...unless you really want to know!
I'm sure I'm not the only person this happens to. Yesterday, when I was taking a few precious, highly-coveted minutes of reading time, an acquaintance asked me the dreaded question, "What are you reading?"
Why is that the dreaded question? Aside from the fact that having to formulate a response meant losing out on the actual reading of the book in question? I dread that question because the answer is never quite as easy as the asker might assume.
Part of the issue stems from the fact that usually this question is asked by an acquaintance. My close friends know not to interrupt me when I'm reading, for starters. But in my experience this question tends to get asked by someone who is looking to make some sort of connection with me-show they are interested by remarking on something they assume I care about-but are not usually serious readers themselves. As a result, they don't understand how difficult it is to answer that question.
Well, the shortest answer, of course, is to just tell them the name of the book. Sadly, this often leads to blank stares in response, since most of the time the person in question has never heard of the book or author, and now has nothing else to say. This sometimes leads to the "What is it about?" question, which can be equally difficult to navigate. I have occasionally used the "title and author" answer as a way of shutting down someone who is attempting to talk to me while I read, my eyes immediately returning to the text in a very obvious signal to leave me alone already. I try to only reserve this option for people I barely know-and don't necessarily care to know better.
But what about the others? I usually feel obligated to say a little something about the plot of the book-but how much? Maybe the person is really a reader on the DL, and I am going to ruin a perfectly good read for them if I say too much. I love talking about the books I read with other people who are readers, so if I go into "book club" mode I could go on for a long time about the plot, style, author's voice, etc...That's usually when the casual questioner's eyes glaze over. Kind of like asking someone how they are, and them telling you in detail about everything they did since they saw you last. Either way-spoiler or oversharer-leads to awkward pauses, and gaps in the conversation where the person who had the bad luck to ask me the dreaded question has to figure out how to respond.
Therefore, I'd like to make this announcement to the world! Please don't ask me what I am reading unless you really want to know. Because I will tell you, possibly in excruciating detail, both the plot and my analysis of it. I know that you are just trying to be polite, making conversation about something that interests me. But it requires too much thought on my part to navigate how much you really want to know, and how much time I want to take to tell you. So be prepared, and ask at your own risk-just wait until I finish the chapter first!