Monday, May 5, 2008

Book Snobbery

Confession: I am a book snob. Ok, let me clarify that. I am not especially picky about what I read. I mean, I want it to be good, but it doesn't have to be a classic or what everyone else is reading, or a book off one of those "The 10,001 books that well-read people should read" lists. I just want to enjoy myself or gain something from the experience in some way. So, why, when I see someone out in public with a book, do I automatically make judgments about the person based on the cover of their book? You know what I'm talking about. You're sitting in a airport, and the woman next to you is fairly unremarkable. You won't be able to pick her out of a lineup at the end of your flight. She's just sitting in her seat, head down, waiting as you are. Then, you notice her head is down because she's engrossed in the book she's reading. You casually glance over, trying to be discreet as you strain your eyes to see the title of her book, and's a Harlequin romance with a bare chested hulk of a man holding and half-naked woman on the cover. What do you think? Who is she? Ok, now, same woman, but take the romance from her hand and replace it with The Wings of the Dove. Who is she now? What if it was the latest John Grisham? Or a biography of Winston Churchill? A book of 19th century poetry? The Qur'an? The truth is, she's the same woman (in fact, she could easily be me), yet it's so easy to define a person by what they are reading. Just something I was pondering in one of many insomniatic moments in my life.
Oh, and if you're wondering, no, I'm not particularly fond of dime-store romance novels, but I'm even less likely to be found reading 19th century poetry.


Literary Feline said...

It's probably not all that different than judging a person by what they are wearing and how they talk, I suppose. Even if we don't like to admit it, everyone does it to some degree.

Whenever I see someone reading, regardless of what it is, I tend to get excited above all else. It's hard to keep the smile from my face. I'm more likely to feel a bond with a stranger reading a book I might read myself than with someone reading something I likely wouldn't read.

I do sometimes wonder about the other people in line at the bookstore as I glance over the books in their arms. It's always interesting to see what books people are drawn to. I'm not sure it really says anything about a person--and yet it speak volumes as well.

Traci said...

I guess my original thoughts were that I tend to have the impression that someone who's reading Dante while waiting for the dentist is maybe smarter or more educated than someone reading Jackie Collins. And, it's completely false. I mean, it may be true, but it could be the person reading Dante is doing so for a class and hating every minute of it, while the Jackie Collins reader could be rocket scientist who just happens to like Jackie Collins. I think I was just feeling a bit guilty when I realized the extent to which I judge other people, and I'm hoping my recognition will keep me from donig it in the future.

Literary Feline said...

It's easy to do, I think. On the otherside of the coin, sometimes when I arrive early for a meeting, I hesitate before pulling out my book to read because I don't want to appear "unprofessional" or like I'm slacking. I could carry around work-related journals, I suppose, but that's not as much fun.

LisaMM said...

Hello, my name is Lisa, and I am a book snob. LOL I never really give a thought to what other people might think of me and my reading choices, but I've definitely made silent judgements about others and theirs!