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Looking at nineteenth-century Germany, this article investigates the origin of the idea that fiction causes disease, among both the bourgeoisie and the working class. I argue that the socially constructed notions of reading addiction, which were consistent with medical concepts at that time, touched the bourgeois virtues of industriousness and health. However, little has been written about the transfer of the bourgeois attitudes towards reading to the German working class. The study of workers’ autobiographies shows that social circumstances and the emulation of bourgeois values and attitudes resulted in appropriating the concept of lazy readers in the working class. The paper follows the paths from the early nineteenth century accusation of readers to the working class’s perception of novels causing disease around 1900.