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Hunting for Book Buddies among Biologists

It’s not always easy for me to find book buddies in my “offline” life. Maybe that’s why the ones I do find turn out to be such good friends. There’s something about finding a fellow urban fantasy or paranormal romance fan that makes me want to turn cartwheels. (If I could turn cartwheels, which I can’t.)

Part of my problem is that my day job is in science, and scientists aren’t known for our paranormal romance reading habits. I’m convinced the reason for this is that we are all rigorously hiding our paranormal romance reading habits. And I have evidence.

Copyright © Synchrotron Soleil, used with permission

Copyright © Synchrotron Soleil, used with permission

Back in grad school I did a lot of data collection at synchrotron particle accelerators. If this sounds exciting, it is. It’s hands-down the sexiest part of my job—almost everything else sounds mind-numbingly dull when I describe it. (Science Secret #1: Most of what I do involves moving clear liquids from one place to another. Thrilling!) Anyway, there are only a handful of synchrotrons in the world, and they almost all run twenty-four hours a day, because ”beamtime” is too precious to waste. Back then, as a lowly graduate student, I often ended up with the dreaded midnight-to-eight-am shift.

On this particular shift, I brought along a new collaborator whom I didn’t know very well, and before the trip, I gave her my secret to surviving the dreaded twelve-to-eight: a combination of caffeine, junk food and entertainment. For me, that meant instant noodles, sports drinks, coffee…and books.

We showed up for our shift at midnight with our samples and our stay-awake supplies. As often happens, the samples weren’t behaving. (Science Secret #2: Ninety percent of the time, the experiment doesn’t work.) We spent hours screening samples, looking for the one that would finally give us quality data. At three am, we hit pay dirt.

I set up a long, automated collection procedure to get as much data as I could out of this precious sample. This meant we got a little break—but that was dangerous. I was already loopy from the unholy instant noodle-sports drink-coffee trifecta, and I knew if I didn’t keep my brain occupied, I’d pass out with my head on the computer. It was time to break out the book.

At the time, I was reading the first book in Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress series—Halfway to the Grave.  Actually, I was rereading it, because it was so amazing the first time around, I just had to read it again. Usually, I’m pretty circumspect about discussing books with my colleagues. You never know when someone’s going to see your paranormal romance novel and make ridiculous stereotypical assumptions about your intelligence. But it was three am, I was tired, and I didn’t care. I made a fresh pot of coffee, whipped out my book, and started reading, collaborator or no collaborator.

I waited for it. The lip-curl, the politely uninflected “hmm, that’s interesting.” Instead, she peered at the cover and said, “Ooo, is that good?”

Then she took a Kay Hooper paranormal-flavored romantic suspense out of her bag.

Suddenly, we had a lot more to talk about.

The rest of the shift passed much more quickly, and at the end of it, I gave her Halfway to the Grave. She stopped by my lab with Kelley Armstrong’s Bitten the next week.

Variations of this sort of thing have happened a few times since, and every time, my new book buddy and I have shared a moment of glee and the words: “It’s so great to finally find someone to talk about books with!” (Science Secret #3: Lots of us are closet romance readers!) I don’t think it’s any surprise that these folks have all turned out to be some of my best friends.

What about you? Is your offline life full of fabulous book buddies, or do you have to hunt for them like the treasures they are?

Click to tweet:

Think science types don’t read romance? @ajlarrieu says they do: @ParaUnbound

How do you find book buddies? @ajlarrieu talks about hunting for fellow #PNR & #UF fans among fellow biologists.

19 thoughts on “Hunting for Book Buddies among Biologists

  1. Great post A.J.! The only persons I have ever met who share my taste in books, I have met online. The best news is, that the one who became my best friend, only lives 5 minutes away.

  2. lol, I use to be a scientist (Microbiologist)… before I had kids. I didn’t get into the wonderful world of urban fantasy/PNR until a few years ago. My problem finding reading buddies offline has to do with the small town I live in now. Small town, small minds. I try to go to conventions when I can to meet with other book lovers 🙂

    • How cool! And what a shame that your small town isn’t PNR-positive. I think part of the strength of the genre fiction’s online and convention communities stems from the fact that it’s so hard for most of us to find each other in our “day” jobs/lives. I know that’s why I love my RWA meetings. I feel like I’m finally with my tribe.

  3. Sadly, because I write paranormal-romance I don’t think most of my friends or family have even read my novella. One or both of those words seems to turn them off. The only one I know who actually bought and read it, is a guy I work with…and not even a close colleague. He thought it was exciting I was published and bought it as soon as it went on sale. Of course, I’m embarrassed to look at him now because of the sex scenes.

    • Oh, I know that feeling. Sometimes I find myself saying to friends & family, “This probably isn’t your kind of book,” and then I remind myself that if it contained gruesome murders instead of sex, no one would bat an eye.

  4. Great post. It is so true. I talk about my books at work, but people look at me like I have horns growing out of my head! I have one book buddy who lives close by who likes the same authors I read. Reading saves my sanity after a day of craziness at the clinic!

    • When I tell work friends what I write, I often get: “Oh, you write *those* books.” I’ve decided to laugh instead of being offended. Reading (and writing!) saves my sanity, too! I don’t know if it’s using a different part of my brain, or the same part in a different way, but I *need* it.

  5. I totally know how you feel! I was a scientist (environmental chemist) in my former life and always hid the books I read during lunch behind my lunch bag. Eventually someone would ask what I was reading and yep, I’d get the obligatory, “Ohhhh, um that’s cool,” with a forced smile. That’s why my online book buddies are now some of my absolute favorite people.

  6. A.J. I love this post–esp. the science secrets! I’ve had a similar experience in my professional life. There is a fair amount of snobbery among clergy that romance novels aren’t real books, but there are also a number of women who have revealed to me they have a partial or complete romance novel in their desk drawer, which they wrote back in college…or last week. As you know, my husband is in tech, and he recently guessed his office mate likes romance b/c she used some genre term he’s heard me throw around before–not that he could remember it upon retelling. Too bad, because I’d like to know what type of romances the computer nerd girls (vs the lab nerds and church nerds) like!

    • I guess no profession is immune! We need a secret handshake or a code word or something, so we can all recognize each other. Maybe a Secret Romance Lover pin…. ::mind churning::

  7. Loved reading this post – thank you! My background is in animal physiology and I’ve been reading fantasy, UF and paranormal since the eighth grade! On reflection, it’s not so unbelievable that many scientists read in these genres. After all, science fiction is similar to fantasy, which is linked to UF, which is close to paranormal. And I’m SURE you’ve run across a number of trekkies in the science field!

    • Ha! Absolutely! Lots of dorks of many flavors. I wonder how many of them follow that path you laid out all the way to PNR and beyond.

      Thanks for stopping by, fellow biologist!

  8. I’m not in science, am retired from govt job but while my “real time” friends do read, none read fantasy. The conversation at the dinner table tonight basically refuted the possibility of the paranormal. I didn’t bother saying I read and write fantasy …I love Jeaniene Frost as well as Christina Henry and Suzanne Johnson. I don’t dare mention these authors to people here. I get the glazed eye look. I will look into Kay Hooper and Kelly Armstrong – oh check out Kim Harrison too!

  9. Love this post, AJ and LOL at this visual of you: “I was already loopy from the unholy instant noodle-sports drink-coffee trifecta” 🙂
    I, too, am grateful for our monthly RWA meeting where *everyone* loves our genre! woo!

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