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>Librarian superpowers

This morning, at an unbearable point in Middlemarch–Dorothea is, I think, about to make a Very Big Mistake–I switched off my iPod and turned my attention to what my fellow Orange Line commuters were reading. It can be very tricky to not be caught staring while waiting for someone to give you a flash of cover. I was idly wondering why I habitually indulge in this particular brand of nosiness and then it came to me: when you know what book someone is more or less absorbed in, it’s like you can read their mind. Bwah-ha-HAH!

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. Elizabeth says:

    >I think Dorothea’s Very Big Mistake was marrying that sad, controlling old guy in the first place. But Roger, you are really making me want to reread, or listen to, that book.

    Anyway, I actually went up to two teenagers at B+N today who were haunting the teen shelves and asked them what they liked to read. Usually I just stalk them to see what they pick up, etc. Anyway, one of the said Tamora Pierce and Sarah Dessen, and the other didn’t answer.

  2. rockinlibrarian says:

    >This could possibly explain my strange quirk of refusing to tell people the name of the book I am reading while I am actually reading it. I can ramble on about the book while it is in the next room, over on the table, so on; but if it is IN MY HANDS AND OPEN, I won’t tell you what it’s called. Maybe it’s a way of protecting the inner reaches of my mind from prying.

  3. Kellie Olsen says:

    >I love to do this! Though most of the time it’s more of a test for me to see how many books I can identify when I can’t fully read the title. It’s like a brain teaser for me.

  4. >My super-nosy husband managed to read a *line* from a book over someone’s shoulder on the T, but was then unable to see the cover. The power of Google revealed the book to be “Middlesex” (like “Middlemarch,” but not).

  5. Heidi Estrin says:

    >A librarian friend and I always joke about our obsession with other peoples’ public space reading habits. We would like to have badges that say “Library Police” so that we could go up to strangers, flash our badges, and demand to know what they are reading. Not to police their tastes, of course, but just to give us the right to be officially nosy!

    Do you ever try to read the titles of the books that decorate the shelves in furniture catalogs? The Pottery Barn catalog is fun that way. IKEA’s no good for me, though, because the books are in Swedish.

  6. Anonymous says:

    >Ooo, kinda like peeking in people’s medicine cabinets, except you don’t have to lie about it.

    My other peek (and no, I don’t mean other than medicine cabinets–cause I would NEVER do that– I mean other than sneaking a peek at book titles) is into grocery carts. I’m always amazed at people’s food choices.

    Orange soda?? Really??

    Barb Kerley

  7. Anonymous says:

    >Orange soda is delicious.

  8. Anonymous says:

    >Oh…I try to read the book titles in catalogs too! I’m glad it’s not just me!

  9. >I like to read the books on the shelves when I go into somebody’s office. It’s like taking a look at what’s on their i-Tunes. Though I think I tend to do this because I want to see what I’m missing, more than I want to peek into their minds.

    I’ll zero in on a book more if a young adult is reading it, though.

    Also, you know, books! I just like looking at books!

  10. Anonymous says:

    >Who are those three people in the photograph? It is assumed that we will all recognize them. Maybe characters in a sci-fi movie? (Surely not Middlemarch folks?) Too much credit given to readers’ familiarity with blogger’s private enthusiasms.

  11. Roger Sutton says:

    >Those people are what came up when I did an image search for “mindreading machine.” Blame Google.

  12. Anonymous says:

    >re photos: this one reveals
    a fallacy common to children’s books folk: there MUST be illustrations to get readers’ attention and explain. some readers are capable of understanding clear writing. and pix can often distract

  13. >I’m wondering why you neglected to cite where you found the picture at the top of this post. “I found it on Google” isn’t an answer I would accept from my students.

  14. Roger Sutton says:

    >I bet your friends don’t try to get away with that, either. They’ve learned.

  15. Elizabeth says:

    >To paraphrase Michael Kors (or is that too insider-y for you), “lighten up, it’s just blogging.” I think Roger was just having fun posting an image to go along with his blog post, for Pete’s sake. I think we could do a whole separate chain about the use of illustration in children’s books, (and why children often are very glad illustrations are there) and another one about the importance citing sources. But can’t you guys recognize a little camp fun?

  16. >Elizabeth – I just had to respond to your comment. Referencing Michael Kors as an expert on blog etiquette is akin to checking Turabian for the latest fashion trends. Giving citations for images is a matter of respect in my mind. I’m not always a stickler regarding format but I do believe that it is always important to give credit to the creator of an image or other work. I’m certain that Michael Kors wants his name attached to his designs, whether they are shown on the runway, in print, or in a blog.

  17. Whoever edits and pubihlses these articles really knows what they’re doing.

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