This week, I found a very interesting post by Amanda Nelson on an awesome website called Book Riot which lists the sort of things that a stereotypical book snob might say and then a “translation” for what they really mean. It’s a very humorous and tongue-in-cheek piece which isn’t meant to be taken very seriously but it got me thinking about book snobbishness and which statements are the sort of things that I might say…
E-reading isn’t REAL reading. = I need my personal preferences about my hobby to be validated as the only right and moral way do to a thing.
Not guilty. I read printed books and I read eBooks. As I have said elsewhere, e-readers are great for travel but I still read a lot of printed books.
Making crafts out of old books is a DESECRATION! = I’ve never seen a library dumpster.
Not guilty. I’ve seen a few blog posts about this and some of them are pretty cool.
I only read prize-winners/confirmed classics *sniff*. = I don’t know how to think for myself.
A little bit guilty. I do follow literary awards but I don’t buy entire shortlists as soon as they are released and I am still willing to try other things which have not been nominated for major prizes.
Book bloggers are killing literary criticism! = I’m an aging white man in publishing and I don’t know how to think for myself.
Well, I very much hope not and I’m definitely not guilty of saying this. In fact, I wrote a post last year in defence of book bloggers and how non-professional critics have a right to voice their opinions too.
Oh, I’ve never heard of that book. Was it reviewed in the NYT/on NPR? = I don’t know how to think for myself.
Not guilty. I read newspaper reviews but I would never use them exclusively for recommendations without consulting other sources.
I would never read the tripe that is Twilight/50 Shades/Oprah’s Book Club selection, and I am going to tweet that statement 50 million times. = I am still as worried about being cool as I was when I was in high school.
Sort of guilty in that I tend to go for literary fiction rather than automatically following what’s popular just for the sake of it. On the other hand, I’ve just had a look at Oprah’s book club website and it isn’t all that bad – at least there is a wide selection.
The book is always better than the movie, no exceptions. = I’ve never seen The Godfather or The Princess Bride and also I am no fun at parties.
Not guilty of the “no exceptions” part. As I wrote in my post about book-to-film adaptations, I acknowledge that some very good films based on novels have been made. However, in a lot of cases, I would still say that the book is usually better than the movie because that’s just how these things are…
Rap music is not poetry, but Joni Mitchell/Bob Dylan/Belle and Sebastian is. = I am racist.
Not guilty. I don’t really go in for poetry that much but I think any genre of music can have a story to tell.
I refuse to use an e-reader because I just love that old book smell. People who do not love that old book smell are not real readers. = My favourite perfume’s base note is mould.
Not guilty. The smell of a book isn’t particularly important as long as it’s not really bad.
People who shop at Amazon for books are evil. = I have disposable income and like to make moral judgements about people who do not.
Not guilty. I don’t buy printed books from Amazon but I have a Kindle and occasionally I receive gift vouchers to spend on eBooks. I might judge people who only ever bought stuff from Amazon purely out of laziness though.
I would NEVER dog ear pages, crease a spine, or eat food while reading. = I have unreasonable expectations about how much the people to whom I bequeath my books when I die will actually want them.
Guilty. I look after my books and I would be reluctant to lend anything out to anyone I thought wouldn’t look after it properly. Accidents happen but most are preventable. I still hope that my books find a good home when I’m dead though.
I guess it’s good that they’re reading at all. = I will internally judge you until your reading tastes morph to match my own, which are far superior to yours because I read more books written by white men who live in Brooklyn.
Not guilty. I wouldn’t deliberately try and make someone feel bad about what they choose to read even if it’s not to my personal taste. I don’t even read all that many books written by white men who live in Brooklyn.
I don’t have a TV because that would cut into my reading time. Did I mention I don’t have a TV? Hey. You there. I don’t have a TV. I don’t get that TV reference. = I am not all that interesting. Also, I watch three hours of Netflix a night on my laptop.
Not guilty. I love reading but I also love TV. It shouldn’t be considered to be a second-rate past-time.
I don’t care if the main character is likeable. It’s the PROSE that’s the thing. = My ability to tolerate insufferable jerks makes me better than you because you’re obviously only reading for escapism, which is an inferior motivation for reading.
Guilty but this is more because unlikeable characters and unreliable narrators are often so much more interesting than perfect heroes.
I’m not a romance/crime/Western reader. I mean, I’ll read LITERARY genre. SOMETIMES. = My kitchen is full of quinoa and kale and soy ice cream. Someone please validate what a grown-up I am.
Guilty as far as most romance and Westerns are concerned but I do read some crime fiction. My kitchen is definitely not full of quinoa and kale and soy ice cream though.
I don’t understand adults who read YA. You’re a grown-up person, you should read grown-up books. = I don’t like dancing in the rain or ice cream cones or trampolines or whimsy and my neck tie is too tight.
Depends on what it is as YA can be a bit of a hazy genre. I might question an adult who read YA romance and nothing else but there are plenty of other YA books which can be enjoyed by older people too.
Overall, I am a little bit of a book snob when it comes to the quality of what I read but I would never let one single source dictate my reading and I am reasonably open about trying new stuff.
Are you a book snob? Which statements are the sort of things you might say (with or without irony)?
30 responses to “Am I A Book Snob?”
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This is great! I’m “not guilty” in all but two: I don’t crease/dog-ear/highlight pages, and I don’t read romance or westerns. However, I am actually more likely to read genre fiction than literary fiction. Prose isn’t going to make up for a weak plot (which I almost consider a defining feature of literary fiction!;)). I don’t like “atmosphere” books, and I do like “likeable” characters, who can be unreliable.
What a great post. I discovered that I am very similar to you. According to some of these categories I might appear to be a book “snob,” but I would like to argue that I like what I like not because of a need to keep up a certain image and, also, I could care less what my friends like to read (or if they read, at all). For example, I like literary fiction because really that is what appeals to me, as opposed to preferring it because I think it is somehow “better” than genre fiction. I also am very anal about keeping my books in good condition and that might be a neurosis of mine 😉
I do like this: “People who shop at Amazon for books are evil. = I have disposable income and like to make moral judgements about people who do not.” I kind of resent that the PC thing to do is to hate Amazon and to shop at independent book sellers. I would love to do the latter, but alas, my budget pushes me to buy at Amazon (actually, at library and school used book sales most of the time).
These are spot-on! Especially the one about not having a TV. It made me laugh because I’ve actually heard several people say that.
Out of these I have to admit that I’ve said that the book is always better than the movie. I think that’s usually the case but of course there are exceptions. I don’t think they should be compared though!
I also wouldn’t dog ear my books but I really don’t care what others do.
Nice post! With so many books and so little time, I personally feel you cannot afford not being at least a bit of a book snob. Can’t get myself to justify spending time on 50 Shades/Twilight when there’s so many great books (‘high literature’ and otherwise) waiting to be read!
I would say that it is OK being picky about what you choose to read (so many books, so little time and all that) but it is not really OK to dictate to others what they ought to read or to lie about what you read in order to appear more intelligent!
Great post. Great comments. I feel quite at home here !
I read the book snob post, too, and hoped it was somewhat tongue in cheek, because the opinions were as judgmental as those of the “book snob” depicted! I have a TV, but don’t watch any shows when they are actually being broadcast, so that’s a partial strike against me. But watching a lot of TV doesn’t automatically make you interesting, either! I may sympathize with the Amazon snob opinion, but most of my family and friends buy stuff from Amazon so I don’t think they’re evil. But sometimes it’s a question of putting your money where your mouth is, not that you don’t have as much “disposable income” as others!
With regards to the TV issue, I think it’s best to try and strike a balance. I would disagree with someone who said that all TV is bad but like you say, watching a lot of TV also doesn’t automatically make someone interesting. There needs to be a happy medium!
I think I’m going to have to do a post like you… There is so much to say to all this!
Thanks! I’ve just read your take on it and it seems we share most of the same views 🙂
Yeah, we’re like Diet Snobs or something.
I love the original post on Book Riot and I like your responses to it. The original post certainly inspired me to ask myself if I am a book snob. Luckily, I don’t think I am. At the end of the day a book snob is someone who judges others for reading differently than him/herself. I don’t do that since I’m always just so happy to find other people who adore reading as much as I do.
Absolutely. I think it’s acceptable to be picky about what you choose to read yourself (it is your time after all) but dictating what others should read or lying to others is wrong.
“Overall, I am a little bit of a book snob when it comes to the quality of what I read but I would never let one single source dictate my reading and I am reasonably open about trying new stuff.”
I’m the same way – I’m discerning and critical about what I read, but I try not to let that turn into an outward snobbishness. If someone tells me they read Twilight, I don’t try to amend the error of their ways.
As for electronic vs. paper: I don’t have an e-reader and I don’t judge people who do, though I love arguing about it.
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I just love this site! It is high time that everyone in the world realised that reading is not a competition. Neither how much, how high-brow, how popular or how now! I blog about reading so obviously I disagree with everyone who thinks only literary criticism is valid, I watch TV, I have an e-book for travel, I watch films and read books and think sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t work for me, you may think what you like (read or not read – your call) and I don’t use Amazon for books if at all possible, but all that is about ME, it is not about my judgement of YOU.
Funny. I’ve always considered myself a book snob but reading those statements I just realised I am not. The thing that makes the most angry is how people seem to love the classics or award winning books as better than any other work.
I found portions of the post funny and agreed with some of her assertions. But it’s not free from its share of exaggerations either.
I’m with Elena – and lots of the others. I’m not a fundamentalist, but I do more or less try to learn something / grow / expand myself through reading, which means that I feel guilty or bad about reading things that are just pleasurable. There are exceptions to this, though!
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Loved this list 🙂 Guilty of a few of these myself!
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Loved this list – so much so had to come up with my own answers! Thought I was a book snob but apparently, I’m more a bookworm or some other equivalent.
Great fun, and a useful self-check. A little bit guilty here and there. I would never pick up teenage fiction, for instance, but if someone I liked said read this book, I would.
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Right on! What a great post….nodding in agreement all the way through.
Very funny! I am about 50% snob I guess…..fun post!
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