I was recently asked this, and whilst my instinct was to say no, because let’s face it very few people actually want to admit to being any kind of a snob, I felt that I couldn’t be sure.
There are certain books that I just don’t understand and if someone is going to spend hours reading it baffles me as to why they would choose them. For example Sapphire, Crystal, He’s The One, The Comeback Girl, Angel Uncovered all books by Katie Price aka Jordan, why would you choose to read those when there are so many other choices. But wait, have I read any of these books, nope, do I have any idea whether she can actually write, nope, do I care, nope, do I judge people who read them yes. And my reason for judging? I have taken my media impression of Katie Price, I have recalled interviews I’ve seen her give and I have decided that there is no way she could be a good author. There is no reason to this, there is no science, I have done no research.
Instead, I have over my thirty odd years on this planet created a profile that in my opinion a good author should fit. They should have great attention to detail, be an observer, an avid reader, have a vivid imagination, be well educated, well spoken, witty, sarcastic, an orator. But even as I write that list I’m thinking, wait a minute I have shelves full of books at home and I’ve no idea whether the majority of those authors meet my “good author criteria”. If I didn’t know who Katie Price was and I picked up The Comeback Girl in a bookshop would I find myself enthralled? There is no way to find out the answer to that but it does make me think that maybe I need to open my mind a little more when it comes to judging authors.
But am I a book snob?
The above has shown me to be an author snob, not even considering a book because of who wrote it. But do I also avoid certain books because of the publicity around them? Honestly? Yes. I loath Richard and Judy’s book club and wouldn’t read any book, whilst it is on their hit list. That’s not to say I woulnd’t read the book at all, I’ve read many books they’ve reviewed some before they’ve found it such as The Age of Miracles which I read last year and I believe is on their Summer 2013 reading list, and others years later when I’ve come across them at the back of the shelf or in a discount pile still bearing the sticker of recommendation. I struggle to find the words to explain what it is I have against Richard and Judy, like my fear of cats it is something irrational that I just feel in the depth of my stomach.
Quite possibly it is similar to my judging of authors, sub-consciously I’ve also got an idea of what or who a book reviewer should be and the irritating ex This Morning husband and wife duo just don’t cut the mustard with me. I’d rather trust some random blogger or tweeter, someone who stumbled across the book and loved it rather than a TV presenter who is given the book by a researcher who was sent the book by a publisher and who I’m not entirely convinced has even read the book.
But does that make me a book snob, I often read the books eventually so it’s nothing against the book. I don’t actually believe just because R&J have recommended the book that it must be rubbish I just don’t want to read it when they’re telling everyone to. It’s the antithesis of “Keeping up with the Jones” I’m happy to be behind the times, to be the outcast unable to chat with the cool kids because I don’t know what they’re talking about.
So what does make a book snob?
Well the shelves of my home are certainly not full of books by literary award winners. I probably can’t name that many Nobel Prize in literature winners, or the Man Booker International Prize and I definitely can’t name any Neustadt International Prize for Literature winners. The shelves in my home are filled with books that have touched me, that have whisked me away to a different world, that have made me laugh, smile, weep, cry out in shock and on more than one ocassion insist that the person sat next to me read an excert because it is just that good. Wendy Holden sits next to Maya Angelou, JR Ward next to Gabriel Garcia Marquez, I believe John le Carre, Scarlett Thomas, Gordon Dahlquist and Stephen Chbosky have formed a little reading club and have dinner together when I’m not around! Ok, maybe not but you get my point hopefully.
Bleak House made my life drab and miserable, the woman in white is still roaming the streets because I never finished reading it, I’m prejudice against Jane Austen, I’ve never read Chaucer, Martin Amis, Stella Gibbons. I’ve tried more times than I care to remember to read Robinson Cruso, Catch-22, Finnegans Wake, and many other books consider a “must have read” for anyone wishing to call themselves a reader.
On the flip side All My Friends Are SuperHeroes by Andrew Kaufman changed my outlook on life. Freya North helped me grow from a girl to a woman. George Mann brought steampunk to life, without me having to dress up and go to conventions and Rachel Hore paints beautiful stories that make me want to explore my family’s history. They may not survive the test of time, they may never be on a GCSE, A-Level or degree reading list but they make people happy. They make people want to read.
Am I a book snob?
You know what, I think I’ll leave that for others to worry about. But if I have to be labelled I think I’ll go for book eclectic.
If you are worried that you’re a book snob, check out @MattHaig1 blog 30 things to tell a book snob it should help you find the right path