The Brief: A poster from a 1990s ad campaign from the American Library Association featuring Shaq sitting and reading a book while smiling inspired memes about smug readers.


Shaq reading memes come from a poster that was part of the American Library Association’s READ campaign. This particular poster, which is from the mid-1990s, features basketball star Shaquille O’Neal sitting in a small chair, reading a book, looking directly at the camera, and smiling.

The picture lends itself well to internet memes as it features a popular celebrity in a slightly odd and vintage context with a distinct expression on his face. In the picture, Shaq is reading the book Undying Glory: The Story of the Massachusetts 54th Regiment by Clinton Cox, which is about a successful Black regiment that fought for the Union in the American Civil War. Most memes, however, focus on Shaq’s expression rather than his choice of meme materials. Shaq reading memes typically portray scenarios in which someone is literally reading or holding a book, while up to no good, as is illustrated by his devilish grin.

My knowledge is far too great from dankmemes

plot twist from dankmemes

More broadly, the meme format can be used for scenarios where someone is being sneaky, sly, or coy.

I have the higher ground from dankmemes

Due to the old-school style of this photo, these memes often depict scenes from elementary, middle, or high school.

8th Grade be like from dankmemes

It’s that time again from dankmemes

It can also be used as the poster was originally intended, to highlight the joys and benefits of reading.