Bookworms and Literature Girls. Summer and Small Goals

There is a Japanese phrase that literally translates as “Literature Girl” (文学少女). It is usually reworded as “Bookworm” or even “Book girl.” In the US, a “Bookworm” brings up this image of a super geeky child with thick eyeglasses, no friends, and maybe bad hair. In Japan (and according to my Korean friends, in Korea too) a “Literature Girl” could similarly be seen as a nerdy girl wearing glasses. In a negative sense, she is arrogant and sometimes robotic. But she sometimes get an incredibly romanticized image of, well, someone like this:

Literature Girls seem to mean a type of delicate, shy girl who likes to read. In Japan, the image is always a tiny, fair skinned, feminine type. Googling around, I found all kinds of images from this “Bookworm bob” on a hairstylist site to anime-esque illustrations or advertisements and even painter Marie Laurencin’s lovely “La liseuse” (1913).


The closest we have to this in the English speaking world might be real life Disney princess Emma Watson. Who knows if Emma Watson actually reads but she is forever cementing her typecast image as she goes from Hermione to Belle.

(I love love love love Emma Watson).

In Japan, we have entire series spun around the “Literature Girl,” like Biblia Koshodo no Jiken Techo (ビブリア古書堂の事件手帖) or “The Case Files at the Antique Bookstore Biblia.” The series features the beautiful and shy Shinokawa Shioriko who somehow solves mysteries through her extensive knowledge of old books.

(In the drama adaptation, the terribly miscast pixie Gouriki Ayame does her best in her flowy layers of clothing under Taisho era hazy lighting.)

And! I just learned of a series translated as “Book Girl” (Bungaku Shojo).

I haven’t heard anything about it yet other than the delicious, mysterious detail that the book club president (a certifiable Literature Girl) has to eat book pages to survive. I will report back if it turns out to be excellent.

I needed this long introduction to pull my post together. Because tomorrow it is JUNE! June means SUMMER! And hot, glorious summer vacation means????


Yes, let me explain.

We did not have AC in my childhood home for most of my elementary school years. My mother used to drive us to the local library since it had AC and felt “Academic” enough to satisfy her Asian-mom-senses. This was no grand metropolitan library flanked with stone lions like in New York City or the palatial Library of Congress in DC but a squat suburban library, all in mid-century peeling brown decor and industrial carpeting. I liked to go to the back area where perverts sometimes sat because the section on the occult was there (UFOs, palm reading, ghosts, typical summer reading).

So whenever the summer starts to roll by, I get weirdly nostalgic for those stuffy libraries that are SO familiar, SO harmless, and SO anonymous that they start to feel a little uncanny. Everyone else wants to go to the beach and have those 3 month makeovers before the new school year began. I would crave quiet, cool, interiors filled with the dusty smell of untouched books, hidden in rows and rows of quiet shelves.

For now, I have one small summer goal:

1. For the entire month of June, read every night before bed.

Lately I am staying up late with my phone and feeling all f’d the next day. I want to get a chance to read for fun again (not for dissertation) and get away from screens.


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