DISCUSSION: The Book Snob — Are You One?

I like reading.

Wait, what? This isn’t news to you?

Let me continue, then.

I like reading ALL KINDS of books. BUT, I do know a few people who consider themselves book snobs, or – even if they don’t come right out and label themselves as such – people who I’m sure look down on me when I say I’m reading a certain genre of book.

I’m in my 30s. Growing up, I thought that when I got older, I would have to read a certain kind of book. So I prepared. When I was in my late teens and early 20s, I’d go to the library and take out literary classics or books by those big-name authors that I figured lots of adults read. When I was younger, there really wasn’t a huge wealth of YA novels, so I really didn’t feel like I was missing out.

A few years ago, before I started blogging, I was still unsure of my tastes. I thought I had to read the more grown-up books because I WAS a grown-up, even if these books came across as too literary, drab, or even boring. I would buy books or take them out from the library based on the name. I had NO CLUE what I liked. I just knew that being an adult meant I had to read the adult books.

These days, I read almost anything. I can pick out titles on my own based on my mood, or rely on the recommendations from my book blogging friends.  YA book? Sure! Paranormal erotica? Of course, I’ll give it a go! MG fantasy book? Hell, yeah!

I’m game for anything.

One day, I came across this article that featured 15 thought-provoking questions to ask at your next book club. What I took away from the article is that the books people read in book clubs, or even books read among a group of friends, aren’t of the literary caliber that book club books should be. Books like The Hunger Games, or even Harry Potter.

But then I ask myself, why is it so bad to be reading books like this? What is so wrong with reading a book for pleasure and escape? Shouldn’t we be celebrating people wanting to read rather than making fun of them for not reading the books that we think society SHOULD be reading? Do we really need to put scholars and academics on a pedestal because they read the classics and can use fancy words in conversation?

Personally, and I know a book snob will throw a tomato at me for this, I find a lot of literary classics boring and pretentious. There are authors I used to read who wrote WONDERFUL books, but now I feel like they’re trying to be too vague, or too literary in their writing. I buy their book, read it, have NO CLUE what was going on, and feel like I wasted a huge chunk of time when I could have read something I actually might have enjoyed.

Sometimes I feel like society places pressure on us, telling us that we NEED TO READ THE CLASSICS! Or, that we must read this book because it’s an astute demonstration of society today, which consists of undercurrents showing the damage we have made to the world!

Heck, if people want to read books like this, ALL THE POWER TO THEM. But I like being in a world of fantasy, or a world of ghosts and vampires and other supernatural creatures, a world of romance and horror, or a world that takes place AFTER our world has ended. These are some of the best books to me and I will read them without feeling any kind of regret.

And really, who is to say what the great books are? This is the beauty of reading, in that a book loved by millions will also be hated by millions! Books are a starting point for discussion and even if they’re not a literary great, the sole act of reading makes us smarter, less ignorant, and helps us sharpen our brains. The benefits of reading should not be restricted solely to books written by certain authors.

To the people who say that certain books are garbage and won’t be popular or talked about 100 years from now, I ask you this: DO YOU HAVE A TIME MACHINE? I mean, we have no idea what the world will be like in 100 years from now or if we will even be here. Like the saying goes, life is too short to read bad books, so for now I’m going to curl up with whatever book I feel like, regardless of its genre or literary status, and ENJOY IT.

Are you a book snob? Do you use big words in conversations? Do you look down on people who read for fun?

© 2012, Reading In Winter. All rights reserved.

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43 thoughts on “DISCUSSION: The Book Snob — Are You One?

  1. Great post Kristilyn! I’m 24 and I just never grew out of YA books. I’ll read the odd adult book, but the majority of my reads are YA. Does that make me stupid? Well, I’m pretty sure I’m not *that* stupid, so maybe it just means I’m lazy. I tried reading books because they were famous and difficult (ie: Catch 22) and didn’t enjoy it at all. Why struggle through something when you could be reading something much more straightforward and enjoyable? I’m not advocating everyone needs to read YA or any other specific genre or not read classics or literary fiction. I’m advocating reading what you enjoy! If you enjoy reading some mind-stretching literature stuff, go for it! But don’t look down your nose at me reading The Hunger Games on the train!

    • Exactly! We should praise the fact that people are READING! Regardless of what they’re reading. I do really love that YA books are straightforward — less filler and description. AND they’re quick. Love it!

  2. I think now that I am studying to be a YA librarian I am reading a lot more YA books. My reading taste tends to stay pretty much in the paranormal field, but I try to branch out as often as I can. In fact I am in the process of creating a personal reading challenge for next year that lets me read all over the spectrum. There is a certain charm and art that goes into being able to read and understand classic literature. It takes a different kind of person and sometimes I envy the people who can read and enjoy classic literature. There are only a few of those types books that I actually like (The Great Gatsby, Of Mice and Men, and A Tale of Two Cities) but I credit that to an awesome English teacher in high school who taught each of these books well. In my mind, that is what it really all boils down to is HOW we are taught to read classic literature. We shouldn’t force it down teens throats, but relate it to something that is relevant to today. Maybe that would make classic lit more interesting and likeable to the generations that come after us.

    • I really loved the classics in university — I had some great teachers! But now I prefer to read what I want, even if that’s MOSTLY YA. I do read other genres, but so long as I can choose for myself, I’m happy. 🙂

      Good luck with your studies! That’d be an exciting job!

  3. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this and discussing this, mostly when I was in library school. In reader’s advisory the big thing is “give ’em what they want”, as opposed to trying to educate patrons by giving them “better” books — or at least that’s what it should be.

    I feel the same way as you do, for the most part. I’ve read a few classics, but they just don’t speak to me. For me reading is about escape and about getting involved in someone else’s story. And so, for me, YA is the majority of what I read, along with some romance. I hate that people look down on people like us just because we don’t read classics or literary fiction. To me literary fiction is depressing and boring. Why would I want that? If other people do, that’s fine, but it sucks when they judge me for what I like.

  4. My best friend is a book snob and it drives me crazy. She’s always complaining about “trash books” and how horrible they are. But she’s never read them! She won’t even let her 9 year old read Harry Potter because “It’s not well written, and it’s just drivel.” and suggests that he read a “real book” UMM – at 9, what is acceptable then?!?!?!

    (Of course every book she’s ever complained about? I’ve read and loved! *lol* )

    -Jac @ For Love and Books

  5. I used to be like you and thought I needed to read only classics and serious literature because I was a ‘grown up’. Yeah… That didn’t really last all that long, especially once I discovered The Hunger Games and how much I LOVED YA! We didn’t really have a large selection of YA either when I was a teen, so I went straight to adult books when I was 13 or so.
    I hate it when people look down on you because you’re not reading ‘the right book’. At least I’m reading and enjoying myself.
    I do however cover snob sometimes 😉 (but seriously, some covers are just plain awful)

  6. I hear ya, sista! Now that what I read is more “public”, I find myself more self-conscious of what I’m reading (something I’m trying not to do). I’ve always been a primarily adult-fiction kind of reader, but I also read the odd biography/memoir, humour, animal story, YA, and young reader book too. In between my more “serious” reads, I’ve always enjoyed a light hearted read, what I consider, for me, to be “fluff”. This includes *gasp* Nicolas Sparks, Mirian Keyes, etc. Now when I think about reading something fluffy, I feel a little embarrassed to post it on the blog or goodreads because I know they’re are judgers out there! And so I find myself *not* choosing those books as much. Which is probably why I’ve felt I’ve been in a reading slump lately…my regular pattern of reading something heavier/more serious mixed with “fluff” (and I mean that term non-judgmentally!) has been off track. Just talking about this reminds me I need to just go back to reading for me and only me. If someone wants to judge me, then I don’t really need them in my life. I agree with you – as long as people are reading, that’s all that matters to me!

    As far as reading more literary books, like the classics, I admire those people that can read them and have a great reading experience and get something profound out of them. Unfortunately, I do not think I am one of those people. I’m just not smart enough for those overly intellectual books lol! So much is lost on me. Unless I’m reading one in a readalong – that’s a much more pleasurable reading experience! 😉

    • Yes! You should ALWAYS read for you and ONLY you. I feel like people may wonder about my reads, especially since I bring a new book to the library for each shift — sure, I’m not reading the latest classics, but I like to think that I’m mixing it up and reading what makes me happy. I kind of feel like I should read the more literary books, because of what I’m doing, but the great thing is that the people who use a library have varying tastes, too. I’ve found I’ve made lots of connections with people based on what I’ve already read — it’s great!

      I admire the people who can read the classics, too. I loved it in university, but not anymore. That’s great that you can do the read-alongs, but I’d probably peter out!

  7. Hmm, interesting! For myself, I love classic literature, but maybe that will change as I get older (I’m only 17). To be honest, there was a point in my life, a few years ago and before I joined the blogging community, when I was a little bit snobbish, especially toward the YA genre, because I thought it was only Vampire Books and Gossip Girl, neither of which are things I particularly enjoy.

    BUT. I started blogging and reading more YA and recently published books than I’d ever thought I would, and I’m definitely not a snob anymore. Of course, literature will always be my first love, but I definitely don’t think that I should turn up my nose at people who enjoyed Twilight. There are people who turn their nose up at me, for being a weird teenager who enjoys Dumas.

    • Hey, Dumas is a classic! I have TCoMC on my shelf and NEED to read it! The size is daunting, though (1,200+ pages!). There really are some great YA books out there now … I really think the genre has emerged in the past years and I wish I had the selection when I was younger.

  8. I definitely read everything, and go through phases. I did all classics for a while – and discovered some I love. Now it’s more fantasy, but historical fiction is making a comeback. I certainly appreciate that there is such a wide variety of books out there – and I’m definitely not a book snob though I’ve met many. They usually scoff at what I’m reading – so then I ask what they’ve read recently – which is usually nothing – or a book they’re spending months on and not getting anywhere. But I don’t waste time on people who tell me what I should do.

    • Yes! There is a HUGE variety of books! I love it! I think a lot of the people who scoff are exactly as you say — people who DON’T read. Or, don’t read much. I love that I can read books of different genres and discover emerging authors, rather than feel like I have to stick with the classics. It’s fun!

  9. I read a bit of everything myself. 🙂 While I don’t read them all the time, I do enjoy reading classics sometimes. I also like to read them before I watch the films. Just a preference personally. Some of them are amazing, but they’re definitely a lot different than books today, most of them anyway. The language, and even the ways that stories are told have just changed a lot. I think that makes it harder for modern readers to connect with classics….plus, some of them really are just boring to be honest. They might not have always been boring and some people might still like them, but I think some classics just don’t really interest modern readers as much anymore. But I guarantee at least one person still likes each one. 😛 I love Jane Austen myself, but when I had to read Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn for a class…I hated it! I read the whole thing, but I just couldn’t stand the story. While I’m sure it was authentic, all the slang just bothered me, but that’s something I notice in modern books, too…it’s just something that always bugs me while reading. Slang words is one thing, but once it starts affecting the way words are written, like dem instead of them…I get bothered. *shudder*

    I don’t think that there is anything wrong with reading for pleasure though. 🙂 That’s the main reason I do it, so I’m not going to judge anyone who reads for pleasure, too. Even if they’re reading things I don’t. 🙂

    I do agree that there is societal pressure to read more classics and literary novels though. If you read it’s almost like you’re expected to have read certain things. I like to think that I don’t judge others for what they read, but I will admit I do have one certain thing I judge “readers” for. I say “readers” because I’m referring to when people say they read and you ask them what and they tell you a bunch of magazines…that’s probably the only circumstance where I have judged people on what they read. I guess maybe that’s a personal prejudice, that to be a reader you have to read actual books…but then you get into that whole picky dilemma of how to define a book. 😛

    Great discussion, Kristilyn! You’ve given me some things to think about. 🙂

    • You read a HUGE variety of books! I’m always so impressed by you!

      I definitely think that it’s just about the READING, instead of the content. We should be free to read whatever we want, without judgement! If classics make you happy, read them! If YA makes you happy, read them! Just read!

      I really don’t think we should be defined as readers based on the kinds of books we read.

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  11. I read it all. I’m as far as you can get from a snob. I’ve tried to tackle a few much touted classics that I missed in my youth and I get tired. I won’t give up. I’ll still take a few of them up. But classic doesn’t always equal must read or love.

    My daughter’s English teacher (which I love) assigns all classics, because “otherwise you won’t read them.” I’m just glad my kid already loves to read, because this method is not conducive to creating life-long readers. Heresy–I even let her burn one of the books she HATED in the extreme. We usually donate these “I never want to read again” books back to the school for kids that can’t go buy for class & if she didn’t LOVE books I would never let it happen. So why torture formative youth especially with classics that don’t illicit “ahhh, now I get it.”

    • We should never be forced to read anything, but I get it when kids are in school. Actually, in university, I really liked reading the classics! Now I have a few on hand, but I don’t know if I’ll get around to them. We’ll see! I like that you donate the never-want-to-read-again books. I do the same thing. I used to feel bad if I hated them, but someone else could love them, you know?

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  13. *throws tomato*

    So I’ve written posts and commented on the book snob thing before, and I’ve even identified (lightheartedly) as a book snob.

    I worked it out in my head as simply a matter of Is Plot Enough? A great, gripping, read-it-in-a-day plot is enough for some readers, and the other stuff (beautiful writing, character development) is window dressing – if it’s there, great, if not, no big deal. For others (me, and probably other book snobby types,) you could have THE BEST PLOT EVER but if the writing is clunky or the characters are two dimensional, I’m gonna loose interest. I might finish it to see what happens but I won’t *really* care.

    But it’s nothing to get snobby about, just a preference.

    I’m noticing the depressing/boring thing in the comments here – I LOVE depressing books and find it cathartic to feel sad. If a book makes me cry it’s probably gonna get three stars be default. As for boring… I’ll take that to mean less plot driven, and yeah… I like those too.

    As for the “at least we’re reading” thing, I get that. But then, aren’t we ALL being snobby towards non-readers? 🙂 I will cop to that. It’s just a total lack of understanding. HOW can people NOT READ? I can’t wrap my head around it and it’s easier to look down on them, right? Yeah… guilty…

    • I don’t think that I would be like, “How can people NOT read?” I mean, I get it — there are people who have other hobbies. I’m sure some people might wonder why I don’t like hockey or curling, two popular Canadian activities, or maybe why I prefer white wine over red, but it’s because we all can’t do the same thing or we’d be boring.

      When it comes to reading, I say we don’t look down on non-readers, but celebrate when someone does read something, regardless of what they’re reading. This could be a 17-year-old eating up George Orwell, or James Joyce, or maybe a 60-year-old who loves Rick Riordan, or Stephanie Perkins. We need to encourage people who may be new to reading to read MORE, not by saying what they should read, but by celebrating what they DO want to read.

    • And there’s nothing wrong with that! I have full intentions of reading some classics that are on my shelves — The Count of Monte Cristo or Jane Eyre — but I’m in no rush. Maybe one day the mood will strike!

      Reading for fun is what we should ALL do!

  14. I’m kind of a self-depricating snob. I read classics (because I love them) and I think I’m oh so badass for doing so. However I don’t really care what other people read as long as they read. (Though I will judge reading 50 shades…)
    One of the perks of working in a library is that you have to be current and aware of what’s popular including YA and children’s. I absolutely love that. And don’t care if a patron sees me reading Llama, Llama. (They’re just jealous!)

    I also use big words in conversations, but maintain that reading has improved my vocabulary.

    • I read a TON of books because of the blog and because of work … I mean, I read a Diana Gabaldon book at home, a YA book on my break, and then Scaredy Squirrel while I’m shelving. I love that there is such a wide variety of books out there, so why not partake in that?

      Reading is AWESOME for vocabulary!

  15. I don’t feel like I’m a book snob, but my tastes have definitely grown leaps and bounds since I’ve started blogging. I’ve learned a lot about what I like and don’t like, and realize I’m pretty eclectic, for the most part. I will try most any book, but there are definitely genres I’m not at all interested in reading. Books like 50 Shades will never grace my lap because after reading a few scenes, the writing is just not going to carry me through the story, regardless of how juicy it is…

    • I love that blogging has really opened my eyes to new genres of books … I’m always curious about where I’d be at now had I NOT become a blogger. Of course, for the longest time I was ALL about the YA books, but I find now I’m trying a little bit of everything.

  16. Okay, I’m going to play devil’s advocate here (shocking, I know).

    Why is reading, just for the sake of reading, inherently good?

    A lot of people applaud anyone who reads simply for the fact that they’re READING, and with literacy numbers being as low as they are this can only be a good thing. But if people aren’t being challenged by what they’re reading, then what’s the value?

    Yes, it’s entertainment, yes, it’s fun. I 100% get that and I love a fun read as much as the next person. But to me, reading the Hunger Games equates to watching Season 1 of Gossip Girl. There’s no difference. Its entertainment with a bit of substance, and that’s it. There’s nothing wrong with it, but there’s not a whole lot “right” about it either.

    Basically, if someone is going to pat themselves on the back for being a reader, then they should also pat themselves on the back for watching a marathon of Storage Wars.

    Reading, as an activity, has been historically encouraged and celebrated because it’s an incredible learning tool. It can be fun and exhilarating and funny and sad and happy and all these great things, but if reading isn’t making you better in some way then it’s just another hobby you have and should be treated as such.

    Just my two cents.

    • Why isn’t reading good? I mean, I appreciate you being the devil’s advocate, but I personally think reading should be for enjoyment. If we were ONLY supposed to read books that challenge us, why would they publish the fluffier books.

      In the same sense. a book that might be challenging to you may not be challenging to someone else, or the opposite. Even if a book ISN’T challenging, I think it still helps our brains work (more than a TV show) AND introduces us to new worlds, new vocabulary, and new ways of reading.

      Personally, if I could ONLY read books that were challenging in some way, I doubt I’d actually enjoy reading as much as I do. Reading, to me, is an escape.

    • “Why is reading, just for the sake of reading, inherently good?”

      How do you learn vocabulary, syntax, and how language works together? You read. You pay attention to what the author does to construct his or her story and how words are used.

      I don’t (and never will) buy the idea that reading is the same as watching TV. Even if a book is entertainment, the very act of reading exposes the reader to the written word. How do you get better at the written word? You study it. And you study the written word by reading it. This is why children who read have a better command of their language and have larger vocabularies.

      • I agree with Amanda – you cannot compare reading for pleasure the same as watching endless hours of (crap) TV. And how do you know readers aren’t getting something out of a book, regardless of the genre or literary level? That’s a pretty subjective opinion to make. And actively LEARNING something while you’re reading isn’t the only route in which to get something out of reading. I’m a firm believer that reading and crossword puzzles and word games, etc keep our brains WORKING…and young…and from turning to mush! I see it everyday in my nursing career.

        And are hobbies defined as only something that is fun but doesn’t make us BETTER!? So you’re saying that if I learn and “get something” out of my reading, then it’s more than a “hobby”? I don’t see how that makes a lot of sense. I was not aware that the definition of a hobby was an activity in which you gain nothing from it.

        Just my two cents 🙂

      • Yes. This!

        I do crossword puzzles all the time. They’re not overly hard, but they’re challenging enough for me. I feel like this is the same as what you’re saying.

        I can’t think of very many hobbies where I don’t gain anything – aside from watching TV (which can sometimes be very informative), I feel like if I’m reading, playing music, knitting, doing crosswords, etc. I’m constantly learning and improving.

  17. “Personally, and I know a book snob will throw a tomato at me for this, I find a lot of literary classics boring and pretentious.” Don’t worry, I’ll protect you! *dives for cover* I’ve yet to read many classics but plan to look into them next year though I totally get your point, some characters do seem awfully dreary. Zzzzzz. Read what YOU want to read and you’ll be a happy camper 😀

My home is where my books are. - Ellen Thompson

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