Thursday, June 19, 2008

Book snobs

Are you a book snob?

In the last few weeks I've run into several book snobs. Haven't quite figured out what I'm doing to attract them, but there you have it. Whenever I talk about reading, I invariably hear from two or three readers indicating that my choice of reading material isn't acceptable. Sometimes it has to do with genre. Others object to the sex in the books... who knew that Louis L'Amour's were erotic? And one person felt that I should be reading the classics. Um, My Secret Life is classic--classic Victorian erotica, true--but classic.

What exactly makes one book better than another? Is it vocabulary? I used to read all the novels by William Buckley. Now that fellow had a vocabulary. I kept a dictionary handy. So maybe that means that his books are good? Actually, they were pretty good.

Or is it the story itself that matters the most? I read all the stuff you're supposed to read in high school, Orwell, Twain, Poe... And the books that supposedly are really important--Moby Dick, The Scarlet Letter, Tess of the D'urbervilles, Jude the Obscure, Oliver Twist--and a few hundred more.

Perhaps I just have a light heart or light head (could be either one). To tell the truth, I'm at a stage in my life when I'm not terribly interested in reading books with deep meaning and/or unhappy endings. For heavier reading I'm working my way through a biography of St. Paul the Apostle. If I finish that one, I have a few more to wade through. Mayflower, Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings... And other than that, I want something to entertain and delight me.

On the whole chick-lit bores me. I think it's that age thing again. I'm fifty-eight years old. In general, my life is more or less settled. I'm not interested in clothes, work, shoes, dating, getting married (or divorced) or going out with my girl friends on date night. No doubt that defines me as a radical, but somebody has to step in and fill the position.

Over the years I probably average reading a thousand books a year. No I'm not exaggerating. I read very fast. In the last two days I wrote 4000 words and read five books. That's pretty standard for me. I have keepers (that I keep, naturally) and then there are those "other" books that I forget almost before I read them. The keepers are the ones that I can discuss the plot, main characters and usually even the title five or ten years later.

Actually, I could still discuss some of the books I read as a kid. Don't suppose anyone is around who would care, but just sayin'.

I think what bothers me the most is that there is an assumption that if you read mysteries or romances that you never read anything else. That stereotyping irritates me. It makes us one dimensional. Today perhaps I'll read a romance. Tomorrow I might read a biography. The day after I could choose to read War and Peace or a history of the Battle of Waterloo. Short of listing every book I've ever read, there is no way for you, my readers to really know what my reading might consist of so... my advice is to find a book you like and read.

It doesn't really matter what kind of book. The important thing is that we take advantage of the books available to us. It wasn't so long ago that one fellow was busy burning them.



  1. Very good post, ANny. I, for one, am sick and tired of people who believe I'm a brainless, bubble-headed blonde simply because I love to read romance. Talk about pigeon-holing people. I read lots of other things too. Always have. I can appreciate heavy reading and often learn something from it but these days, I don't enjoy it. Don't even read the bible much anymore. It scares me. LOL. Life is hard and often depressing so I prefer reading something that makes me smile and gives me hope.

  2. I am with you on this Anny. I got caught reading Ian Fleming under the desk in 8th Grade. The teacher made me read "I, Claudius" as a punishment. I liked it. I don't think he "got" the idea that I just like reading.

  3. The people who seem to be the biggest snobs are often people who don't read anything at all (unless they are in the bathroom) I wouldn't let it bother you.

    But don't diss Chick-lit! These days there are many more varieties beyond the Bridget Jones type, with adult heroines facing adult problems. I don't identify much with the 20-ish dating escapades myself but still manage to find many great books in the chick-lit/women's fiction genre.

  4. My belief is insecure people need to have a 'whipping boy' to make them feel important. As for books snobs, I think if whining about certain genre books is what they need to get through life then I say them let 'em go ahead and whine...everyone has to have a hobby.

  5. Unless you go back to school and take a class I don't see it as anyone else's concern what you do or don't read. I do, however, find it interesting when you post about it because I'm always on the lookout for a good book of any genre. I'm like you, I read just about anything and choose when I'm ready to start something new.

  6. My mother was once asked why she allowed my older brother (severely dyslexic) to read comic books. She answered, "Because he READS them." That brother, despite his disablity, grew up to love reading. He graduated from comics and Hardy Boys to Louis L'Amour and Ian Fleming. Not deep, difficult reads to be sure, but reads, nonetheless. This is the same reason I buy my sons their Manga books. Because I believe that reading anything is better than reading nothing.

  7. Oh very good point! I have stages. I like horror and suspence, thriller and time travel, sci-fi and romance... I love almost everything. I'm not a fan of non-fiction but even then, I still find the occassional book which I can't resist. Mozart, God's Smuggler, The Hiding Place, Anne Frank, Svetlana's Diary, etc etc. But typecasting is dumb. I think, Anny that those who don't vary outside their genre, probably aren't avid readers who love the story or else they are in a rut which hasn't changed yet.

  8. Show me a classic and somewhere in there the chances are good you'll find love in some form whether its between two adults or a parent and child or comrades in arms.