Yesterday morning, The Washington Post’s Ron Charles published a summary of “what readers hate most in books“—the result, Charles tells us, of asking the readers of the Post’s Book Club newsletter to write in with their pet peeves. “The responses were a tsunami of bile,” Charles writes. “Apparently, book lovers have been storing up their pet peeves in the cellar for years, just waiting for someone to ask. Hundreds and hundreds of people responded, exceeding my wildest dreams.”
Readers, it turns out, hate dreams, as well as factual inaccuracies, typos, the word “lubricious,” the word “lugubrious,” the word “preternatural,” unnecessary length, italics, lack of quotation marks, confusing timelines, sexist tropes, sex scenes, violence, and lip biting, among a host of other things.
Well, fair enough. But it seems a little one-sided. After all, there must be plenty of things that books might dislike about readers, and turnabout is fair play. So who will speak for the books? That’s right, it’s Literary Hub. (Who else?) Just for fun, we asked some of our favorite books what their pet peeves are, and here’s what they told us:
Books hate to be used as props for Instagram posts. “It sucks to only be loved for one’s exterior,” one very well-designed novel told us. Speaking of props, books hate being used to prop up your shabby-ass dresser, or to raise your computer when you’re on a Zoom call. When you do read them, books don’t like it when you disparage them for “not being what you expected.” As one genre-bending book put it, “That’s a you problem, okay?”
Books hate when your marginalia is dumb . . . and it’s usually dumb. (“Sorry,” your copy of Ulysses shrugged.) Books don’t care how you organize them, and really wish you would stop talking about it. “It’s just boring,” said one very cool fantasy novel. However, books would really rather not be shelved spine-in. “How lewd!” gasped one book, covering their delicate deckle edges.
Books hate it when you point out their typos. “Everyone makes mistakes,” one book admitted, “but you got the gist, so cool it. Sheesh!”
Books don’t like being left outdoors for too long, but if you leave them in an airport or coffee shop, “your loss, chump.” (Books do like pressing flowers, though.) Books hate being loaned out in an effort to get you laid. “Do your own wooing,” multiple volumes groused. If you’re going to turn a leaf down, books would really prefer that you’re marking a great passage, rather than where you left off reading. Books would also like to be dusted more frequently. “Readers aren’t the only ones with allergies,” we learned. Books would prefer it if you left their dust jackets on, thanks. “It’s cold out there,” one slim volume complained.
Books hate it when you read the last page first. “Control yourself,” a thriller quipped. Books also hate it when you’re constantly looking for the next paragraph break—it’s like looking over someone’s shoulder at a party to see if there’s anyone cooler to talk to—but books don’t care if you actually finish them. Books also don’t care how many of them you’ve read in a year. Books don’t actually care about you at all.
Finally, books would like to inform readers that simply “liking books” is unfortunately not a personality. “Honestly,” one bestseller told us, “it’s just too much pressure.” Besides, as one indie darling added: “It’s lame.”
Take note, readers.
P.S. Of course, books hate being banned, but books know that the people who ban books aren’t actually readers, so that’s a complaint for a different list.