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Book Snobs

15. January 2007

A great discussion started here, at Agent Kristin’s blog. And YA author Diana Peterfreund continued the discussion.

My last post was a quiz about your reading habits, and I’ve seen it pop up in a variety of places. Quite a few of my friends and fellow bloggers seem to be book snobs.
But what does it mean?
Does it mean you enjoy a certain genre or two to the exclusion of all others? Does it mean a certain preference or avoidance of topics?
Or does it go even further, where you feel the need to tell others which books are and aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on?

People like to forget that books are still part of the entertainment industry. They are supposed to distract, delight, and relax. The really good ones change your life. The merely good ones make you feel better.
Just because a book doesn’t make *you* feel good doesn’t mean it’s trash. Can you really deny someone else their right to weepies, super-sweet romances, hot steamy erotica, gross-out horror, rocket-paced thrillers, over-weirded fantasy and everything in between?

I always feel slightly confused when the topic of books come up and I share what I read. More often than not, the reaction is, “Why?”
Do I need a reason to read YA? Romance? Chick lit? Those are my genres of choice right now. I tend to read genres en masse until I’m sick of them or I feel I’m pretty much through the ones that are worth reading to me. Then I move on.
In the past, I have burrowed deeply into fantasy, sci-fi, vampire stories, dark urban, holocaust fiction, YA horse stories, manga, game world novels (D&D, Vampire The masquerade, et al), classic plays, Victorian fiction, Gothic horror, satire, fairy tales and many others. I read into and out of those genres, and at the moment, it takes a recommendation from a trusted source for me to pick up something that is not very light and humorous in tone with a witty and/or snarky heroine and a cute love interest.
Is there anything wrong with that? Uhm, no. Is there anything wrong with thinking these books would make you heave? Again, no. But it *is* wrong to think these books are a waste of shelf space and are going to dumb down everyone they come in touch with.
Just because you don’t like it doesn’t make it bad.

When I write ‘book reviews’ (and I use the term very loosely), I usually say ‘not for me’ if I dislike a book, unless I feel it’s just plain bad, regardless of genre (especially if I should have liked it given its theme, mood and characters). Reading is as subjective a business as music, fashion and food.
I think it helps if you occasionally indulge in what’s ‘good’ for you, but at any rate, there’s no hard and fast rule which of the ‘good’ ones you can or should enjoy.

Oh yeah, and just in case you were buying the goodie-two-shoes act, sorry. I’m just as guilty of book snobbery as the next person, despite my best efforts. Or rather, I’m a reader snob. I read *a lot* of books. So I dislike people describing themselves as avid or keen readers, yet they can hardly remember the last book they read, nor could they name a recent favourite. If you like reading so much, why don’t you do it?
Don’t tell me you’re too busy. You can always find time for the things you want to do.

So confession time. What’s your personal book/reader snobbery? Which genres/types do you have a soft spot for? Which ones leave you so cold you wish they’d never been printed?
And on the other hand, are you ashamed of what you read?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Brenda Oig permalink
    15. January 2007 11:07 pm

    Good post. 🙂 I don’t think people are just book snobs, I think we’re snobs period. We think that if we like something it’s good, if we don’t it’s bad. Silly, huh? I don’t read much romance or chick lit and I catch myself sometimes poo pooing at those genres, but many people love them, so who am I to say they’re not worthwhile? I love literary fiction, but sometimes I need a light book when life just gets too heavy. Those books are great for that. I think when we get snobby about anything in life, we’re shutting ourselves out of new experiences that will make our life richer. Thanks for sharing a great post. 🙂

    PS: I’m the one that you mooched Secrety Society Girl from (at least I think you’re the same person). 🙂 It’s a great story, but for me a one-time read. Hope you enjoy it.

  2. Kiki permalink
    15. January 2007 11:18 pm

    Yay for Book Mooch!
    I’ve read SSG before when I’d borrowed it from the library, but I want it on my keeper shelf. ^_^

    I agree with your general snob assessment. but I think as long as you’re aware of what you’re doing, it’s easier to live and let live, so to speak.

    Sometimes, I feel bad for not enjoying more genres, knowing I’m missing out on some great reads. Then I look at my towering TBR mountain, and I don’t worry any more, hehehe.

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