As a reader, do you agree?

We look to novels and pictures to compensate us for the deficiencies of real life. The type of novel that is most satisfying to a person will therefore give us a clue to the wants which, in real life, that person is unable to express and gratify. (People often give away more information about themselves than they realize when they talk about their favourite novels and pictures.)

Do you agree?

Psychology for Everyman (and Woman) by A. E. Mander

The quote comes from the Thinker’s Library, No. 48, Psychology for Everyman (and Woman) written by A. E. Mander and first published 1935. The 14th edition (which I am currently reading), printed in 1948, is a tiny book with a hard red cover that conformed to the war economy standards. The book is as tall as the length of my palm.

As an avid reader, it intrigued me. Do you agree or disagree with the statement? If you too share my love of books, what is it your reading habits say about you?

If, for a moment, we surmise that the statement is true, what do we learn? You can view my recommended reading list to see the books I love the most, but this only includes the substantive books that I feel have changed me.

I often read books that don’t fit within the stereotype of chic lit, does this suggest I have an unsatisfied desire to feel superior? Of course ideally I wouldn’t believe that there’s anything superior in being the person reading Plato over the person reading the Hunger Games, yet… well it’s difficult to change a belief isn’t it. Especially one that says what your ego wants to hear.

If I take a look at the pile of books on the table in front of me, two are about travel – a want to escape perhaps – another is Gandhi’s autobiography. Do I take Gandhi as a leader who I wish to emulate, or are the intellectual books my way of mimicking the real intellectual readers of my social group? By reading widely, am I trying to associate myself with those writers I adore, the ones who instruct in every piece of writing advice ever written, read, read, read.

Are my reading choices dictated by a wish to be respected. Certainly, since going down the path of marketing – which like it or not is stigmatised – I’ve read books with ideas that take longer to mull over. Am I compensating for the awe I use to receive or is this my obsessive drive to learn and my fascination with the human mind?

The pile of books also includes a book on the evolution of organisations, a book genuinely called ‘Joy at Work’ and a novel by Barbara Kingsolver.

Or is it all bullshit? Am I simply clinging to patterns that don’t exist?

A. E. Mander’s short list of ‘primary wants’

For BODILY COMFORT

For a SENSE OF SECURITY

To ESCAPE

To PROPITATE* anyone who has power to injure: to INTEGRATE oneself

To be (a) NOTICED, (b) ADMIRED and (c) LIKED by others of one’s kind

(a) To HURT and INJURE, (b) To OVERCOME and DOMINATE (c) To feel SUPERIOR

To ATTRACT, PLEASE and MATE with one of the opposite sex

To LOOK AFTER and PROTECT someone (e.g. child or mate) who is relatively weak

For the COMPANY and FELLOW FEELING of others of ones kind

To be LIKE OTHERS of one’s own ‘pack’ or ‘set’, especially its leaders

To CATCH and CAPTURE

To FIND OUT, to KNOW, to UNDERSTAND

To RETURN TO FAMILIAR PEOPLE, PLACES and CONDITIONS

*Win or gain the favour of


What books are you reading, and what do they say about you?

4 Comments
  • clarepooley33
    Sunday 20 September 2015

    I think there is some truth in the statement but I really don’t believe that the novels and pictures I like best will give a full picture of the kind of person I am. I read a lot of non-fiction and Mander doesn’t include that – I wonder why?

    • Catherine Oughtibridge
      Thursday 15 October 2015

      I suppose, quite often people read non-fiction because of what they feel they ought to read or need to read, so presumably it wouldn’t be a clear reflection on what they desire?