Banish the Book Snobbery

Books are my life fuel. I’ll take ’em in many flavours.

Don’t tell me what to read or not read. You may find yourself wearing a book in the most uncomfortable of places.

Starting Young

I love this, from the author, Neil Gaiman,

Do not discourage children from reading because you feel they are reading the wrong thing. Fiction you do not like is the gateway drug to other books you may prefer. And not everyone has the same taste as you.

Well-meaning adults can easily destroy a child’s love of reading… You’ll wind up with a generation convinced that reading is uncool and worse, unpleasant.

I can recall many incidences as a child when I was told off by teachers for reading books ‘below me’, too easy or not what the teacher would recommend.

I remained a voracious reader for a while until I got fed up of not following the rules of book snobbery.

Like Gaiman’s concern, I found reading uncool. The books I was ‘supposed’ to be reading because I was in the top set for English didn’t excite me.

Banish the Book Snobbery - bookshelf friendsI began hiding my copies of books all the other girls were reading when I was at school. Flowers in the Attic by Virginia Andrews and Forever by Judy Blume were deemed satisfactory reading for the masses but not for the gifted students.

I still remember the plots of those two apparently ‘trashy’ novels in detail. Would I read them now? No. Am I glad I read them back then? Yes, and then some. They helped to keep my love of reading flickering in the background.

When I was an English teacher I encouraged my pupils to bring in a variety of reading materials. They made their choices and owned them. I never made a pupil feel ashamed for reading a car maintenance magazine or a Mills and Boon. They may not have been to my taste but I wasn’t the one reading.

Give a child the opportunity to choose what they read and it will create a series of stepping stones to other books. They may never hit the ‘golden target’ of a classic but will the world end if they don’t? No. They will love reading for its own sake.

(Not) Guilty Pleasures

Banish the Book Snobbery - Nicholas SparksI used to be that person who didn’t tell others what I was reading. When I was an English teacher I didn’t dare tell my colleagues I was reading mainstream crime and thriller fiction. Even as an adult, I was afraid of the book snobs.

I’m ashamed to say I only engaged in conversations about the classics or the latest prize-winning, critically acclaimed novels. Most of the time I didn’t like them, understand them or both. How could an English teacher confess that to other English teachers?

Now I am older I have more confidence to do so. Back then I just wanted to impress the book snobs. Many of us have been there, right?

I wear my reading of the novels sneered at by the book snobs as a badge of honour. I refuse to call them my guilty pleasures because I have no guilt in reading them.

The saying ‘What is one person’s rubbish is another person’s treasure’ holds true.

There are classics in the canon that, in my humble opinion, are bloody awful. If I told an academic that they’d probably have a heart attack.

It is shaky ground you tread when you say an ancient writer, with a novel that has a legacy, isn’t very good. Do you get struck by lightning if you do? Does the spirit of the writer haunt you for castigating their work? Nope. You just feed a book snob. Don’t do it. They are obese from snobbery fodder as it is. Deflate them and tell them you didn’t like it, don’t want to read it, and your opinion is your own. Step back and enjoy the explosive show.

Grab those not guilty pleasures and revel in the innocence of reading for pleasure. Try it. You might fall in love with reading again.

Don’t Fall into the Trap

Banish the Book Snobbery - Harry PotterWe can all fall into the reading snob trap if we’re not careful.

How many times have you taken the piss out of Twilight or Fifty Shades of Grey? Yes, it seems like light-hearted fun and, no doubt, I will do it again but I’m trying to keep that snobbery in check.

Shut your mouth when your mum reads another romance novel with a bare chested bloke on the front.

Chew your lip when your nan is reading Volume Twenty Billion in the family saga series she loves.

Bite your tongue when your Dad is poring over the tabloids. No, sorry. I’m not perfect. Have a word with your dad, for goodness sake.

Be a reading snob in your head as much as you can. Don’t kill someone else’s reading life.

I write these posts. I don’t always live them. Sue me.*

Over to You

How has book snobbery affected you in your reading life? Has it ever stopped you from reading?

Have you ever been a book snob and learned a lesson from it? Go on, ‘fess up!

What books/genres do you read that others are snobbish about? Do you hide them away or read them openly?

*Please don’t sue me. 

About Lisa Sell

Lisa Sell is a fiction writer and blogger. When not wrestling with words she can be found showing the love for chocolate, cheese, coffee, the cat, and the Husband. Not particularly in that order.

4 comments on “Banish the Book Snobbery

  1. I remember being concerned when our oldest was in sixth grade or so, and suddenly started checking fluff out at the library, like Scooby-Doo comics and the like. I asked him about it because we typically read such great books as part of homeschooling, and he said sometimes he just needed to read easy stuff that was just plain fun. I realized I do the same. When I need a break, I’ll read my own brand of fluff, and I try to own my choices in my head if not to others, haha. Reading fluff (whether it’s me or my kiddos) has never damaged our love for the better stuff, and has actually broadened our palates quite a bit.

    Looking back on my concerns (the poor oldest child always gets the experimental parenting), they seem so silly. Of course our kids weren’t going to be damaged if they didn’t read only Newberry winners or classic literature. For goodness’ sake. I feel ridiculous about it now, and never make anyone feel bad about their reading choices as a result.

    1. From my teaching experience I can assure you you’re not alone in this. I met many parents at parents’ evening who were concerned about what their child was reading. It was always the parents of the children who were bookworms. As you stated, it does no harm to have a bit of everything when reading. It definitely broadens your knowledge.

      Thank you for sharing your story with me, Lynda.

  2. I am not a book snob about books.
    The Hardy Boys, Comic books, Science Fiction, Classics, Contemporary.
    All have been my primary choice at one time.
    I am a book snob about non-readers.
    I can’t help it.
    A non-reader is barely human to me.
    I am a book snob toward those who judge my tastes.
    I can’t help it.
    Someone who cannot appreciate quality seems shallow to me.
    Or lazy.
    Yeah … okay … I am a book snob.
    But your advice is sound, and I shall try to keep it to myself.
    I’m not going to join Book Snobs Anonymous, however.
    The introduction would kill me.
    (‘Nother good blog … keep it up!)

    1. I can certainly relate to being a snob towards those who judge your tastes. I don’t even think that really is snobbery. That’s not putting up with idiots judging you. No judgement here either if you promise to at least try attending Book Snobs Anonymous, just for the entertainment value!

      Thanks for commenting, Joel.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.