Bernie Bookworm’s Reading Rules

Meet Bernie Bookworm. Whatever follows in this post you can blame it on the bookworm. Don’t blame it on the boogie. It has seen us all through many a tedious social gathering when the DJ does their thing.

Bernie, unlike my good self *cough* isn’t afraid to assert his rules and laws, particularly when it comes to reading etiquette.

Bernie’s views are all his own. I am merely the scribe. I am also delusional but the meds are dealing with that. Over to you Bernie…

Bernie Bookworm’s Reading Rules

Do not interrupt a person when they are reading

If you interrupt Bernie when he is reading he will not be held responsible for his actions.

He told you he was reading.

You were warned.

Why on earth then is it now that you must ask a question, tell him about that really funny thing that happened today, or, horrors, put the television on? Bernie is one scary worm when faced with stealers of his sacred reading time.

Never borrow a book and not return it.

Never a borrower be if you're a thieving git.
Never a borrower be if you’re a thieving git.

Bernie’s brother, Bertram is the leader of the ‘Book Mafia’. Be aware that if you leave Bernie’s books languishing in your home for years, the knock on your door will be Bertram and his bad ass bookworms seeking retribution (or at least to get the flipping book back).

You knew you’d never read it. You took it to be polite. Just read the reviews on the internet, pretend you’ve read it by chucking in a few plot details, and then return it quickly. Be aware, however, you may then be encouraged to borrow the sequel.

You’ve lost it or damaged it. Good luck my friends with explaining that to Bertram and the boys. You have committed book heresy and may lose the ability to read, i.e. eyeball extraction.

Always respect the book

Bernie despairs of reading library books, or worse, his own eventually returned books, defaced with dog ears. Get a bookmark, you animal.

He will also show zero tolerance for staining of any kind but particularly those that look like you used the book instead of toilet paper, had a blood transfusion all over it or used it to soak up coffee. What kind of person wastes coffee? Beast.

As for dropping it in the bath, letting the cat eat it, ripping the jacket or bending the cover… I need to lie down. It’s all too much.

The ‘To be read’ (TBR) pile should be infinite

Never underestimate the power of the TBR pile.
Never underestimate the power of the TBR pile.

There is no shame in adding more books to your TBR pile. Bernie encourages it. In fact, you can turn that wobbly stack into a work of modern art in your lounge. Play Jenga with it or create your own imagining of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

If visitors scorn your inability to decrease your TBR pile, state that it is such a ‘thing’ that the Japanese have coined a term for it; Tsundoku, meaning ‘the condition of acquiring reading materials and piling them up without reading them quickly’.

Now if the Japanese can take the time to show the monumental TBR the love through coining an actual word for it, Bernie dictates that we must show it the same level of reverence.

Just because it’s a best seller does not mean that you have to like it

Bernie’s head is shaking slowly in despair. This has been a hard lesson learned. I can relate.

I used to get sucked up into the publicity hype of the hot new novel everyone should be reading. You know the one I mean? That one you must have out on your coffee table or be seen reading on public transport. The one your reading group selects and everyone gushes about the amazing plot and the quality of written expression.

‘Fess up; you thought it was crap didn’t you?

You didn’t dare tell the others in your book club that it was poorly written, self-indulgent twaddle. You have actually had a trashy romance novel tucked away behind it so that the people on the bus won’t judge you.

Be bold. Just because someone and by ‘someone’ I mean the world and it’s offspring, pets and other relations, tells you it’s amazing because it’s the Number One seller, does not mean that you have to like it, or even read it. Shocking, I know..

Not all blockbuster books are crap but for those that you think are rubbish, stop wasting your time being pretentious. Bernie had a word with me after I battled through Gone Girl and found Girl on a Train a bit boring (side note: does every bestseller have the word ‘girl’ in the title nowadays?)

Take your book-lover regularly to the bookshop

And she didn't even have to read bloody 'Fifty Shades of Grey'.
And she didn’t even have to read bloody ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’.

You will be loved for life.

Bernie literally lives inside books, duh, did you not know what a bookworm was? He understands that the humans need to come to the books.

Never is there a more beautiful sight than the people being brought to the bookshops by those that adore them enough to do so.

Bernie also understands that the facilitators of making the book shop visit happen may not have entirely altruistic intentions.

Bernie knows enough about humans to figure out that you’re doing it because you might get lucky, get chocolate, or just not get nagged at for a while.

Books save relationships.

Do not judge a person by their book

Bernie hates reading snobs. He was dismayed to hear that it has taken me decades to read a book openly and not care about what other people think of my choice.

This stems from being an avid and early reader. As a child I was expected to read more challenging and ‘highbrow’ books by my teachers. I felt stifled and read many boring books under duress. I even didn’t like reading for a while.

I then became an English teacher and my colleagues would talk about reading the latest prize-winning novel and how wonderful it was. I tried to read these apparently award-worthy novels and, confession time, I either didn’t understand them or hated them.

I cringe when I think of how many times I hid my love of a good old American gritty crime novel or a purely escapist contemporary book.

Reading to me is a pleasure. I have done my time analysing books I was told to read, right up to Masters level. Now I get to choose what I read. It may be a classic, it may have won awards or it may be pure tosh, but it is my choice.

Any reading, in my book (pun intended) is good reading, apart from Fifty Shades of Grey. Sorry, there is a limit and you, my friend, have breached it.

Never tell a person reading in bed at night that they should be sleeping

Always trying to get a better reading time i.e. before dawn.
Always trying to get a better reading time i.e. before dawn.

Yes we replied, ‘I just need to finish the chapter’.

Yes, we are still reading two hours later.

Yes, we will be tired in the morning.

Yes, you didn’t sleep well because the light was on until 2am.


‘I just need to finish the chapter’ means the last chapter. No good book goes unfinished. Sleep can wait; mine and yours.

Life is too short to finish a crap book

Bernie and I are stubborn creatures. We are mega-organised and like to see things through to their completion. This is a blessing in aspects such as wedding planning (awkward not to see that one through to the end) but a curse when it comes to reading shite books.

We have learned that finishing a crap book is not an achievement. You do not get a gold star at the end for perseverance. You do however loathe your perfectionism, possess hatred for the author, and feel the need to beg for some of your wasted life back.

Life is too short to read drivel when you could be immersing yourself in the loveliness of an amazing book.

If you don’t like reading, you’re not coming in

She kind of has a point but...
She kind of has a point but…

Reading may not seem like a cool (or whatever the kids say nowadays) activity to some. I’ve heard many a monster state that reading is boring and that they have never read a book. Remember how I used to be an English teacher?

I always put it to them that reading encompasses more than books; it’s magazines, blog posts, websites, fan fiction, comics and so on… then the lightbulb comes on and they tell me that they do read.

I’ve been judged as geeky or nerdy for loving books, both as a child and as an adult. I embrace the geeky nerd.

I have never felt like an outsider for loving books. I am part of a wonderful group of billions of people who love to read. By casting us out we just become stronger in knowing the secrets of reading that others will never, sadly understand.

We have an exclusive club and if your name isn’t on the reading list, you’re not coming in. Bernie’s rules.

Bernie’s final words

Philosophical question: is he real? Commonsense answer: who gives a shit?
Philosophical question: is he real? Commonsense answer: who gives a shit?

Bernie may or may not be real. Bernie’s views may not entirely be his own.

This may all be just a little too Donnie Darko or Harvey, but it still gets blamed on the bookworm.

Keep reading…

About Lisa Sell

Lisa Sell is a fiction writer. When she's not wrestling with words she can be found showing the love for chocolate, cheese, coffee, books, the cats, and the husband. Perhaps not in that order.

60 comments on “Bernie Bookworm’s Reading Rules

  1. Many a night I have uttered the words one more chapter and still been reading a hour later. Its usually my favourite authors new book!! This reminds me to return a book that I was borrowed but not really in to at the moment!!

    1. My husband has given up telling me to go to sleep, bless him. I just don’t want to leave that lovely world I’m inhabiting through the book. I’m a sucker for a hook at the end of a chapter getting me to read the next one.

      Go return that book lady! Bertram has his mafia waiting in the wings…

  2. Haha, I Love your post. I need to show this to my husband- one of Bernie Bookworm’s best friends. 🙂 I think that he would agree on Bernie’s Reading rules. He often send me text Messages with lists on books to read (buy for him). Thanks for sharing it this way!

    1. Your husband clearly is a wonderful specimen of a reader! I’m off to text the Husband with a reading list – great idea! Thanks for commenting.

  3. Very interesting and funny rules be Bernie, but you know what? I have a son who love reading and he always read his books on bed during sleeping time but I used to break one of the rules by Bernie that said ” never tell a person who is reading on bed at night that they should be sleeping” I hope he will forgive me😂😂

    1. On this occasion I will, Inyene. This is because I used to be a teacher and I know what it’s like dealing with tired youngsters the next day! I do love that your son is staying up late to read though so I am a bit torn. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

  4. I love Reading and the rules are perfect because it does get annoying when people talk to you while you’re reading. Loved every bit of it.

    1. Thanks Nima! I just don’t understand why people think talking to someone who is reading is a good thing. Why?! Glad you enjoyed reading it and thanks for your comment.

  5. Love this post! You and BERNIE have a great voice. I particularly like the first rule. I need to post it in every room of my house.

  6. Ah Lisa, this is a brilliant brilliant post!! Bernie is spot on… and such a great writer too 😉 I love your memes – do you do them yourself? About to hit my infinite tbr pile now. Night night 🙂

  7. I really struggle with leaving a book I’m not enjoying; sometimes I don’t read for months because of it. But no more! Tonight I will bin the naff one and start on the new one I’ve been waiting for!

    1. Yay, another one converted, ha ha! I’ve been so stubborn with slogging away with rubbish books. I’m glad I’ve finally learnt the error of my ways.

      Hope the new book is much better! x

  8. Love it! And in addition to why all the books with ‘girl’ in the title – I was in the bookshop the other day and really noticed for the first time just how many books are titled ‘The __’s Wife/Daughter’. Current pet peeve.

    1. Yes, I’d spotted that too! So if I call my novel, ‘The Girl’s Daughter and Her Wife’ it will be the next bestseller right? We stand united in this pet peeve.

  9. I love that Bernie hates reading snobs! They irritate me no end. As you know, Lisa, I’m a fellow English teacher and I’ve had EXACTLY the same experience. Hey, I love some award winning books, but others seem so ‘try hard’ they make me break out in a rash!

    I also love the ‘life’s too short to finish a crap book’ rule. I’m employing that one more and more the older I get.

    Great post 🙂

    1. I love that you understand those English teacher experiences! I thought I was going to be ejected from the team room for caring to say I hated the award-winning book.

      Life is too short to read crap. I’m staying up late enough as it is reading the good stuff!

      So pleased you enjoyed reading this and can relate.

    1. I’ve lost far too many treasured books that way so unless I really trust the person and they promise to return it, I don’t lend out books anymore.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

  10. This is so perfect! 🙂

    I only ever loan books to people I trust to take care of them. One friend had my favorite scifi series for over a year–didn’t care, though, because I knew they’d come back safe and sound. *cuddles books*

    I also tend to really love books that I want people to read, so I’ll sometimes even buy them a copy instead of loaning them mine.

  11. “Never tell a person reading in bed at night that they should be sleeping.”

    YESSSSSSSSS. I am 30 years old and, whenever I visit my parents and stay up to read a book, they always say, “You should stop reading and go to bed.”

    1) I’m 30.
    2) I’m reading.

    THANK YOU for understanding. YES.

    1. I am 40 years old and being told off by the Husband for the bedtime reading. Yes, he’s right. I am tired the next day but I’ll be never tell him he’s right. It’s worth the sacrifice!

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

  12. I love reading too and the most wonderful thing is that I’ve been able to pass my passion onto my children. I have been told I am ‘anal’ before for not wanting to bend a book so that the spine is broken. I don’t feel so bad now 🙂

    1. I’m so pleased you’ve passed on your love of reading to your children! It must be lovely to share in this with them.

      I hate cracked spines too. Makes me cringe watching someone do it!

  13. LOL! I think the most important one is that life is too short to read a book that is not worth reading. For some reason people think they have to finish a book just because they read most of it. For example, after forcing myself to read most of Moby Dick, I stopped and refused to read the last 50 pages because I frankly didn’t care what was going to happen. I asked myself, “Why am I reading this?!”

    1. It took me so long to accept this ‘rule’ Susan! Maybe as I’m getting older I’m realising time is too precious to be stubborn about finishing a boring book. There’s also something liberating about making that choice which is why I love how you did this with reading Moby Dick!

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting. It’s good to know a kindred reading spirit!

  14. I have been a book addict since I learned how to read. Whenever there are no more things needed to do at home, I will go to my room and pick a good book to read. I love reading. It is a way for me to relax. It makes me forget my problems. It makes me alive. Continue posting 🙂

    1. Thanks Ana. I can relate to so much you’ve written here. If I didn’t have books and the ability to read, I would be lost.

      Thanks so much for commenting. I hope to engage with you more in the future.

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