Trust me, I wouldn’t read a book of yours unless I thought I’d like it. Feel free to treat mine likewise.

When I first started meeting writers I would always make an effort to read their books. If I liked them, I mean. But, well, here’s the awkward thing. A few of those writers,4 who I adored?

I hated their books.

And then there’s this whole awkwardness as you try to reconcile their awesomeness with the dreadfulness of their book and you can’t and you think about them differently than you did and it would never have happened if you hadn’t been so stupid as to read their book in the first place.

On the other hand, if you read them and they’re a total genius you find yourself staring at said writer as they tell a deeply stupid fart joke5 and wondering if they really did write those books. Reconciling the genius with the regular everyday person is also odd. Why do they not have a genius radiance to them?

Just because I am a writer does not mean you have to read my writing. I have friends who are lawyers who I do not hire, editors and agents who neither edit nor agent for me. I have friends in all sorts of different sectors with whom I rarely have conversations about their working lives and vice versa.

Yes, writing’s a big part of my life. But it’s not the only part and it’s not all I am. You don’t need to read my books to hold a conversation with me. I can talk about cooking, gardening, a multitude of sports, I’m well-versed in politics in at least two countries and have a decent grasp of many other topics—especially fashion and what you should and should not be wearing. Honestly, there are very few things I don’t have an opinion on. I even enjoy talking about the weather.6

And, honestly, talking about my books is just about the last thing in the world I want to do. I mean, I’m thrilled that there are people who have stuff to say about books I wrote. That’s incredible.7 But by the time my books are published I’ve already talked about them a billion times with Scott and Jill (my agent) and with their editor and I’ve done interviews about them and told school kids and book store owners and librarians about them. Even though all of that can be incredibly enjoyable I do wind up being completely over my own books. I’d much rather talk about someone else’s books. Like Courtney Milan’s say. I love talking about the subversive things she does with romance.

Many of my non-writer friends feel the same way. When they’re socialising they don’t want to relive their work day. They don’t want to talk about accounting or waiting tables or banking or gardening or whatever else it is they do to make money. They want to forget about it, speak of other things, gossip, and relax.

On top of that there’s the whole homework thing. “I bought your book!” Someone will tell me and then every time I see them after that they’ll say, “Still haven’t read it yet. But I’ll get to it. Sorry! I really hoped to get to it before now.” I keep expecting them to say: “I’m so sorry but my dog ate your book. Otherwise I would have totally read it by now!”

Gah! You don’t have to read it. No one’s going to test you on it. Certainly not me. If you really feel you must read something of mine: there’s this here blog. Some of the entries are way short. Or how about my twitter feed? Even shorter.

In conclusion: don’t even think about wearing this outfit.

The end.

  1. Okay, often I don’t get past the first paragraph. I know. I’m terrible. Oh, I should be totally honest many times I can’t get past the cover. []
  2. Except my immediate family. []
  3. Is that a word? []
  4. Very few. I seem to have the mostly-meet-good-writers fairy. []
  5. As opposed to deeply genius fart jokes. There are many! []
  6. I’m not kidding. My favourite phone app has a state of the art radar so I can watch the rain coming in. What? Weather is interesting, people. []
  7. I don’t think I’ll ever get over how amazing it is that anyone reads my books who isn’t related to me. It is a joy. []


  1. Ted Lemon on #


    (just kidding.)

    One of the great things about being a computer geek is that hardly anyone understands computers well enough to hold up their end of a conversation about them, and they know it, so they usually don’t try. Occasionally you get someone who still things computers are magic and hopes to be dazzled, but that doesn’t happen very often anymore, thank the gods.

  2. Sam X on #

    I have some very well meaning friends who insist they’ll read my magazine–they’ve read my writing before and they keep saying variations on “Still haven’t read it yet. But I’ll get to it. Sorry! I really hoped to get to it before now.”

    It’s OK guys. I’m still young–I’m gonna be writing a lot. You don’t have to read all of it.

  3. Maria (BearMountainBooks) on #

    You are sooooo right. I don’t even expect family to read them.

    There are genius fart jokes? Who knew???

  4. Justine on #

    Sam X: They do say it out of love. Annoying love.

    Maria: We have the right to make our family suffer when ever possible.

    Of course, there are genius fart jokes! I’m shocked you would doubt me.

  5. Rachel Neumeier on #

    I totally expect all my cousins to buy my books! Reading them is optional.

  6. Justine on #

    Rachel Neumeier: When I say “family” I actually mean my parents, sister and husband. Can’t make any of them buy my books so I force them to read them. 🙂

    Sadly, I don’t have cousins to bully into buying them. Damn shame.

  7. Madeleine Robins on #

    Very sensible outlook.

    My in-laws read my books (although I’ve told them this is not required reading). My husband always intends to read my books. My kids are afraid to read my books because I might, you know, mention that I know about sex, and they would be horrified, because I am obviously, ex officio, a virgin. So I’m not particularly horrified by the thought that there are many people who haven’t read them. As a matter of fact, I’m pleased to the point of surprise when someone tells me they have read one of my books. It’s like a present. And who doesn’t like presents?

  8. Lorin on #

    I’m an architect and many of my friends are architects or artists. It is super awkward to meet someone, like them, and then find out you hate their work. I can’t help but I think something like “you designed that horrid thing?” and be sure that means something is secretly wrong with them.

  9. Justine on #

    Madeleine Robins: You are very wise. Presents are fabulous.

    Lorin: Sigh. I expect it is true in almost all professions. But I am increasingly convinced that you can, indeed be a terrible writer or architect or accountant or whatever and still be a really good person. Taste is so variable, right?

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