“I can read you like a book.”

If you have ever come across this phrase while trying to learn English conversation, you likely found yourself confused and perplexed at its meaning. Perhaps you figured out it is an English idiom, or a phrase that has a unique meaning to it that cannot be understood from the words themselves. No matter if you are one of those people who find idioms amusing or utterly frustrating, they are without a doubt important to learn. So, what does “I can read you like a book” mean and what are some other useful English idioms about books?

English Idioms about Books
Here’s a list of popular idioms about books as well as idiom examples for each of them:

1. To be an open book 

To be an open book means you are a very open person who hides nothing from others. If people seek out information from you, you freely give it without hesitation. Examples:

“I thought it would be hard to get information from him, but he was an open book.”

“I am an open book, so ask me whatever you want!”

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2. To balance the books 

Balancing the books is the process where you ensure that the amount of money (personal or business) coming in and going out matches up to what your records show. You then make sure that balance matches what the bank says your balance is.


“He balanced the books, and we are off this month. We will have to review all our finances and receipts and see where the mistake is.”

“Our accountant usually balances the books for us.”

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3. You can’t judge a book by its cover 

If you hear someone say this English idiom, they mean you can’t judge a person, experience, object, etc. just by what you see. It is most often used in situations where the person appears unintelligent, boring, or like they possess any other negative characteristics.


“She doesn’t seem like she is the smartest, but you can’t judge a book by its cover.”

“I thought she was going to be a really boring person, but you can’t judge a book by its cover. She’s actually really fun to be with!”

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4. To use every trick in the book 

If you use every trick in the book, you have tried every possible way and method to do something, sometimes in a deceitful manner.


“I used every trick in the book, but I couldn’t change his mind.”

“He used every trick in the book until he finally got what he wanted.”

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5. The oldest trick in the book 

The oldest trick in the book refers to a commonly used method to trick or deceive someone.


“He told me that his dog ate his homework. That’s the oldest trick in the book.”

“You fell for that? That’s the oldest trick in the book!”

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6. To crack a book [open] 

If you crack a book [open], you are beginning to study.


“I never even cracked a book open in my geography class, but I still got an A.”

“I need to crack open a book and review for the test.”

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7. To have your nose in a book 

To have your nose in a book usually means you are oblivious to what is happening in the world because you are so absorbed with what is happening in your book. It can also mean that someone is currently reading or that someone reads all the time. Each of the idiom examples below focus on a different meaning.


“I tried talking to John, but he has his nose buried in a book so I couldn’t get his attention.”

“Shane has his nose in a book right now.”

“Ella always has her nose in a book.”

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8. By the book 

Doing something by the books means you strictly follow the rules and guidelines.


“My boss really likes to do things by the book.”

“It is best to do things by the book, so we do not receive any penalties in the competition.”

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9. Read someone like a book 

To read someone like a book means you know all there is to know about a person, especially their thoughts or reasons for doing something.


“I knew you were going to do that because I can read you like a book.”

“I wasn’t surprised you felt that way. I can read you like a book.”

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10. A closed book 

The opposite to being an open book, if you are a closed book, you are a mystery. It can also mean you are something that cannot be understood. This English idiom can be used to describe people as well as topics.


“I wish I could say I knew a lot about my grandfather, but unfortunately, he was a closed book.”

“Understanding physics will always be a closed book for me. It makes no sense.”

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