Book Snobs Are Snobby

Sometimes, just because you have a degree in English doesn’t give you the right to be persnickety. (If you were not such an inarticulate plebeian, you’d know what that means.)

“Oh, what books do I like to read? Well, I’m glad you asked, but probably have not HEARD about any of them. I have very obscure literary tastes:  no Pulitzer prize winners or Short-listeners for the PEN/Faulkner awards. CERTAINLY nothing on a bestseller lists, because those books have such drab plots.

Actually, I only read books that haven’t been published yet. No, it’s fine that you want to read “normal” books along with the rest of the plebians.

Oh, The New Yorker gave it a good review? Well, if you want to conform to what the NEW YORKER thinks, fine go ahead, read to your heart’s content. I’ll just try to find authors you’ve never heard of and then laugh at the absurdity of your reading choices.”

Just to be clear, I hate these people. There’s a reason certain books are read widely or win awards. Just because you dislike a book doesn’t mean it doesn’t hold merit. In fact, any book that can make you feel something- that’s good literature. Even books that merely piss you off.

I feel the same way about music. I just don’t listen to bands if in order to buy their new albums I need to know some secret password which I can only find scrawled on the door of an Ohio truck stop bathroom. But I think music and books are good as long as they make you feel something. That even means Ke$ha who only inspires me to dance and party; note, though, that she does inspire me to do SOMETHING.

A story that inspires nothing, not even frustration… that’s quite a bland story.

The truth is, reading has been an elitist activity, done only by intellectuals. I’m not impressed that you like to read War and Peace over the summer instead of some fun book. Because guess what? I spent the summer reading Nick Hornsby and The Hunger Games triology. I know, as a writer I’m supposed to be a literary snob. I am supposed to like highbrow fiction only, constantly study the syntax of MASTERS.

But you write a book that people will enjoy, and just because scholars say that a book is classic, I shan’t read it unless it excites me. Unless I like the story and relate to the characters. Now, some classics are certainly classics for a reason, but understand, other classics are classics because they’re intensely difficult to understand. Scholars and English majors love authors that only they can relate to, because it gives them a sense of superiority.

I’m looking at YOU James Joyce.

Some books, I know, are even referred to as “guilty pleasures” or as “trashy.” But anything you enjoy has some merit, doesn’t it? I openly admit that I obsessively watch shows like Misfits, Skins, Glee, and True Blood. I even watching THE GLEE PROJECT! While I have been told these are “trashy” shows, they allow me to indulge in something separate from my life. And that… seems to matter.

What I’m saying is, I will not criticize what you read, because all writers are not snobs. Read whatever you’d like. And if anyone casts a downward glance at your


8 thoughts on “Book Snobs Are Snobby

  1. Well put. This is one of my major peeves as well. When I was taking my creative writing program many of the classes were full of these sorts of people. I think snobby attitudes of all kinds are a sign of insecurity. I wish people could learn to be themselves and like whatever the like and let others do the same.

    Plus, if writers want to have a shot of making a living, they need to sell books (or articles, stories, poems, whatever) and one of the big barriers to people taking up reading as a hobby is fear of being judged over what they choose to read. Ergo, by being book snobs writers are putting themselves out of business.

    1. I have my favorite types or genres obviously, but I’m always open to read anything. There are only a few types of books (chick lit and too-serious science fiction) that turn me off. I don’t mind a good summer read, just as I don’t mind Walmart wine or Doctor Thunder (rather than Doctor Pepper).

  2. Exactly! I know all about this, because I work with some English majors as well.
    It’s pretty lame that some people can be like this, but I guess people just like feeling superior to others, or something. (You are so right about it not being confined to just literature/reading, because it’s the same case with music.. Although I personally have a hard time not judging based on certain musical preferences.)

    Anyway, I found this Nick Hornby quote on Tumblr the other day, and it is so apt (more especially since you read Hornby): “Please stop patronizing those who are reading a book – The Da Vinci Code, maybe- because they are enjoying it. For a start, none of us know what kind of an effort this represents for the individual reader. It could be his or her first full-length adult novel; it might be the book that finally reveals the purpose and joy of reading to someone who has hitherto been mystified by the attraction books exert on others. And anyway, reading for enjoyment is what we should all be doing. I don’t mean we should all be reading chick lit or thrillers (although if that’s what you want to read, it’s fine by me, because here’s something no one else will tell you: if you don’t read the classics, or the novel that won this year’s Booker Prize, then nothing bad will happen to you; more importantly, nothing good will happen to you if you do); I simply mean that turning pages should not be like walking through thick mud. The whole purpose of books is that we read them, and if you find you can’t, it might not be your inadequacy that’s to blame. “Good” books can be pretty awful sometimes.”

    It’s from Housekeeping vs. The Dirt. Have you read it? I haven’t read anything Nick Hornby (I’ve watched About A Boy and High Fidelity) but I plan to. Sorry for the long post btw.

    1. I have not read that particular book. I’ve read quite a couple, though. And he’s fantastic.
      He has a simple way of saying some very deep stuff. Thanks for the input and the quote! 😀

  3. I like what I like. If it’s good enough for me, well, then, that’s good enough for me! Some people need to be snobs to feel better about themselves. I’m okay with that, too. I’m used to being low-brow.

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