Stop being snobby about reading

There is just too much snobbery about reading. Via Kim of Reading Matters, here's a sneering post about the Amazon UK best seller list. One of those bloggers who proudly is rude about J K Rowling simultaneously with proudly proclaiming not having read her books or intending to. The sneer is purely at the expense of customers at the bookshop where the sneerer worked asking when the next Harry Potter book would be out. Sad.

There is no mileage in sneering at what people are reading. Please. I mean it. Even if the Amazon bestseller list is stuffed with celebrity "auto"biographies and annuals.

Here is another example, via a hilarious post in the form of a letter to me (The perfekk job for Maxine) by Judith Fitzgerald of Books, Inq., the [debonair] epilogue. An unbelievable snob is described at the New York Times article at the link.

It is great to read. It does not matter what anyone is reading. It beats going out and blowing people up, right? When I read today about the killing of Rhys Jones by one of a group of teenagers "stuck in a world of boredom where drug dealing is the only ambition", I think, did anyone teach those boys to read? Yes. Would I sneer at them for reading Jeremy Clarkson's "auto"biography or the DaVinci Code instead of doing what they did every day? No I would not. What is on the Amazon bestseller list is not relevant to anyone, nobody has to read those books. If people are reading them, perhaps it is more improving than that person's other options.

8 thoughts on “Stop being snobby about reading

  1. Oh dear – I found the Caustic Cover Critic’s post hilarious! Especially the visual link between dear old Jamie and the sprouts game. Tongue-in-cheek sneering is part of the purpose of that blog (note the ironic title of the post itself!) – and he does it brilliantly well in my opinion. Usually it’s spot-on visual sneering at atrocious book covers, which he balances by celebrating all that is great and good in book design. This time he went inside the covers and raised some pertinent points about the preponderance of celeb biogs and Christmas TV tie-in ‘non-books’. If you read his responses in the comments beneath the posts, you’ll see him admit: ‘At that point, though, I was riding high on a white-hot wave of bile, and beyond being fair.’ It’s tongue-in-cheek ranting, mainly, and as a fellow former bookseller, I can tell you that customers frequently drive one to harbouring far darker thoughts than a merely sneering! While bestseller lists exist, I think it’s legitimate to ask what they tell us about public taste, isn’t it?

  2. In “Comme un roman,” Daniel Pennac 10 Inalienable Rights of the Reader:
    1. The right to not read,
    2. The right to skip pages,
    3. The right to not finish a book,
    4. The right to reread,
    5. The right to read anything,
    6. The right to “Bovary-ism,” a textually-transmitted disease,
    7. The right to read anywhere,
    8. The right to sample and steal (“grappiller”)
    9. The right to read out-loud, and,
    10. The right to be silent.
    ==============
    Detectives Beyond Borders
    “Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home”
    http://detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

  3. In “Comme un roman,” Daniel Pennac 10 Inalienable Rights of the Reader:
    1. The right to not read,
    2. The right to skip pages,
    3. The right to not finish a book,
    4. The right to reread,
    5. The right to read anything,
    6. The right to “Bovary-ism,” a textually-transmitted disease,
    7. The right to read anywhere,
    8. The right to sample and steal (“grappiller”)
    9. The right to read out-loud, and,
    10. The right to be silent.
    ==============
    Detectives Beyond Borders
    “Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home”
    http://detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com

  4. Spot on, Maxine.
    While I accept the purpose of that blog is to moan about naff book covers, it’s absolutely stupid to say people shouldn’t read this and shouldn’t read that when anyone with any brains (especially if they happen to be an author, ahem) is trying to encourage people to read MORE books. Would he rather they read Hello Magazine? Or nothing at all? Why should they read French literature? Most of it is arguably boring, snobbish rubbish. Grrr, rant, angryness!
    Even though I often violently disagree with him, I enjoy reading Jezzer’s columns in book form… and as for yer Potters, anyone who can’t see that they are superb examples of excellent storytelling, pure and simple, needs their heads examining. So there.

  5. I agree with you 100%, Maxine! I would never demean a book someone is reading just because it’s not something I’d like to read. And I’ve defended a few of my choices against those who think they’re childish (the Harry Potter books). Usually people insult books they haven’t read and it is true that some covers — of bodice-ripping romance novels, for example — do open themselves up to ridicule from non-aficionados. But one person’s meat is another’s poison — I’m just glad to see people reading *anything* in book form. Especially young people, which is why I’d give the Nobel Prize for Literature to J.K. Rowling. She got a whole generation reading rather than simply video-gaming. My two teenage readers cut their teeth on those books and well do I remember the midnight parties at book stores when a new one came out.

  6. With you on J K Rowling, Susan! She’s made a unique contribution to an entire generation of children. Nobody else can come close. Unfortunately, it tends to be the snobs who sit on these Nobel lit prize committees.

  7. “There is no mileage in sneering at what people are reading. Please. I mean it. Even if the Amazon bestseller list is stuffed with celebrity “auto”biographies and annuals.”
    Couldn’t agree more. People should be free to read what they want without someone coming along, acting superior and telling them it is not worthy reading material. Just because I wouldn’t touch Jeremy Clarkson’s book with a ten foot pole doesn’t mean someone else should be ridiculed for enjoying it. It would be a dull world indeed if we all liked the same things.

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