What is Seen Reading?

Ultimately, Seen Reading is the many manifestations of one person’s predilection to note what people are reading in public. Julie Wilson hosts this experience as The Literary Voyeur.

Seen Reading, by Julie Wilson

Seen Reading is …

A book: Seen Reading (Freehand, 2012 — print; HarperCollins, 2012 — ebook) is a collection of microfictions based on the original blog of the same name, which from 2006-2011 catalogued sightings of people reading in public. What made the concept unique was the final portion of each blog post, a complementary piece of microfiction that sat in as Julie’s reaction to the reader. The original blog catalogued over 700 individual reader sightings, whereas the book is a distillation of about 100 those microfictions, re-crafted to sit alongside one another in short chapters of poetic prose, much in the same way strangers on transit sit alongside one another en route to their final destinations. The result is a thoughtful call and response, the act of reading inspiring, in Julie, an act of writing. Seen Reading is Julie’s whimsical testament to the power of publishing, and a love letter to the nameless reader. Tender, poignant, and fun, Seen Reading offers readers an inspired fictional map while charting an urban centre’s cultural commitment to books and literature.

A blog: Seen Reading as a blog will continue to feature occasional reader sightings as contributed by Julie, along with news and updates about author appearances and media coverage, and any like-minded subject matter: literacy initiatives, the short format, mobile technologies, new ways of reading and writing, the translation of online projects to cultural products, and so on.

A conversation: While Julie coined the phrase, “literary voyeurism,” she certainly isn’t alone in her predilection. Add your own reading sightings to the growing tally on Twitter using the hashtag #seenreading. To learn more about how to use the hashtag, visit How to Be a Literary Voyeur.

The Origins of Seen Reading

Seen Reading stems from a very simple idea: when people read in public, they both read and reveal narratives. Readers — on subways, on buses, on park benches — often lose themselves in the world of their books. Those of us around those readers often, and easily, lose ourselves in the imagined world of those readers: Who are they? Where are they coming from? Going to? Does their choice of book say anything about them? The books themselves may bear the splatter of last night’s dinner, the crumbs of this morning’s breakfast, the vague odour of bed sheets or a partner’s cologne, all enticing details that invite the observer to give life to any number of possible stories, stories which may only contain the beginning, the middle, the end, rather than a beginning, a middle, and an end. To think, thousands of times every day, people reading in public are magically transformed into fully realized characters, all in the span of a moment’s glance.

Such were the origins of Seen Reading, Julie Wilson’s compulsion to note what people were reading giving way to a compulsion to narrate the readers themselves.

Join the Seen Reading Movement

Follow Julie on Twitter: @SeenReading and @BookMadam, where Julie tweets about publishing-at-large and about her latest posts at BookMadam.com.

Post your own reader sightings on Twitter using the hashtag #seenreading.

Check back here often for new sightings, fictions and ways to connect.

If you are a bookseller, book club, festival organizer, librarian, or journalist, and would like to know how you can work with Seen Reading, check out these introductory notes, written with just you in mind.