June 1, 2010

"Must be a good book"

I'm just not fond of that phrase.  Talk about a non-sequitur.

This past school year I had afternoon bus dismissal duty.  I had to stand at the intersection of school hallways and make sure there was some semblance of order as the kids rushed to get to their bus.

Since our elementary school has over 1400 students and since the land is cheaper for building schools out in the middle of nowhere, we're talking more than 30 busses.  So there would be waves of chattering kids punctuated by long lulls during which the next phalanx of busses motored into position.

So I usually brought a book for theses down times.  Nearly every adult who happened by at one of these times would invariably say, "Must be a good book."

What does that even mean?

How the heck do I know if it's good if I just started reading it?  How do they know it's good no matter where I am in it?  But saying it must be good just because I'm standing there reading it seems ridiculous.

I admit: most of the books I read are good because I only pick books to read that I've heard good things about and am reasonably sure I'll like.  But every so often I'm wrong.  Not often, but it happens.  And sometimes I have to read something for my book club I wouldn't have otherwise chosen and don't necessarily like but feel compelled to read for the conversation we'll have.  Sometimes I read kids books out of some obligation or other that I don't always enjoy.

I mean, just because someone is reading, why does it necessarily follow it's a good book?  I could be reading pap like this or like this for all they know.

These people might have a point if I was reacting to the book in some dramatic way as they walked by.  Gasping or laughing or weeping openly.  It happens.  But not usually in the hallway between bus calls for crying out loud.

(image cc flikr)


S said...

When people say that to me, I get the impression they mean the book must be really great for me not to be able to put it down long enough to do whatever it is they think I should be doing.

If they are wondering if the book is good, I wish they'd just ask that instead.

Peaceful Reader said...

This is a very funny rant and I agree with S. This kind of question is generally posed when I am reading some in some random public place, like while waiting for a train. I love/hate your oil counter. My son asked the other day why they couldn't just aim a missile to that location and shoot it down the hole! Let the piping crumble and settle into the ocean floor would be better than letting it continue to spew! What a gosh darn mess.

Tricia said...

My father always carried a book with him. He just never knew when he might have a few spare moments to read. Most people aren't like this today. They have their phones, computers and iPods to keep them busy. I think that's why folks assume anyone reading in an "odd" place is reading a "good book." It's so foreign to them that they must imagine it's too good to put down, not that reading is just a priority for some people.

Thanks for the rant. It gave me a chuckle.

Jan von Harz said...

Since starting to blog, I always carry a book with me. I think it is hilarious that just because a person choose to read in odd places it is assumed it is because the book is good not because I like to read period.

Unlike you I would have a hard time concentrating with all my students rushing out to a buss though.

Jim Randolph said...


Well, I'm standing in an empty hallway. It' not like there's anything better to do.

Peaceful Reader,

I think a rocket might make it worse, but maybe the bodies of big oil executives might do the trick.


Glad I could give you a chuckle! I usually have a book, magazine or ipod. And the ipod is usually on an audiobook or a podcast.


I don't read when the kids are rushing past, only in the dead times (like ten minutes or more) between groups of rushing kids. The whole process takes about 40 minutes but probably 15 of that is actual rushing kids. The rest is empty hallway reading time.