Bibliophile reading a book

The quirky habits of bibliophiles

People with a love of the written word will go to great lengths for literature. Author Katja Pantzar shares her insights into the fascinating mind of bibliophiles.

“Never judge a book by its cover.”  

We’re all familiar with the wisdom that phrase offers, which is that it’s not a good idea to make snap judgements based on outer appearances – whether we’re talking about books, or people, for that matter.  

Yet, having said that, I’ll let you in on a secret.  

Book lovers often do judge other people on their reading habits, especially their lack thereof. If someone says they “don’t read,” bookworms may express utter incomprehension: How is this possible? But this is not a nasty judgy type judgment. Rather, from a bookish perspective, this type of disclosure is akin to admitting that you don’t breathe or walk.  

For those of us who find literature to be a lifeline, here are some of our other special habits: 

1. Prioritizing reading moments

When we’re in the middle of a page-turner, whether it’s a gripping thriller or a work of non-fiction genius, we’ll try to plan our schedules around getting back to our book. As such, the perfect Friday night may centre around a good novel, not a night out on the town. 

2. Having special places for reading

Some of us curl up with a book in bed, others head to a cosy spot in a library or a café. One of my bookish friends insists that soaking in a hot bath is absolutely the best place to dive into a compelling title. 

3. Storing our stash

Bibliophiles tend to have ongoing book management issues, which means we regularly run out of places to stockpile all of our precious tomes. That’s why paperbacks and hardcovers often form unusually tall stacks on our nightstands and windowsills, for example.

4. Admitting organizing issues  

How we arrange our titles is a topic of serious discussion. Alphabetically? By colour or size? Or by genre – fiction, non-fiction, domestic, international? Some of us shelve all limited editions and signed copies in their own special section. And some hide beach reads away out of sight – so we’re not judged on our literary tastes.   

5. Writing never-ending books-to-read lists  

Happily, we’ll never run out of books to read because there are so many titles in the world. That’s why keeping running lists of must-reads is key. Some do this the old-fashioned way with pen and paper in a notebook, others have special text and photo files devoted to the important task.  

6. Rationing and planning bookstore visits 

For bibliophiles, taking a trip to an excellent, well-stocked bookstore can be a costly excursion because of our temptation to buy a lot of books. At the same time, bookstores also form a strong part of our travel itineraries, as there are so many around the world worth visiting – think Paris’s Shakespeare & Company, Berlin’s Dussmann das KulturKaufhaus or LA’s The Last Bookstore – to name but a few. 

7. Selecting-a-copy considerations 

When purchasing books live (as opposed to online), some bookworms are very particular about which one they select. A fellow bookworm friend must always ensure that the book he’s going to purchase has a totally pristine cover (no scuffs allowed) and that the price tag can be removed without leaving a mark. For, in his words, the sticker price is irrelevant, as books are invaluable. 

Book papersStora Enso Paper

About the Author

Katja Pantzar is a Helsinki-based writer, author, and journalist who has an antique wardrobe overflowing with books that don’t fit on her bookshelves.  

Her newest book Everyday Sisu: Tapping into Finnish Fortitude for a Happier, More Resilient Life, will be published in 2022 by Penguin Random House US. Through expert interviews and fact-based information, Everyday Sisu examines how we can better support our mental and physical wellbeing while taking care of each other and our planet.