Though I’m not entirely proud to admit it, I consider myself a bit of a book snob. Even though I do have my own reading guilty pleasures, I find myself judging people on the basis of what they read. Though I’m not so obvious (or, frankly, brave) to directly tell someone that I think what they are reading is garbage, I still think I treat a person differently in that case.
But this week’s podcast over at Books on the Nightstand has me rethinking my attitude about this. Ann Kingman spoke about a recent event she attended (as part of her day job as a Random House sales rep) for E.L. James, the author of the wildly popular Fifty Shades of Gray trilogy. At this event there were about 1000 people (almost entirely female) and during the book signing Ann said that she overheard a significant number of them mention that this book has made them interested in reading.
Now the book snob in me says: “Really?” and wonders what other types of books these people are going to read and make the next flavor of the month in the publishing industry at the expense of “quality”. BUT, Ann and her podcast partner, Michael Kindness, make an excellent point – how can you judge what a person is reading (and to extend it, that person) if you have not read that book yourself?
BAM. That hit me like a ton of bricks as I was driving to work.
I admit, Fifty Shades of Gray is not a book that I want to read, and nobody I know has read it (or – given its content – has admitted to reading it), so what right do I have to pass judgment on someone who does want to read it, or who has read it and loved it? There is obviously something about the book (ok, I know what the something is) that draws in readers, so should I disregard the book and its readers just because I don’t want anything to do with it? Absolutely not.
As I often mention, one of my favorite things about being in a book club is that members don’t always like the book up for discussion and that makes the discussion even better. So why can’t I extend that attitude to the reading public at large? The world would be a completely boring place if we all liked the same things anyways.
Now I know I’m not an influence to anyone, and I doubt my change in attitude will result in peace in the global reading community; but let it be said that I will no longer judge people based on their reading habits (well, except if they don’t read at all) and I will not judge a book unless I have personally read it. That is my promise.
And if you haven’t yet listened to Books on the Nightstand – what in the heck are you waiting for?