June 16, 2009

Book Snobbery: Hi, my name is Rebecca and I have been a book snob...

I have read a couple of posts this week on the subject of Book Snobbery- as in, those who think they are better than others based on the type of books they are reading. I am leaving someone out I am sure, but here are a couple of the posts I read if you haven't seen them: One Literature Nut Sassymonkey.

I have to confess to a bit of book snobbery myself. Before I got into book blogging, I did not understand adults love of YA novels. Some, yes, but not those high school drama books that reminded me of my days reading Sweet Valley High. (I think I even made a comment about this on My Friend Amy's blog once.)

Well, I was soon put in my place when I read and adored a few YA novels that were recommended to me by a couple bloggers. There are numerous intelligently written YA novels, books I would have given my eye-teeth to have read in my own youth. I still don't understand the pull to some YA books, but overall I have judged and have found myself absolutely mistaken. I stand corrected.

I have also harbored many a judgment on romance novels, too. My grandmother adored romance novels and I have a sister who loves them equally. I always said that those who read romance novels are the ones who don't have it in their own life. Well, maybe they do, maybe they don't. That's beside the point.

Everyone enjoys different types of books and it takes all kinds to make the world interesting. So, I don't like Harlequin romance or high school drama. There are plenty of people who I am sure think I read ridiculous books and that my favorite niches are odd or boring. Or think I am eccentric because I read most everything but these types of books. Who am I to judge anyone and who am I to be judged?

I realized that while I do not judge anyone based on race or sexual preference or financial status or health status (and actually am appalled at anyone who does), I have judged based on what someone likes to read or watch for a movie. How ridiculous of me. So maybe I won't have some things in common with them. Maybe even though I like chick lit on occasion, I do think it is "escapism" and "light reading". But just because of this, it doesn't automatically mean those who don't agree with me are not interesting people worth being friends with. I have a dear friend who I don't watch a lot of movies with or share books with because she is into genres that (in general) I just do not relate to anymore. But she is still a wonderful person and is even a deep person, caring about and for children and interested in the Holocaust. Just because she likes YA novels and college slapstick movies doesn't make her "beneath" someone who'd rather read Ulysses. It certainly doesn't make her less of a good friend.

I have to say that becoming a book blogger opened my eyes to my prejudice and I am a better person for it. So thank you to Amy from My Friend Amy and everyone else who showed me that YA novels are not all un-relatable (for lack of a better word) to me as an adult and to everyone who showed me that even as I "pride" myself on being someone who doesn't judge, I still fall victim to it. It is so nice to have people who can call you on your shit and help you become a better person.


  1. I've found some of the posts in the last week or two very interesting and thought provoking as well.

    Literary elitism - I've been guilty of that too. I'm very fortunate to have a close friend who gently (and sometimes not so gently) points out when my snobbery is rearing its ugly head.

  2. A very thoughtful post. Dont worry about being a book snob to YA in the past, your on the dark side now which is all that matters and we have choc chip cookies :)

    I have never been fazed by what others read, I figure if it gets them reading then that is good enough. But people have often been a snob to me because I tend to like "light" or "happy", or worse "fantasy" books. I have learned not to worry about it. I dont even discuss reading with my work colleagues because the few times it has happened has ended with strange looks in my direction (and thats the nice ending).

    You better be careful though you might be moving on to romance novels next LOL (Im sorry I dont do serious for very long I cant help it).

    Woa I rambled a bit here sorry.

  3. I think you hit on issue on the head with the YA books. When you were that age, there were Sweet Valley High books. When I tell people I love YA, they all look at me like I'm crazy, because they all remember SVH. But YA books have changed so much in the last decade or so, and are nothing at all like the YA of old. These books are exactly what I was looking for and couldn't find when I was a teen.

    I like classics. People tend to think I'm a book snob because I used to read nothing but classics, but in honesty, I'd tried to read modern books, and just didn't like them. Now, I read modern YA, because they read a lot like light classics, and don't get caught up in a lot of the tangles I don't like in modern adult books. I still don't read genre fiction because I've tried it and just don't like it. I don't think there's anything wrong with blowing off a genre when you know you don't like it. I can't classify that as snobbery. At least I was willing to take the time to try, you know?

    I probably am a bit of a snob when it comes to hardcore romance novels, though...

  4. This is a great post! I don't consider myself a book snob when it comes to genres of books, but I am a book snob when it comes to mass market paperbacks - I just don't like them.

  5. Aw, thanks for a great post Rebecca! How cool that you did give something a try though and then liked it! Even if you hadn't, at least you'd tried it again.

    Kudos to you for this post and your honesty.

  6. The first step is admitting it, right? That was a great post and kudos to you for admitting it. I have been a bit of a book snob in the past but now I see that it's different strokes for different folks.

  7. I think we all fall victim to prejudice sometimes. There's no helping it. For example, I'm very sensitive about prejudice against fantasy, comics and children's lit because I love those types of books and people have tried to belittle me for it, but I have caught myself being prejudiced against romance on occasion. I think the most important thing, though, is to be willing to stop and rethink our prejudices, to listen, to question ourselves, to change our minds. And this post clearly shows that you are :)

  8. Great post - very honest, and I'm glad you're enjoying YA novels now! Having once been made to slog through Ulysses in university, I must say, though, I'd much rather read just about anything but Ulysses again ... :)

  9. Rebecca, I'm shocked! ;)

    I don't think I've ever been a book snob. I am a total music snob, though, I admit it. That being said, there were times when being a snob stopped me from picking up some albums or artists that turned out to be really good. So I guess I'm a reforming music snob. :)

    I don't think you lose anything by trying new things or reading outside your comfort zone. There are books I would rather not read, too, but I'm willing to try them. If you don't like it, you don't have to keep reading it; and if you do like it, that's a whole new author or new section of the bookstore that open for you to explore!

  10. I try not to be a book snob, really if someones reading (no matter what book) I think it's awesome. But working in a bookstore I've developed some prissiness. Like the woman who will only read Oprah books because "if Oprah likes them obviously they have literary value" I admit I do think less of her opinion because she is so close-minded. But as long as the person enjoys their reads I guess that's all that matters.
    As for my own choices, I'll read any genre/author at least a few times before giving up on it. Shopaholic-style chick-lit for instance, I read a few and they are not for me, but I won't say they are bad for someone else.

  11. I think, in general, it is the nature of most individuals to put themselves on that "pedestal" above others in certain aspects of life. I'm better at my job than X is, I'm a better driver, I'm smarter because I read this type of book, or I'm cool because I listen to this type of music.

    But what I've found is that the only way a person is made to feel "beneath" someone else is if they allow it. So I like chick-lit and you (you being the general masses not you specifically) don't big deal. You like wordy lit-fic and I don't. The only way it becomes snobbery is if the "wronged" party is inclined to feel guilty or embarrassed by their preferences.

    I think most of us tend to look askance at certain types of literature that don't interest us that's natural. There's also nothing wrong with it -- as long as it doesn't influence our treatment of those who think differently. That is where we truly become snobs and elitists.

    Like you I don't judge a person by what their preferences in literature are that is but a very small part of the larger whole.

  12. Susan: Yes, it is always nice to have someone to gently point out where you could be making a mistake. That's a good friend, in my opinion.

    Caspette: I enjoy "light" and "happy" books, too. I think the snobbery came in when that was ALL that a person read. But still, like you said, I have found a new genre by being more open-minded about the genre and lo and behold, I am on the chocolate chip cookie side. :)

    Amanda: That's a very good point. Where were these books when we were teens? I lumped YA of today with the YA of yesterday and they are simply in two different worlds. I like to read classics, too, which surprise people and intimidate people, but I like them. Thanks for sharing. :)

    bermudaonion: I don't think it is snobbish to just not enjoy a genre. It is when you judge others for reading mass market paperbacks. And, granted, a lot of mass market paperback books are pretty light or predictable fare, there are some that are worth it in my opinion. I admit that I love James Patterson. :)

    amye: Thank you. I try to be so open-minded about everything that it is a shock when I realize I am not being open about something. I am glad I am a recovering book snob. :)

    Chris: Yes, it is like I am a recovering book snob. I have admitted I have a problem. Now I have to finish the rest of the 12 steps. :)

    Nymeth: Thank you. I'm trying. It's embarrassing, to me, to think that I could be judging someone based on a book. How superficial of me. But I have seen the error of my ways now.

    Belle: I have to admit I have not tried Ulysses yet. I am going to see if I can get through The Tale of Genji and then I will move up to more challenging fare.

    heidenkind: You know I pretty much live outside of my comfort zone on so many issues and I believe it is the place to be in order to grow. I guess sometimes it just takes a kick in the pants to help you along, right? And now I have lots of YA novels on my tbr list!

    Joanne: I did not enjoy the Shopaholic series either, as I couldn't relate to the characters. I think sometimes we forget that the important thing is that someone is reading and using their brain and their imagination. It's less important what they're reading than that they are reading. Good points.

    Michelle: Yes, like Eleanor Roosevelt said, 'No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.' True, but we all subconsciously consent sometimes, don't we? It is good to know I was being a bit judgmental in this area of my life. It is so odd how I will talk to people about being open-minded and accepting of people who are different and I love learning about other cultures and lifestyles and histories. And then I go and judge a person for reading a book with Fabio on the cover. Talk about a hypocrite. I hate hypocrites. Good thing I am cutting that out. :)

  13. What a great post. I don't know if I'm a snob but I'm with Bermudaonion on mass market paperback-refuse to touch them. But that's only because the print is too small.

    I just started reading YA and had no idea there was so many great books being written today. Now I'm back-tracking and reading all that I missed.

  14. This is a great post and a wonderful tribute to Amy (and anyone else who isn't afraid to read whatever the heck they want to read).

    I figure as long as it engages someone and gets them reading, it's all good. Even audiobooks, which I used to shun.

  15. Thought I would pop back and see what others have said. Great discussion going on here.

    I agree that when I think of the YA of the 80's I shudder. Sweet Valley High, Baby Sitters Club all of that rot I refused to read then and wouldnt touch now (maybe the snob in me coming out after all?).

    As much as I hate to generalise and say it but I think Harry Potter is when the tide turned and publishers and authors realised YA can be for everyone not just teens/children. It can also deal with some meaty issues without being corny and trite.

    Ok thats my 2 cents :)

  16. This IS a beautiful post! I know I fall into booksnobbery at times and then people always surprise me! I have a great friend who reads the popular books that I tend to shy away from (Patterson?) and then she borrowed my Edgar Sawtelle book and liked it better than I did. Plus, now that I've been blogging - I've added quite a few of those 'pop' author books to my tbr thanks to great reviews from people I admire.

  17. Thanks for adding to the conversation! I know I was just really worked up over a fellow blogger (who I loved) getting talked down to for her love of a book. I love having this conversation, and can't say you're a book snob for your likes and dislikes! :) The mere fact that you respect what other people enjoy is really key here. Thanks for extending the discussion.

    BTW, I don't know how I missed this when you first posted it. Okay, so I WAS on an airplane and traveling for over 24 hours that day, so maybe that's how it slipped by?!? I don't know, but I'm still catching up and glad this one didn't get away from me!


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