Hug a Bookworm Today

The imaginative cosmos created by writers rejuvenates us — body, mind and spirit.

 By Kathryn Smith, Ph.D.

You may have taken one of those BuzzFeed quizzes to declare to the world your dominant personality type — the introvert or the extrovert.

After all, posting about one's introversion on Facebook has the added bonus of not having to confront others directly, which is a prospect duly avoided by most introverts.

If you’re an introvert, you may not even have posted the results on your Facebook feed — after all, introverts are a silent bunch of creatures, much happier to let someone else do the talking. However, you may also strategically have posted them in an indirect effort to help others understand where you’re coming from and why you scurry away from the bustle of the world at any opportunity. After all, posting about one’s introversion on Facebook has the added bonus of not having to confront others directly, which is a prospect duly avoided by most introverts.

In fact, introverts have been lucky this past decade to garner a bit more understanding from the world. After the publication of Susan Cain’s 2012 bestseller Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, the plight of the recluse has come to the fore of public consciousness. Yet some may feel that they have yet to be fully understood. I am such a one, and I would like to tell you a little bit about the irony of being at once an introvert and a literature teacher.

With a book in hand, I could always announce my desire to be left alone as well as my hope to be protected from the slings and arrows of preteen nastiness. 

As Cain and really almost any psychology major can tell you, introverts need solitude and quiet to restore their energy. As I am also a teacher, I spend most of my day talking and interacting with students. So, one might wonder why in the world I followed a path that put me in front of so many other humans that I would find myself at the end of most days out of words and needing some soothing hours of silence. Well, the answer is that many introverts turn out to be booklovers as well. While I clearly demonstrated this bent as a child, in middle school I discovered my passion for reading to the extent that I would often get in trouble for reading “other” books at my desk or for staying up too late at night to finish some book I’d started. So, my love for books grew perhaps in response to my aversion to the dramatic changes of puberty. With a book in hand, I could always announce my desire to be left alone as well as my hope to be protected from the slings and arrows of preteen nastiness. While it certainly was not a conscious decision, it helped form a protective shell around my otherwise soft and vulnerable ego.

Books are often my haven in the growing storm of chatter filling the world. The imaginative cosmos created by writers allows me to refuel myself – body, mind and spirit.

Becoming a teacher, then, did not necessarily arise from a love of public performance, but rather a desire to share the world of stories. Nonetheless, books are often my haven in the growing storm of chatter filling the world. This is not to say that I hide in my books, although I may occasionally use them as barriers to conversation. Instead, the imaginative cosmos created by writers allows me to refuel myself — body, mind and spirit. For the book-loving introvert, the “do not disturb” sign erected when we put a book in between ourselves and the world is merely a polite way of saying, “I need a break. Please come back later.”

If you do have a friend or family member who always has a book, remember that their silent retreat into the pages of their favorite authors only means that they have absented themselves not just for their own good, but for the good of all those around them, since there’s perhaps no grumpier lot than a bunch of exhausted, introverted bibliophiles.


kathryn smithKathryn Smith, Ph.D., grew up in the desert Southwest near El Paso, Texas, and studied literature and English at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the University of Dallas in Irving, Texas.

Currently, Smith teaches literature at the University of Dallas and directs the two Arete summer programs at UD for book-loving high school students.

Have a bookworm? Registration is open until June 14 for Arete.  Register now >>

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