10 unmistakable signs of someone who spent their childhood buried in books

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It’s been a lifelong journey of constantly being surrounded by bookworms. 

From my eldest sister who left her Sweet Valley High pocketbooks and Archie Comics lying around the house, to the Nancy Drew series I used to check out from the library.

To high school friends who recommended Japanese manga titles, to my present writer friends who recommend some of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read.

I grew up surrounded by books and I know many who are the same that it feels almost autobiographical to write this list. 

The list being the 10 unmistakable signs of someone who spent their childhood buried in books. 

1) They enjoy trying new things

For people who grew up reading, books were both an escape and an invitation—to new worlds, to many worlds, to all the worlds. 

Books were friends, too. Characters living lives that were new to us. We were living vicariously before we probably even knew what that word meant. 

And is it really any surprise when we grow up to be curious adults? Curious adults, who love trying new things?

Some could even be called adventurous. For years we have poured over stories of heroes, of chosen ones, prophecies, and the adventures that unfold. 

We have lived it within the pages. We have seen the world through the lens of the protagonist. 

In adulthood, many of us wish to live it. 

2) They are eager learners 

Those who grew up reading grew up curious

Voracious readers are some of the most eager learners I have come across, whether pushing through mastery or being a jack of all trades. 

For lack of a better term, there’s an almost hunger for the pursuit of learning. I have a friend who loves collecting cookbooks and another who buys a lot of books about films and TV series. 

I know people who love reading fiction and ones who love autobiographies. I have a friend who finishes at least 1 book a month. 

Another who loves non-fiction. Another who loves theater.

I know many who grew up reading comics and are now in some of the most interesting fields of arts and sciences.

All of them grew up surrounded by books. All of them are excited to know more. 

3) They know a lot of ra

Let’s be honest, if you grew up loving books, you’re more likely to be an adult who also loves books. 

And there’s a quirk I’ve noticed, reading-obsessed people tend to have a bunch of random facts piled in their brains. We’re just knowingly and unknowingly squirreling away bits and pieces of knowledge.

I’ll give you a tiny example. 

In my very early teens, there was a local TV show that invited a contestant from Slovenia. People around me didn’t know the country, but I did, because I read that from Paulo Coelho’s book Veronika Decides to Die.

“Honestly, she thought, no one ever knows where Slovenia is.” is a line from said book. And in my early teenage mind, I thought, look Veronika, I know your country now. It felt poetic at the time.

And so much of our pop culture is tied with literature, too, so it’s not unusual that what we have read comes in handy. From dark humor jokes based on Edgar Allan Poe’s works to the many iterations of fairy tales. 

From Narnia to the Hunger Games. From Pride and Prejudice to Romeo and Juliet. 

4) They have empathy in spades

As children, we read books and unknowingly expanded our worldviews. We practiced empathy maybe even without knowing what it was.

We read the stories and learned about the protagonists like they were our friends. We root for them, we hide behind our fingers when the plot goes awry.

The next page always feels far away yet every line is impossible to skip over. We believed in happy endings and things going well. 

We trust that the story will sort itself out and our first taste of heartache could’ve been from when it did not. 

We fear the antagonists, only to find a tragic background that makes our hearts hurt. We were taught good from evil. We were taught the value of friendship and family.

We were shown the complexities of life and we were none the wiser. 

5) They communicate well

And I’m not just talking about words. Sure, the wide vocabulary helps but communication is more than just speaking. 

We learned so much more from books, like understanding context and nuances. We learned to read between the lines, learned empathy, learned common sense. 

One can argue that these are essential building blocks for effective communication.

6) They’re imaginative

There’s this charming poem by Bo Burnham called “Magic” that I want to share with you.

Read this to yourself. Read it silently.

Don’t move your lips. Don’t make a sound.

Listen to yourself. Listen without hearing anything.

What a wonderfully weird thing, huh?

NOW MAKE THIS PART LOUD!

SCREAM IT IN YOUR MIND!

DROWN EVERYTHING OUT.

Now, hear a whisper. A tiny whisper.

Now, read this next line with your best crochety- old-man voice:

“Hello there, sonny. Does your town have a post office?”

Awesome! Who was that? Whose voice was that?

It sure wasn’t yours!

How do you do that?

How?!

Must be magic.

Brings you back to the wonder of it, doesn’t it? We paint pictures in our minds when we read. 

Sure, now that we’re older, we have more tangible examples to pull from, but as children we were dreamers. We were makers of wonder, creating many worlds from nothing. 

Especially when we graduated from picture books, when the words started getting smaller yet our world started expanding. 

Is it any surprise that we grew up as adults with an active imagination? 

7) They’re creative

I’ve just mentioned being imaginative, now let’s talk about being creative

So many of the artists I know today are lifelong readers, from performers to visual artists to writers. I know a lot of people who read books as kids and ended up writing books as adults. 

I know people who were surrounded by comics or manga growing up who are now graphic artists and illustrators themselves.

Just the other week, I found out that one of the best writers I know had a soft spot for The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter. She has very fond memories of it from her childhood. 

She’s also a dear friend so I know her level of creativity and knowing her love for Peter Rabbit was endearing. 

That said, lifelong readers are creative people. Perhaps not always within the arts, but creativity can be found even outside of it anyway. 

8) They have book-related quirks that survive into adulthood

When I tell you I absorbed “Slytherin” and “Cabin 13” into my personality, besties, I am not lying. I literally wrote and performed a Harry Potter poem because it’s a story so magical to me. 

It felt like possibilities. 

Meanwhile, Percy Jackson felt like a friend. Mythology felt closer, more accessible. 

To this day, I still mention Calypso in my work, still mention Atlas, and constantly reference Icarus. 

I still marvel at humanity and have grown a fondness for the color red because of Lois Lowry’s The Giver. I have carried these with me since.

And I’m sure I’m not the only one. The books we grew up with left indelible marks in our lives.

People who dress in their Hogwarts house colors, who develop recipes only found in their favorite books, who learn new languages because of it. 

Those who still laugh at inside jokes made by their favorite characters, who go to conventions dressed in their favorite’s likeness. 

People who watch movies based on books and instantly hate it (haha!) or love it so wholeheartedly. 

What about you?

9) They have a collection of books 

This seems obvious but people who grew up reading now have a collection of books. I know I do. And I know so many on the same page (pun intended.)

Yes, we’re counting ebooks and audiobooks, people! 

In my case, many of the books I read were borrowed so I never really had my own copy. Having adult money made me change that fact. 

How many do you have in yours?

10) They understand the importance of alone time

We understand the importance of alone time.

Remember those days when you can speed through an entire book in a day? When the only thing that separates you from the next chapter is bedtime? 

Now, as adults, life gets in the way of reading. There are responsibilities and tasks to finish, appointments you cannot cancel, and socializing to be done.

If we do get a day of reading, it feels like a reward. It has to be intentional.

One last thing

We all got to take different things from growing up surrounded by books. Some of us grew a love for the written word so deep that we started writing, too. 

Some of us found varying hobbies, even careers, based on characters we loved growing up. 

Some of us went into industries we only used to see between book pages.

And now here we are, ages away from the little kids we used to be. 

But one thing I know is that our books, even if they have remained untouched for many years, will always keep the stories alive. 

Waiting, always waiting, for us to join the adventure one more time.

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