Reading & Snobbism

I hate snobbism. I think it is the destroyer of the culture.

Every once in a while, I encounter a person who says:
“You could never understand the greatness of classics because you only read fantasy and science fiction”
“You’re just too young (and dumb) to understand War and Peace”
I don’t understand adults who read YA. You’re a grown-up, read something more suitable for your own age.”
“I don’t see what is the point in reading fiction, after all, you can only learn by reading nonfiction.”
“I only read Nobel laureates.”
“E-reading isn’t REAL reading.”
“Your view of Raskolnikov is really childish.”
“Oh, you only read those kinds of books.”
“I NEVER dog ear pages, crease a spine, or eat food while reading.”

I think reading is always good. I am a person who reads all possible genres and I don’t care about what people do or do not read.  It drives me mad when people do this. You can always defend yourself against some of the comments. For example, you can say that you value classics, especially French ones greatly but that you still prefer reading fantasy and scifi. But what to reply, when someone says your too young to understand some book? Perhaps you answer that they are definitely right and that you’ll immediately go back to reading Roald Dahl.

It’s okay if you only like The Tale of Peter Rabbit and Rover Saves Christmas. It’s okay if you only like classics or if you only read books related to your profession or education. It’s okay if you only read fantasy or  books for young adults.  Some people say that only books that have received a Nobel are good and worth reading. It’s okay as well but it does surprise me as  that genre is,eventually, very narrow. There are stunning and beautiful books that Nobel laureates have written. Books that I remember years after reading them and that I’m always ready to praise. There are some authors though who were awarded for reasons I don’t see because obviously I have too few brain cells. It is not okay to make someone feel bad about what they read. Ray Bradbury said “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” If you are book snob, you are as bad as person who would burn books. You make people ashamed about what they read. What do people even mean by “those kind of books”? Hearing that comment almost always makes me say “well they’re not so bad really…” as if they were worst thing I could ever read and how dare I even say I read those kinds of books.

Those kinds of books… yes I’ve often said that J.K Rowling doesn’t have best writing style. It is even clumsy sometimes. And what’s with the plot?  You’d think any child could write about wizards in school? But no. Potters are great because of the unique imagination in the series. Stephen King said that books are portable magic. Rowling used her imagination and it reached millions, not only some narrow audiences. I’ve enjoyed many books but only one made me wish I was in Hogwarts. That’s why I will always ready fantasy and YA. I need that magic in my life.

I know people who would never mark the book pages, never crease the spine, never eat food or drink while reading. I was that person. I would never borrow my books to anyone because they had lovely covers and surely my friends wouldn’t be as careful with them. Books are meant to be read, they are not meant to lie in the shelves collecting dust. Besides one can always buy new books. Finally, I admit that sometimes I might come off as terrible book snob.  Sometimes I might say something like “can you believe the people who think Twilight Saga is good?” :D  But by that I really mean that I can’t believe they haven’t read other vampire stories or other fantasy/young adult books. I want to lock them up in a room with other good books and help them to discover more books like Twilight. (Okay and also maybe to make them like some other books that are my personal favorites…I swear my intentions were almost good!)  And I try to say it in company where I know people know what I am referring to. I don’t talk about The Prince by Machiavelli with people who read Hunger Games. In stead I ask if they have read Divergent series too? So if you are a book snob, please cut it out. I know all of us might have a little book snob inside of us, so if you notice someone has it, please tell.

Have you had experiences with book snobs? Are you a book snob? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.


54 thoughts on “Reading & Snobbism

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  1. “I only read Nobel laureates.” – Hahaha! Could they be any more pretentious?
    I completely agree with everything you said here. I did a post a couple of months ago about how I don’t like people who judge others for what they read. They’re READING. Isn’t that good enough? Yes, it is. You do you, and I’ll do me, just as long as we’re both reading. :)

    1. :D Tell me about it! I still somehow get all the other literary awards, just not Nobel…
      Aaa I must go check. Yes, exactly! :) You’ll do you and I’ll do me (well expressed! :D)

  2. Gread post, and I totally agree. That’s waaaay too easy a trap to get sucked into, thinking that people are wrong to read certain types of books that don’t suit your own profile of what’s appropriate to read. But it’s true, the more broadly you read, the more it expands your imagination and the more varied life experiences you experience vicariously (which probably explains why I’m a nutty genre jumper who reads everything from kiddy picture books to manga to “classics” with equal enthusiasm. And seriously, if someone only reads one type of book, how can he say any other sort isn’t good–he hasn’t read them to know!

    1. I love nutty genre jumpers!! :D Very true, or maybe they even have read the book but as it’s not something “good”, it’s easier to say they hated it. And, classics :) it’s interesting term as everyone seems to have their own definition for it nowadays.

  3. You are definitely right about snobbism! It destroys both high and low culture when people act as if one culture was in some way more superior than other. Wish there were no book snobs

  4. I’ve definitely had adults see that I rear ya books (especially ya romances) and sneer at that (I’m a teenager). There is a general feeling among a lot of adults that ya books can’t be literary–ridiculous!

  5. I so agree, Anastasia! I don’t think I’m a book snob; I hope I’m not. I’ll read pretty much anything, well, once at least. There have been books I don’t like but that’s usually because I don’t like the plot or the author or the style or whatever. I like to be entertained, or educated and if a book does that, I’m satisfied, regardless of genre etc. I do know people however who will only read Sci Fi, or Crime, or romance or non fiction. They miss so much!

    1. When I wrote this blog post, I kept thinking if have I been a book snob myself. At least I try not to sound like one. I don’t think you are a book snob :) everyone has right to their opinions and it’s good to have different kind of readers and opinions.

  6. Totally agree – fantastic post! I personally like to read lots of different things but to each their own, you know? Reading at all is fantastic! You can learn things from any book, fiction or non-fiction, even if what you learn is just about yourself.

    1. :) Thank you! I agree, reading gives you so much! And at risk of sounding a bit snobbish, reading is fantastic and better than errr watching tv game shows :D

  7. I totally understand! I’ve seen much hatred being given when people try to put their opinions forward as facts. There should be much more acceptance of different individuals book taste!

  8. I happen to have been raised and schooled in Romania’s Northern Transylvania, having had the luck of reading and studying the greatest of Romania’s writers, the Greek and Latin classics, the French classics, etc. In year 7, I wept over Maupassant’s short novels, dreaded Hugo, and became aware of England’s industrial revolution from Engels. I became acquainted with Tolstoi as a post-graduate student, wondering about the intricacies of detail. I never liked Shakespeare, without forgetting to acknowledge his genius. I consider Tolkien probably the greatest writer all times, far greater than Dickens, without forgetting Dickens’ soul depicting genius. Rowling is horrible, nevertheless Harry Potter is captivating. I consider Phillip Pullman the next Tolkien, with HDM as one of the greatest reality fictions ever written. Oh, and I nearly forgot prophetess Randt…
    Am I a snob?
    Well, if snobbery means an acute awareness of Literature’s (I include here movies as its visualised version) primacy over any other artistic endeavours, yes I am a snob, who believes mathematics should be reduced in school curriculums in favour of Literature.

    1. Lovely comment! There should absolutely be more snobs like you! I suppose there are good and bad ways to be a snob. Literature is indeed superior over the other arts, and that is why I don’t see why to be snobbish among fellow readers. I always respect good and different opinions about books but not when people are offensive towards some book with no reason.

    2. Although I’m hugely fond of literature myself and thus reading your comment with interest,I don’t endorse your idea that mathematics should be reduced at schools in favour of literature.
      As a financial mathematics student,I reckon that mathematics should be taught differently so as not to deter literature or arts students to study it; there is a myth that you can’t love or study both at the same time.If mathematics was taught in its essence and its potential revealed at an early stage,more literature/arts students would have grown fond of it,too,I’m sure!

      1. Lovely defence, unconvincing though for someone like me, who has dragged useless hours of analytical maths back in secondary school, with language, literature and foreign languages given altogether the same number of hours allocated to maths/geom/trigonometry. I see no use of the level inflicted upon pupils who won’t study any further maths related courses on tertiary level. A waste of time and resources, an anachronism of the greek culture, sarurated to worshipping levels, of “exact” sciences. I’m glad that the English education system sorts this problem fairly well from A levels onwards, allowing pupils to specialise onto subjects they will continue in universities.
        At the time of my own baccalaureate, I was already speaking four languages, writing poetry and playing instruments, but the system nearly dropped me because integral calculus was meaningless for my literati dreams. It was pure luck I made it through my baccalaureate exams. The maths obsession of Central European delayed my advance with about 15 years…

        1. It wasn’t a defence of anything and I wasn’t trying to be convincing. :)

          Let me put it simply.If arithmetics were taught in schools at an earlier stage,people wouldn’t be so bored and frustrated with mathematics.But the actual system force-feed them with vectors,complex numbers and angles.Rather than being shown the beauty and complexities of numbers and what we can do with them,students are being exposed to other abstract branches of mathematics.I reckon that,if taught another way,maths can be really interesting to arts/literature lovers.Einstein,Blaise Pascal and Descartes are prime examples. :)

          But at any rate I don’t think mathematics should be compulsory.There is no sense in making someone take something he doesn’t like and expecting him to perform well in it so that he may get an ‘overall pass’.

          1. Now we’re talking. I wish the powers to be would listen…
            It makes perfect sense and I absolutely agree.
            Just a note: your examples are good, nevertheless still rather mathematical geniuses, with a strong penchant for philosophy, which is typical of the ill inherited Greek model…
            And I use Greek without any negative thought about the extraordinary Greek people, who just now have won a strong electoral victory against the 4th Reich…

  9. I can’t stand book snobs! There aren’t any rules about reading and all the classics they love so much were new once upon a time. I love some classics too but only because they are great books That doesn’t mean I can’t also enjoy books that are a bit more lighthearted as well sometimes.

      1. Yeah, some people really need to get over themselves! Even if all someone reads is Twilight over and over again it’s still better than watching TV. PS I actually quite liked Twilight! I’ve also read all of Shakespeare’s works. Not sure what book snobs make of me!

        1. Yapp! Haha, I liked Twilight too first but then I never got how it was suddenly so immensly popular. The annoying book snobs would probably wonder why don’t you stick with the clever books, genre jumpers confuse them XD

  10. Reblogged this on Brainfluff and commented:
    I thoroughly endorse Anastasia’s sentiments – what a shame that some people choose to use the gift of reading to make others feel inadequate and awkward about their taste in books… Which is why I’ve reblogged her article.

      1. You’re very welcome! It seemed so apt and topical – and while I LOVE the book community, I do find the embedded snobbishness at times offputting and unpleasant.

  11. Speaking of literary snobs…I’m reminded of the time a self-avowed poetry snob told me that speculative/genre poetry is folk art while “mainstream” poetry is fine art.

    As for “you could never understand the greatness of classics because you only read fantasy and science fiction”, some fantasy and science fiction works ARE classics. FRANKENSTEIN is considered by some to be one of the first science fiction novels, and is definitely a classic. THE HOBBIT is fantasy and may now be considered a classic. It’s on the Goodreads list of Popular Classic Literature Books. I also noted FAHRENHEIT 451, BRAVE NEW WORLD, and DRACULA on that same list.

    1. Ah, that is interesting opinion from poetry snob. I have not yet met any poetry snobs.
      I TOTALLY agree! Hearing that particular comment from other readers is so frustrating! I do wonder that have they never read those great literary works you mentioned or are they just so blinded by the term “classics”. Or is it, like you said, lack of imagination. Also, I am surprised by what they think will become of Harry Potter, Life of Pi orThe Road by Cormac McCarthy after few decades.

      Thank you for your comments!

      1. I’ve also met a poetry snob or two who claim there is no such thing as “speculative” poetry, which is absurd! There can be science fiction, fantasy, and horror poetry, just like there can be science fiction, fantasy, and horror prose.

  12. What a great post. All book snobbery does is to show the limitations of a person’s experience. It’s one thing to have likes and dislikes, quite another to believe everybody should be of the same opinion. There is a wide world of literature out there for every taste and mood. You would laugh at a person who says they only eat at Michelin starred restaurants and would never touch a sandwich. We should do the same for book snobs. You don’t have to like everything you read but dismissing something without trying because of a label is pure foolishness.

    1. Agreed! If everyone would have same opinions, it would be a world of dull people and even more dull literature.
      I’ve never been to Michelin starred restaurant to know but I haven’t tried laughing at snobs either so I think I will try that one out next time! :D

      Thank you for commenting!

  13. I’ve been told many times throughout my life that I should be reading “real fiction, not that made-up stuff.” I don’t know how to respond to people who say that, though.

  14. Oh damn!
    I think I might be a book snob! :o

    I read classics and the only post-modern books I go through are those which have won or been nominated for prestigious literary competitions.You’ll never see many reading any other book.

    The reason is,I want to be thoroughly inspired and moved by books; I want to be sublimed by them.And I reckon that only books aforementioned can fill in such criteria.Without wanting to be disrespectful or pretentious,I highly doubt that today’s YA novels will become tomorrow’s classics.To be a classic,the book has to stand out from the mass.And literary competitions look for just those kinds of books.Inheritance of Loss,Never Let Me Go,Life of Pi,White Teeth,A Tale for the Time Being,just to name a few,are what will be regarded in years to come as post modern classics! It’s no wonder really books like these are put on display in Waterstones – you will see the YA novels on shelves,but rarely on tables,etc.It may be vague what I’m saying,so let’s see it in terms of movies

    I re-watched Matrix lately,a 17-year-old movie,and I was completely in awe.The story is not absurd,is complex,and is still relevant in our times.It easily belongs to cult classics like Fight Club,The Godfather or To Kill a Mockingbird.There is no sense of deja-vu when watching these movies.Likewise a show like Breaking Bad will still be talked about for years to come,as there is nothing quite like it.I watch other movies and series for entertainment,but I’m totally aware that they are not classic-standard.

    My point is YA authors focus more on satisfying their audiences rather than doing their best to convey a message or making their stories as close to art as possible.So in a sense there are many recurring themes in YA books- love triangles,chosen one,happy ending – and that’s why they don’t really stand out.Why do you think we’re still talking about Dostoevsky,Tolstoy,Fitzgerald or Orwell? They weren’t the only authors in their respective generations,but they were the only to demarcate themselves with masterpieces.The turning point for me was when I read The God of Small Things,a Booker Prize in 1997 which I had never heard of.It moved me beyond description,and afterwards I resolved to reading only quality literature – which can be found in the short lists or long lists of the Governor General Award,Booker Prize,Folio Prize,National Book Award,etc.

    I don’t have anything against people who’ll read YA novels though.What might annoy maybe would be their ignorance – not saying all are the same – regarding classical literature.I know a Sydney Sheldon fan who thought Pride&Prejudice was written by Shakespeare and who’s got no idea who Tolstoy,Austen or Wilde was!

    Finally,I do love children’s literature.I think there is no age to appreciate their beauty.I have a shelf just for them at home,and recently I bought a set of the complete tales of Hans Christian Andersen! I also have fairy tales from Perrault and the Grimm Brothers,along with a set of the adventures of Alice (in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass).

    1. :) Oh, I do love book snobs who can give perfect reason for why they are ones.

      I perfectly understand why’d you want to stick with books you mentioned. There are so many books that at first seem to give you nothing at all. Worse, you have not enjoyed reading them at all and you almost want to quit reading all together because you are so disappointed with some particular book. Yet it gives you something, you value more the books you like, you are not afraid of disappointment. And I am sure someone else might love the book I disliked and in that case I want to understand why.

      Of course not all YA novels will become classics but I think that whole standard of classics will change in few decades. Perhaps they will be called YA classics. After all, there are tons and tons of books for young adults and only few become something everyone knows and everyone wants to read. Series like Harry Potter, Hunger Games & Divergent. I believe the standard will also change because before there weren’t as many books for young audiences. In list of British children’s and young adults’ authors (1900–1949) there’s so few names, you can’t even scroll down. And now, the lists seem to have no end.

      I disagree about YA authors also.You say… rather than doing their best to convey a message or making their stories as close to art as possible?

      What message? Is art not the expression of imagination? Is art not about being creative not just with words but with everything else? Is art not to create something no one ever has done before? Without imagination, there would be no art.

      I also am not sure if it is just the latest trend with dystopians but some of them have probably never heard of what is happy ending. They do have chosen ones and love triangles but eventually characters seem to end up with whomever who didn’t die during the series. I believe there are book snobs among YA readers too. I’ve met many of those too. Who say that classics are only for old people or that they are written in too old-fashioned and mind-numbing way. Everyone can have their opinions but that’s not an opinion.

      I don’t know why are we still talking about Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Fitzgerald or Orwell? Also I don’t know were they the only ones to demarcate themselves with masterpieces? There was only handful of authors from every country in their generation. I consider works of Camus, Maupassant, de Balzac, Hugo, Leroux or Daudet… Astrid Lindgren masterpieces too.

      I admire greatly people who can write for children as well :)

      1. Firstly I didn’t say that all great books ought to convey a message.I said they EITHER convey a message or are as close to art as possible.Take,Anna Karenina,Labyrinths,or The Great Gatsby for example.They were written in the same way works of art are made.

        Secondly I don’t think standards by which a book eventually becomes a classic will ever change.If that was indeed the case,then we should already be seeing a huge disparity between today’s classics and yesterday’s.What were the classics of the 1990s and 1980s? Midnight’s Children,The God of Small Things and The Unbearable Lightness of Being,just to name a few.These are book that have been lauded for their peculiarity and extreme post-modernist content.They are considered classics because they made readers discover something new.

        And what are today’s classics? Inheritance of Loss,Life of Pi,Wolf Hall,etc.All these books revolve around different themes and are written differently,yet they are all united by their freshness and insight (into literature) they can provide to the reader.

        As we move into different times,classics of one era will be different from classics of another era.But you’ll note that they are all the same in regards to their uniqueness and timelessness and insightfulness.

        Thirdly it is completely erroneous to think that at the times of Tolstoy and onwards,there was only a handful of authors,which was why those aforementioned are still remembered today.As a matter of fact,Fitzgerald regularly wrote a silly story for a newspaper and made easy money.There were many,many other authors like him at that time,and he wanted to demarcate himself; he wanted to write ”something never written before”.And that’s how The Great Gatsby was born.

        Likewise Huxley and Orwell were the only ones to write about a dystopian future instead of one with cars flying,robots talking,etc.So,yeah,they stood above the crowd.Saying that classic authors are remembered only because of poor competition is like taking away all the credit the world has given them! Who could write a better Anna Karenina than Tolstoy? a better 1984 than Orwell? or a better L’Etranger than Camus? (I could go and on with different authors).

        They were the bright minds of literature and that’s why their names are still remembered before,in the same we still refer to Lizst,Beethoven,Mozart,Debussy,Picasso,Raphaelo,etc. We will continue to celebrate the bright minds of today,and these are not authors who write YA novels.I’m not denying their potential,but rather condemning the fact that they are more focused on gaining commercial success than anything else.

        And yeah,some YA novels will become YA classics,but I doubt they will ever reach the list of the best novels at one point in history….

  15. I am probably at least a partial one myself, actually. XD But not in the sense that I put down what other people read. I only get “snobbish” I guess when I see someone treating their books badly. I am a true lover of all things books, including the hardwork and dedicated put into the production and creation of each and every printed book created, so when I see someone holding a book by its cover (and it looks like its going to rip or tear or djksnaflnjkalfnskalnj *is having a nervous breakdown even imagining it*) I just can’t stand by and watch that. It drives me crazy.

    But everything else you said? Absolutely 100% agree. No one should put down another person for what or how they read something. (Only if they desecrate books by not taking care of them. T__________T)

    1. You know… I think we’re all mad in here :D
      I am definitely partial one too. But I try to behave most of the times XD In library or in book store if someone drops a book, it gives me cold shivers. Or when I see people reading books that have pages falling out of them. Or when people clean their rooms and they just…throw the book out of the way o.O

  16. Er, I hope I’m not seen as a book snob. I read the worst of the worst and the best of the best, but I’m frank about my opinions. That puts people off sometimes, but my opinions are not intended as insults regarding what other people read.

    I’m just glad people read at all!

  17. This is SO true! People always laugh when I tell them that I read mostly YA and they think that they are better for reading adult books. Well guess what? I can also read adult books but it’s MY choice and it’s MY brain who does the work, not yours. Plus, I’m 21 so that adds to the YA-“shame”.

  18. Thank you for posting this. I was a book snob in my teens. The only thing that saved me was my love for Science Fiction. I now read whatever catches my eye.

    I am a fan of a Doris Lessing who is a Nobel Laureate. Here’s her view on how to read: “There is only one way to read, which is to browse in libraries and bookshops, picking up books that attract you, reading only those, dropping them when they bore you, skipping the parts that drag-and never, never reading anything because you feel you ought, or because it is part of a trend or a movement. Remember that the book which bores you when you are twenty or thirty will open doors for you when you are forty or fifty-and vise versa. Don’t read a book out of its right time for you. ”

  19. Terrific debate! I enjoyed an article in February “Writing Magazine” Not sure you can access it unless you are a subscriber but to sum up (quote): ‘What is it with some literary writers that they feel it is OK to sneer at genre authors, as if penning our work is somehow easy and of so little merit.’
    Re mathematics: we shouldn’t be dumbing down anything in the education process and BTW, I love mathematics AND literature!

  20. I’ll admit, I’m a massive snob . . . but a low-brow one, if that makes sense. XD This is good food for thought, though I could never write in a book I want to read again. But you’re right; as long as you’re reading, experiencing new worlds and stretching your imagination, and if you can either defend its good qualities and/or enjoy it despite its bad ones, who cares what you like to read? I enjoy Ke$ha without guilt, and she sounds like a synthesizer getting run over! :)

    1. :D haha yeah that makes sense. Hmmm my former teacher (who taught Finnish language) always bought books so that she could write on them and make notes. I understood as it was her profession but haha I hate any writing on books. That is very true :) ahahahaha but she has some catchy songs :D

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