Book snobbery

I really don’t think I’m a book snob. There are books I don’t want to read – whole genres  and certain authors. However I don’t think I look down upon those who do read them, and hopefully I don’t make those who read those genres and authors feel uncomfortable.

I’ve known book snobs. Candy, was one of them. We could discuss movies we liked – her taste in movies often matched mine, but we could never really discuss books. See, Candy didn’t read contemporary fiction. The books she read were often out of print, and smelled of age. They lined the shelves of the library in her Victorian home.

Once I made the mistake of telling her that my reading goal was to read all of the Washington Post best sellers at any given time. She looked at me and smiled in her knowing way. I went on to remark that best sellers aren’t best sellers for nothing – they must have merit to become best sellers. She simply smiled and replied that best sellers could very well be best sellers for other reasons than their quality.

I didn’t believe her at the time, but also didn’t follow through with my goal of reading the books on the best seller list. Now I understand what she meant, I think – although I would not use the word “quality”.  For instance, I don’t have a desire to read Janet Evonavitch’s Stephanie Plum series, as much as I wanted to like the books, the first one was enough for me.  Looking at last Sunday’s Washington Post Book World Best Seller list, I’ve read only one out of ten of the listed books (although another one is the book group choice for this month – but I’ve chosen not to read it at this time). Of the remaining eight, three are authors that I’ve tried to read, but not found their work to my taste.  The remaining books are about subjects of no interest to me (Mafia, kidnapping, murder). So, I won’t be reading many of the books on last week’s best seller list.

Candy worked in a bookstore for a while. She told me that she sometimes gave condescending looks to people who asked for books she didn’t approve of. I can believe it.

I bring this up because I felt a little uncomfortable in the wonderful book community I’ve been promoting.  It was a small thing – and likely not intended, but it bothered me nonetheless. It was a comment in a group.  It seems as if the writer of the comment was trying to not offend anyone, but in trying to not offend, did offend. (any time a person writes or says “no offense” it seems as if they are trying to offend, in a backhanded sort of way).  And it isn’t as if I like the kind of books she describes as not her kind of book either – it is more that I feel as if she thinks I do. And feels superior for that.

I know I’m going to always come upon people who say things that make me feel uncomfortable. I guess I need to learn to deal with it. I’ve been repeating Howard Rheingold’s motto: “Assume Good Will” to myself whenever I think about the comment, but it is not helping much. I think what bothers me is the misunderstanding. However, to be fair, I am probably making a to-do over nothing.

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