20 Signs You Are a Literary Nerd

There will be no pictures, please.

After much time spent with my nose in a book, often choosing to stay in over going out and marking important dates in my life based on what book I was reading at the time, I have come to accept the fact that I am a literary nerd. I have written a list of ways to recognize if you are also a literary nerd, but you may be too busy reading something else to add this piece to your pile of reading…

  1. You have a strong opinion on e-books versus hardcopy books. It doesn’t matter what it is, but you have devised a system where you only read novels—but nothing by a list of ten specific authors, newspapers—but only on Tuesdays, and instructional books—but only relating to any subjects other than home, cooking, travel and crafts—on your e-Reader. In some cases, you have to buy both the hardcopy and the e-Reader for extenuating reading circumstance such as standing in the groceryline. Whatever it is, you have a formula for the way you read and you are sticking to it.
  2. You know and love literary theory. You often find yourself explaining Northrop Frye’s Four Locations to people, especially when you recognize that the Azkaban Prison is really the cave in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
  3. When attending any form of religious or devotional ceremony, you are more interested in the symbols from the religious text than actually applying the message to your life. For example, during Christmas mass, you alternate between the thoughts of the symbol of birth as a theme in Christianity with which books you think are wrapped for you under the tree.
  4. Speaking of religion, regardless of your devotional practice, you either have read, are reading, or have the following books on your “To Read” list: The Bible, The Epic of Gilgamesh, the Buddhist Sutras, The Qur’an, The Torah, The Book of Mormon (both the real one and the Broadway script for comparative purposes), Native North American creative myths, and many more.
  5. When someone mentions a book you haven’t read and are interested in, your questions resemble one or more of the following: What are the key themes/symbols? Don’t tell me the plot!Tell me the plot! How does the main character develop his fatal flaw through his hero’s journey?What book or author would you best compare it to? Who are the author’s influences? Which ideology is the author following that you can identify from this novel?
    For these questions, you may receive blank stares, less invitations from your friends to hang out or enthusiastic responses while books fly through the air if you are with fellow nerds.
  6. You prefer to read things above having them explained to you. You demonstrate this by not listening while your friend is explaining the various FIFA teams, instead googling “books on FIFA” on your phone while they talk.
  7. Your most prized possessions are books, and you cried when you received the most important first edition in your collection. Because of this you wear books like jewellery. You constantly have a book on your person and this habit is a key consideration factor when you go shopping for handbags[1].
  8. You will stick with a book no matter how long it takes. I once spent over a year reading Howard Zinn’s The People’s History of the United States, a book that is over 750 pages long and dense with history. Finally finishing that book was one of my happiest literary moments. A true literary nerd embarks on reading quests seriously, beginning them within the opening pages of a new book. And to you, Mary Shelley, one day I will finish that slim novel Frankenstein and all the pride will be mine, muah ha ha!
  9. You are a symbol, theme and motif identifying machine. You find them in everything: books, movies, plays, poetry, and even real life. Your motto is, “There are no accidents in literature,” and you often test yourself, seeing what you can find on your own and then searching it online later to see what SparkNotes, Grade Saver and other forums have said. Of course you know that although these sites are aids, they are certainly not conclusive and you are excited when you discover something they do not mention. This behaviour has either made you the star or the burden of your book club.
  10. You still hang out with your English and humanities teachers from high school/university. You have no shortage of things to talk about with them and often discuss their lesson plans. Hanging out with them at a poetry reading or literary prize event is a normal, if not common, occurrence in your life.
  11. If you aren’t an English major or minor student, you make friends with English majors in order to get good book recommendations. Once you finish a book, you call/text everyone, trying to relive and enhance the experience of reading the book through your analysis.
  12. Besides all of your favourite authors, Heather Reisman has the best job ever. If you were her, you would pay dividends to shareholders in Heather’s picks, except they would be your picks, and they would be awesome.
  13. Your “Books That Changed My Life” list is really long—you might not even have a formal list because it would include nearly every book you have ever read. When you lend books to people, whether or not they’ve asked for it, you are sure that “this book will change your life.”
  14. Who is Mick Jagger? What’s a Beatle? The rockstars in your life are writers. Hemmingway, Heaney and Austen are your time-honoured idols while Irving and Angelou would have you camped outside for days in anticipation of a book signing or recitation.
  15. When you do listen to music, your interest lies primarily in the lyrics where you search for hidden meanings and the artist’s commentary on their social and political landscape. This activity has given you mad respect for Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and other similar artists. If you ever went to a concert, you would probably know more lyrics than the biggest fan but less tunes than the average concert-goer.
  16. If you have a pet, it is named Tennyson and you call it “Tenny” for short. This name was the result of a very long and difficult decision process, from which you now have enough pet names to name all the pets you will ever own and more.
  17. You don’t despise any author. You may dislike their work but you will always see the literary merit in what they have written and its place in society. Unless the book in question is Twilight, which you have never read and would only read if it were for a serious comparison with Anne Rice’s vampire fiction.
  18. If you were ever asked the question “Which one person would you have dinner with, dead or alive?” you would preface your answer with, “How much time do you have?” and then launch in to an epic saga about your favourite author and their impact on your development as a person with total unawareness of the questioner’s attention span or time frame. If this is in an interview setting and the interviewer continues to question you, you link nearly all of your remaining answers to the dinner you spent over twenty minutes describing. If you are applying for a literary-related position, you’ve nailed it.
  19. At various points in your life, you have been a WWI soldier, a Queen, a nineteenth century American slave, an orphan seeking home in a new country, an autistic child, a pirate and a heartless tin man all in your daily life. In casual conversation,you speak to the experiences of all of these characters, often stunning people with your first-hand knowledge of lion behaviour in captivity from your time as an animal living in a British zoo. For this, you have no shame.
  20. Ultimately, you believe in the power of the written word. One of my university housemates, an English major, recounted to me a story in which she experienced this power. On the last day of class one semester, she went out with some students from her favourite course to celebrate her professor’s last day of teaching before his retirement. They went out to the grad student pub for beers following the class. After the group sat down, Katie went to the bar to get a drink. The jubilant and raucous group had caught the attention of other people in the pub and two guys at the bar asked her what the group was celebrating. She told them, and the two, who were med students, began to make fun of her and the group, saying things like, “Oh, you study English? How is that a worthy pursuit? We study medicine and save people’s lives!” Katie walked back to the group disheartened and told her peers what had happened. Her professor looked at her, his merriment exuding through his widening smile, and said, “Their work may keep people alive, but our work is what people are living for.”
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