Everyone is talking about New Year’s resolutions. Did you make them? Have you broken them yet? What’s your detailed plan for reading those seven-hundred and thirty- four books on your list? You know the drill. Reading resolutions loom large in book communities and I am not impervious to their magnetism. After much soul searching I’ve formed my 2018 resolution: I’m going to be a reading champion instead of a book snob.
Whether we admit it aloud or not, there exist book hierarchies on which we readers tend to rank each other. The more book-crazed we become, the more the comparisons we make. Maybe you are the exception, and don’t cast a reproachful glance toward someone reading manga, but I certainly have. It’s not fun to admit, but I’m guilty of doling out massive amounts of book judgement.
Here’s what goes on in my head, albeit in a more amorphous fashion:
- I plot genres, authors, and individual titles along a difficulty-reading axis. At one end are the heavy weights, the classics. At the other end are mass market romance novels with suggestive covers. Only slightly more palatable than erotica are books with titles such as: Devil’s Food Cake Death-A Pastry Chef’s Murder Mystery. There are many variables to consider when assigning literary value and the echelons aren’t fixed. Books move around my invisible scoreboard as my belletristic exposure fluctuates.
- I observe what books people read and discuss. I watch what they borrow and purchase then decide where the said books fall on my spectrum.
- I assign some arbitrary value to the individual based entirely on my metrics. I decide how well-read they are, and, dare I say it, how intelligent they may be.
Think you escape my scrutiny because you only read nonfiction? Never fear, there’s a pecking order for the ‘real’ stuff too. Biographies are weighted differently than memoirs. Inspirational reads aren’t as prestigious as STEM tomes. You get no props for reading humorists such as David Sedaris when you could be improving your mind with current events or political theory. Don’t let me catch you with any of those “For Dummies” titles. How-to’s are a reading reputation assassin.
There was a time when I read whatever I wanted simply for the joy of it. I basked in the teenage angst of vampire-human love triangles. I listened to audio books without offering disclaimers. I even read on digital devices (gasp!) with impunity. I never considered that my peers were questioning my I.Q. or second guessing my judgement. I just read.
My reading predilections shifted with time and exposure, and somewhere along the line the seeds of book snobbery germinated in my heart. My previously unfettered reading enthusiasm became restrained with the weight of assumptions. I read, not just for the love of it, but because I wanted my choices to reflect some super-reader profile. How unfair of me to project my own reading hang-ups onto others! But that’s what I did. That’s what I do. That’s what I want to change.
This is an age of minuscule attention spans. It’s incredible that people read at all. I want to encourage reading in any and all of its colorful forms. Read to escape reality. Read to ground yourself in reality. Read to laugh or cry. Whatever your reason, whatever your genre, just read. And smack me upside the head if you get any judgy vibes from me. I know I’ll slip up. I know I’ll be a punk. But this year’s resolution is one I want to stick. Hello, 2018! Goodbye, book snobbery!