Am I Suffering From Reader’s Guilt?


Even now, as an adult and having completed a literature degree, I feel guilty when I read.

It may be leftover guilt because I was raised Catholic, and apparently we feel guilty about everything, but I’m pretty sure it stems from something deeper.

When I was a child, I wasn’t allowed to read during the daytime.

Why not? You may ask. What kind of parent doesn’t let their child read during the day?

My mother is a ‘keeping up appearances’ kind of woman. She always wanted her house to look like a magazine, but never wanted to put the effort in herself.

(Which she achieved when her adult children left home. Not only did they leave home, but they moved overseas to get away from her. Now the house she lives in is cold and unwelcoming, and not like a ‘home’ at all, but more like a temporary living situation.)

If my mother caught me reading during the day she’d assign me an endless list of chores.

Which I’m not complaining about because gee, I know just how hard it is to maintain a house to look like a flawless magazine, but there’s a reason my brother nicknamed me ‘Cinderella’.

That’s why whenever I heard her stomping down the house towards my bedroom, I’d hide the book under my bed and start cleaning my room, pretending I’d been doing that all along. Because if there’s one thing my mother loved more than a clean, tidy, magazine-style house, it was children who cleaned without being asked.

But it was pretty ironic that my mother didn’t want me reading ‘too much’, because she’s a big reader herself.

Even now as a grown up, I need to do housework before I can read or I’ll feel this swirling guilt I attempt to push aside.

Can one really read too much?

  • When your house needs cleaning.
  • When it’s beautiful weather outside and you should be outside being outside because apparently outside is better for you than inside, despite the fact that I am pale and burn easily and make it my life’s mission to stay out of the sun.
  • When you should be socialising with friends.
  • When your husband wants to watch a film with you.
  • When your cats are demanding attention.

QoR8Bv1S2SEqH6UcSJCA_TeaBasically I think the reason I read so little in comparison to most of my blogging friends – despite having a literature degree, despite being a bookworm, despite buying dozens of books a year – is that I still harbour some kind of guilt that reading is a luxury I need to earn by doing other non-solo things. That despite my immense enjoyment of reading, it’s a time suck. That sometimes, watching the film adaptation takes less commitment because it’ll all be over in two and a half hours.

Oh my god. Did I just blaspheme?

Does anyone else feel guilty when they read?
How can I overcome this reader’s guilt?

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About Nemo

A lover of kittens and all things sparkly, Nemo has a degree in English Literature and specialises in reviewing contemporary, paranormal, mystery/thriller, historical, sci-fi and fantasy Young Adult fiction. She is especially drawn to novels about princesses, strong female friendships, magical powers, and assassins.

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10 thoughts on “Am I Suffering From Reader’s Guilt?

    1. Nemo

      That’s my mantra, too, but sometimes it doesn’t help the feeling of ‘I should be doing something productive.’ It’s the way society has geared us to be… productive, achievement-orientated, always doing, doing, doing. No one stops to smell the roses anymore because it takes too long and you can buy bottled essence of rose once you’ve earned enough money.

  1. Karen

    I found out the hard way to read as much as you can when you can – about a year ago I ended up with nerve damage to my right eye and as a result I now cannot focus that eye which makes reading very difficult I can still read but only for about 30 min at a time or it causes i strain in my left eye and then I can’t focus either eye for several hours and I cant see much of anything. So take advantage of any time you get that you can read – get the most enjoyment out of your life that you can.

    1. Nemo

      I’m worried about that, too. I have eyesight problems and I’m not very good at learning new languages, so I think if I did lose my eyesight I wouldn’t be very good at reading Braille.

      1. Karen

        I tried at one point – but i can’t learn it either the nerves in my fingers aren’t sensitive enough to be able to tell how many dots or where they are – and i really dont have the patience for audio books – I am always too busy thinking “thats not how that line was supposed to sound” I am far to critical of those

  2. Jackie

    Oh man. That sounds rough. I complained throughout adolescence about my mom’s desire for tidiness, but now all I want to do is apologize for giving her a hard time.

    My three main pastimes are reading, blogging, and playing video games. I never feel guilty for reading, but I definitely do feel guilty for blogging and playing video games. I think it has something to do with how people/society views those tasks. Reading is enriching, but blogging and playing videos games…not so much. So when I’m binging on blogging and video games, I feel really guilty when the weather is perfect and I feel guilty when I don’t really want to go bowling or grab a beer with buds (I usually end up going out even though I don’t really want to because I feel like a flake when I say no).

    1. Nemo

      I feel less guilty blogging because at least I’m showing something for my efforts, there’s a way to measure my output via posts. With reading, it’s all internal.

  3. Topaz @ Six Impossible Things

    I constantly feel guilty when I read. I think it could be because I am such a list person – I make a to-do list every day and if I take a break to read before everything is crossed off the list, I feel like I should be doing something PRODUCTIVE and CONSTRUCTIVE and WORTHWHILE instead. I’m really trying to learn how to give myself a bit of a break with that, though – and I’m sending you so many good vibes so that you can hopefully do the same. It’s rough, but books are worth it! xx

    Topaz @ Six Impossible Things recently posted: On Loneliness (Or: The Weight of Existing)
    1. Nemo

      I’m a list person, too. Maybe that’s hampering my enjoyment. You’ve given me something to think about, thank you.

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