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Bookish Pet Peeve #2: The Nosey Over-The-Shoulder Reader

I can smell your breath. You’re so close to me, I can smell your breath.

Did you just eat raw garlic? No? Is that sour cream and onion chips? No? Maybe you bathed in a vat of stale vinegar?

You are totally up in my personal space right now. In fact, the term “personal space” is a misnomer because there is no space between us. You’re totally up in my person right now. Yes, that’s it. You’re in my person. Could this be qualified as assault?

What is your deal, Mr. Total Stranger On An Airplane?

Oh, I see, you’re curious about what I’m reading. Or are you simply just reading along with me?

As soon as I opened the book to page 152—the scene where Nancy tells Rolf that she’s been cheating on him with 3 boys from the college lacrosse team—as soon as I opened the book to that page, you invaded my personal space like a vulture to a deer carcass.

How can I make you stop being so nosey? Maybe if I make eye contact with you, then you will stop being so nosey.

Okay, here I go. Making eye contact. This is so awkward.

You’re smiling back at me. What should I do? Should I smile back? Oh no…I’m smiling back. Now I’m nodding my head in the universal “hello” gesture.

Crap. Now you’re going to think I like you. You’re going to think I don’t mind you reading over my shoulder.

I’ve really got myself in a mess now. Maybe if I start reading again, you’ll leave me alone. Rolf is angry right now. He just found out one of the lacrosse players is his college roommate’s son. Nancy is having an affair with Rolf’s friend’s son. That’s just wrong, Nancy.

Seriously, did you just burp?

Let me get this straight: You’re sitting next to me on this airplane, totally crowding my space, reading my book over my shoulder, breathing foul vapors into the air, and—to top it off—you’re now burping into my ear?

You’re still reading my book. I feel your eyes. This has to stop.

I shut the book. I close my eyes. I’m pretending that I’m going to sleep. I really want to know if Rolf leaves Nancy, but I need you to get distracted, or maybe fall asleep yourself, so I can finish.

I’m pretending to be asleep.

Wait a minute. Is that a hand on my leg? What? Are you picking up my novel?

I open my eyes. I look at you.

You grin sheepishly. “Oh, you don’t mind if I borrow this for a minute?” you say.

Are you kidding me? I think. I smile. “Why not?” I say. “Tell me what happens to Rolf.”

I close my eyes again and pretend to sleep. You, sir, the over-the-shoulder book reader, are one of the top 10 most annoying people on the planet.

Have you ever had experiences with a nosey reader?

Prior Bookish Pet Peeves:

#1: Bookstore Cell Phone Blabbermouth

31 Comments Post a comment
  1. Matt #

    I swear I’ve sat next to this guy on the bus too. Weird people out there.


    April 5, 2013
  2. Clearly you have never traveled anywhere in the rural parts of Eastern Europe…ha ha ha.


    April 5, 2013
  3. That used to happen to me all the time on the subway when I lived in Boston. I have to say that what I find even MORE annoying, though, is the over-the-shoulder reading-what-I’m-writing person. That makes me feel stabby.

    Liked by 1 person

    April 5, 2013
  4. Reblogged this on Paper in a Hurry.


    April 5, 2013
  5. the undeniable anglophile #

    In class: Hey dude, what’re you reading? *bends down while standing to read the front cover of the novel*. To irritate, repeat many times on many occasions to the same person.
    While reading alone: *guy comes over*
    Him: Hey dude, blah blah blah blah blah blah, right?
    Me: Mmmm-hmmm.
    Him: Blah blah blah blah blah blah, don’t you think?
    Me: Mmmm-hmmm.
    Him: Do you like blah blah blah blah?
    Me *all this time, irritation level rising, now hitting ceiling: Mmmm-hmmm.
    Him: Hey dude, what do you think about Indian politics.
    Me *now screwed, since it isn’t a yes-no question*: Don’t know much about it.
    And it goes on, because I just don’t want to tell him to go away so rudely.
    While reading:
    Guy: Which book is it?
    Me: *says name*
    Guy: Oh that book right, blah blah blah, *proceeds to give some kind of lecture on book


    April 5, 2013
    • Yep! Why can’t people understand that we don’t want to engage in long conversations WHILE WE ARE READING!


      April 5, 2013
      • I know this is on old comment on an old thread, but I’m new and still exploring this blog, so I hope no-one minds…

        Anyway, Robert, after 20 years this is something I still can’t get across to my husband! It’s somehow different when he’s trying to read or concentrate on something. Of course we’ve been married long enough that he quickly recognizes my warning look, so that comes in handy to avoid marital discord!

        As for the Bookstore Blabbermouth’s, if they don’t take polite hints, I sick the store staff on them. They don’t like it, too bad for them. 🙂



        February 22, 2014
  6. Very funny post.

    I’ll always try to find subtle ways to find out what people are reading without being creepy or invasive, because I too have been on the other side of that.

    I find it even more annoying when people creep on what I’m writing.


    April 5, 2013
  7. Books&Film #

    This happens all the time! When people start asking whats happening it gets beyond a joke. Why can’t people buy their own books and read them from the beginning?


    April 6, 2013
  8. I really can’t stand when someone actually grabs the front flap of the book to lift it and see what the title is. UGH! Really? REALLY?! Or then the dumb questions, “Do you like it?”

    “No, stupid, I hate it, but I’m reading it anyway.”


    April 6, 2013
  9. Ten times worse when they read ober your shoulder at what you’re writing.
    When its weird fanfiction. And its your geography teacher.
    Seriously, people like these are just the worst!


    April 6, 2013
  10. mindlesslydreaming #

    Reblogged this on mindlesslydreaming.


    April 7, 2013
  11. nice


    April 8, 2013
  12. trisha #

    I don’t agree with this. Mostly because I am that awful person. Is curiosity really that unacceptable?


    April 8, 2013
  13. Haha, this was spot on xo


    April 8, 2013
  14. Reblogged this on Justin Kassab.


    April 9, 2013
  15. This has fortunately not happened to me in that extent! Wow. The reading and invasion of personal space, yes, the need to be nice even though you don’t want to be, yes, but luckily no one has ever picked up my book! Great post!


    April 9, 2013
  16. zombieinternational #

    Thankfully, I can quite happily say I’ve never had this problem! Never say never, though. There’s still plenty of time.


    April 11, 2013
  17. this has happened to me on the train a few times which is why i either only read a book alone or i have to resort to ebooks


    May 30, 2013
  18. I steal my mum’s book as soon as she puts it down, and return it ninja style when she comes back. I often finish before her, she doesn’t like it…


    March 29, 2014

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