Hey, Anonymous Stranger Who Wants to Love Reading, This One’s for You!

When you think no one can see you, you reveal your realest, most authentic, most honest self. You live without fear of judgment or mockery. You let yourself go.

Perhaps you reveal your hidden talents in the privacy of your own home?

Or maybe you display your bad habits when you think no one’s watching?

These videos are proof, of course, that, even when you think no one is watching, there’s a good chance someone is.

Need more proof? Here you go: when someone does a Google search that leads him/her to my blog, I can see the search. The searcher remains completely anonymous, of course . . . but I can see exactly how s/he happened upon IKWYSR.

Not suprisingly, because people are anonymous and untraceable, they get pretty real when they’re Googling. (I assure you, the following quotations are all verbatim search terms that brought people to my blog.)

For example, they aren’t afraid to reveal their prejudices and stereotypes:

  • “Why are rich Asians snobby?”

 They tell it like it is:

  • “I don’t like my husband”

They are open about mental illness:

  • “Should a person with PTSD read The Orphan Master’s Son?”

They reveal their ignorance:

  • “Is it hard to get reservations at French Laundry NYC?”

They aren’t afraid to say hilarious and bizarre things:

  • “lovey dovey squirrel is the best you can do?!”

Most of the time, I chuckle (or cringe) at the questions and don’t think much of them. But, the other day, for the first time, I saw a search question that I actually wanted to answer directly. When the searcher thought no one was watching, s/he asked a heartfelt question that made me want to help. Here it is:


I don’t know who you are, Anonymous Stranger Who Wants to Love Reading, but I do know this: I want to help you find that book!

Of course, this is going to be a little difficult, considering I don’t know a single thing about you. So, I’ll have to answer this several different ways. I’m going to imagine you as a number of different people who could plausibly be the Anonymous Stranger Who Wants to Love Reading and answer accordingly. Here’s hoping one of my imaginary searchers fits the bill . . .

Imaginary Searcher #1: You’re a twenty-something woman. Maybe you’re a barista. Maybe you’re in college. Maybe you’re both. You like Girls, because it’s funny and so much more authentic than Sex and the City. If you were rich, you’d travel the world (Marrakech, Bangkok, Rio de Janeiro . . . the list goes on and on). You’ve read the popular books that people say are amazing (like The Fault in Our Stars and Eat Pray Love), but you find them to be over-hyped and basic. You need something a little more stylish and sophisticated. You should read:

  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Oscar is a Dominican “lovesick ghetto nerd” with absolutely no game who lives in Jersey and dreams of becoming the next J.R.R. Tolkein. Díaz’s writing is sick. Period.)
  • The Night Circus (Stylish and beautiful and eerie and magical!)
  • The Bluest Eye (It’s about the pressures of beauty and conformity, something to which most twenty-something women can relate.)
  • A Visit from the Goon Squad (This won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and it is just a damn good book about people in the music industry. Multiple narratives become expertly intertwined into one cohesive story. Unique, gimmicky techniques—like a PowerPoint Presentation chapter—are actually well done.)

Imaginary Searcher #2: You are a kid who chooses to use your Googling skills for good (rather than looking up pictures of butt cracks and/or YouTube videos of parents lip syncing Frozen songs). You have read some decent picture books in your day, but nothing has blown you away. Plus, picture books and Ramona Quimby and the like are for little kids (NOTE: if you’re still young enough to like picture books, then start with some of these “Six Books That Made Me Love Reading.” Or check out some of the books my readers suggested in the comments to that post.). The books they make you read in school are too old-school and sad (like Where the Red Fern Grows). You want something fun, that isn’t stupid and boring. Try these:

  • The Harry Potter series (Magic and friendship and Quidditch!)
  • Matilda if you’re a girl; The Twits if you’re a boy (Roald Dahl is a twisted and hilarious genius.)
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (A lot of adults complain about this book . . . mostly because it’s too real.)
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events (This series of books is about three orphan kids who are tormented by an evil man who is after their inheritance. Sounds dark and unappealing, but the books are fantastically funny and wicked and great!)
  • Any of the books I talked about here.

Imaginary Searcher #3: You’re a dude in your thirties (like my husband). You work a lot. You’d prefer to read a magazine or watch Game of Thrones than read a book. You’ve never been a book-lover, and fiction, especially, rarely holds your interest. You need something that doesn’t take up a lot of time or energy, is engaging and fast-paced, and won’t make you feel like you just wasted hours that could have been better-spent binge-watching House of Cards. Here are some good options for you:

  • Fight Club (This book is only 224 pages, and, like the movie—which you’ve surely seen—it’s action-packed, thrilling, and in-your-face.)
  • The Road (This is post-apocalyptic gloom at its finest. This one is also under 300 pages, and it won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. It’s a dirty, desperate tale of a father and son fighting for survival in a post-apocalyptic world.)
  • Revolutionary Road (I don’t care who you are, you should read this book. But especially if you’re in your thirties. It’s about the choices and sacrifices you make when you’re married. There’s no way around it: it is downright depressing . . . but it is real and relatable and some of the very best writing I have ever read in my entire life. It is the depressing book against which I gauge all other depressing books.)
  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream (Road trip, Vegas, drugs, heavy drinking. And it’s non-fiction . . . drug-addled non-fiction, but non-fiction nonetheless.)

Imaginary Searcher #4: You’re a new retiree (Congratulations!). In the past, you never really had time to do a lot of reading for pleasure . . . but now that you have all this newfound free time, you’d love to start reading more. You’re not big on excessive bad language or extreme violence. Stories don’t always have to be pretty (or trite), but they should be fun or meaningful. How about these?

  • Prodigal Summer (This is a beautiful and smart book about nature and ecology and love that weaves three stories into one. The writing is poetic and witty and informative.)
  • The Year of Magical Thinking (Didion lost her husband of forty years unexpectedly while her daughter was in a coma in the hospital. This is a sad, honest, and poignant memoir about dealing with grief, and it proves how cathartic books can be. If you’ve experienced loss, this could be a good choice.)
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude (Easily one of the best books ever written. Don’t be weirded out by the magic realism . . . allow yourself to be enchanted instead!)

Readers, please feel free to leave additional suggestions to the Anonymous Stranger Who Wants to Love Reading in the comments below. And keep your fingers crossed that one of these will work . . .

12 thoughts on “Hey, Anonymous Stranger Who Wants to Love Reading, This One’s for You!

  1. Okay then, on a more serious note, a book about someone who wants to love reading: Suggestion 1: One of my favorites is the Czech author Bohumil Hrabal’s Too Loud of Solitude. Hrabal, was a wonderful writer (I Served the King of England and Closely Watched Trains) and most of his books were written during the Iron Curtain days. He is earthy, profane, vulgar and loved llife. Here he takes a worker grnding away at a recycling factory. His jobs is to take suppressed books and put them in the trash compactor. But, Hantá cannot destroy all the books submitted to him for destruction. Rather, he has spent thirty-five years sneaking books out in his briefcase, one or two at a time. His modest house is overrun with books and Haòtá notes that too loud a sneeze could condemn him to death if the books towering over his bed collapse upon him. Despite the despair caused by the nature of his work and his being lost in too loud a solitude, Hantá continues to live for his books. At the end of his work day he makes his way home “yet smiling, because my briefcase is full of books and that very night I expect them to tell me things about myself I don’t know.”

    In any event, it is a terrific book.

  2. Suggestioin 2. This is a memoir, not a piece of fiction. Evgenia Ginzburg was swept up in Stalin’s purges and after a year in prison was sent to the Gulag for a decade or two. Upon her return she wrote her memoirs. Volum 1, “Journey Into the Whirlwind” recounts her arrest and her first year in prison. The most remarkable part of the memoir, for someone who loves or wants to love reading, comes in a passage that descibes her reading time in jail. During the initial months of her imprisonment, prisoners were allowed to read only or two books a week. Ginzburg, loved both poetry and prose would take her allotted book and devour it, soaking up every word. She and her fellow prisoners would memorize and recite whole chapters of their favorite books. She tells us that this provided her with a level of reading comprehension that she never experienced before. Those passages were quite moving and meaningful, as they would be for anyone who loves to read.


  3. I read them a long time ago but I remember Wallace Stegner’s Angle of Repose and Crossing to Safety as two of the best books I have read. For one I couldn’t put down, I think of The Dive from Clausen’s Pier by Anna Packer. Also zoomed right through The Secret History by Donna Tartt. Just a few that come to mind.

    • I haven’t read the Stegner books. I will check them out. I agree that The Dive From Clausen’s Pier
      is a good one. I like Ann Packer’s stuff a lot–it is interesting and engaging without being too heavy. And her books read very quickly, which is always a plus. Definitely a good suggestion for someone looking to jump-start a passion for reading. I actually considered putting The Secret History
      on this list . . . but I decided that I have sung its praises enough already in other posts. Needless to say (again), I agree wholeheartedly; it is a FANTASTIC book.

  4. This is awesome! I second the recommendation of The Absolutely True Diary to all teens. And I’m also married to a super smart guy who isn’t much of a reader. In that vein, I would recommend World War Z by Max Brooks.

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