I have been a book snob, I can admit it. I was never the horrified book snob, nor was I the shocked book snob, and there was no fear that I would try to convince you that you needed to be more like me and start reading books, any books. I wasn’t going to waste my time trying to find a genre you might actually like. No, I was the sarcastic judgmental book snob.
I have been the sort of person who judges you for not being inclined to read fictions, literature, or books of any sort. I have made disparaging remarks about your person and your intelligence. You were a non-reader, then you were, basically, a vapid waste of a mind. You were a person without curiosity or knowledge. You were boring. You might have gone to all the cool parties I was never invited to, drank wine coolers and peach schnapps while I was sipping Mountain Dew and coffee, you might have been having sex while I was reading about other people having sex, and you sure as hell thought I was the boring one, never knowing I thought you were as useless as tits on a bull.
I was such an asshole.
And a hypocrite. Because if you did read books, like any good book snob, I judged you based on the books you read. Only read non-fiction? Boy have you lost the magic! Only read Harry Potter? Did you know there’s a whole diverse world of books available to you? You thought Romeo Romeo and Juliet was so romantic sneaking into Juliet’s bushes like that? Coward marries her in secret rather than using his backbone to stand up to their families! You read Bridget Jones’s Diary but didn’t see the Pride and Prejudice connection? Hello, his fucking name is Mr. Darcy!
And I would have loved nothing more than to tell this person:
“Actually, he, Frankenstein, refers to this character as “The Creature”, not the “monster.” (What a twat!)
But then I went to college, and while I reveled in finding other people who read, other people who (for class) were reading the same things as I, who had also read other books I had read, who encouraged me to read other “good” books, who took my advice when I recommended books, other people who understood what Natasha Rostova, Amy March, Elizabeth Bennet, Hester Prynne, and Nora Helmer have in common, while all this was wonderful and validating and empowering and great, I learned, too, that judging people for not being readers, or reading certain things, was stupid.
There were two things that didn’t happen for me in high school, well, a lot of things didn’t happen for me in high school, but specifically I didn’t know how smart I was, and I wasn’t challenged. I did what I had to do to pass my math and science classes (including crying, failing, and taking the “dumb” math classes), but I breezed through my English and Social Studies classes mildly bored and reading the other stories and chapters of the textbooks that we didn’t cover in class. My boredom and lack of peer understanding led me to pass judgement on my classmates. Once I had that understanding, once I found my people, I cared less about what other people were reading, or whether they were reading or not. I had finally found acceptance.
There are many, many posts on the Bookernet about being tolerant of others’ reading choices and I fully believe that anyone can read whatever they want to read. But there are also an absurd number of posts about Book Snobbery as if being an asshole about reading is acceptable. This piece on Bustle, which I like because it’s funny (and because it makes book snobs sound like the jerks they are), is also a little tedious.
Although it is a little strange that people who can read choose not to read. Especially when there are so many people worldwide, including the USA, btdubs,* who either don’t or aren’t allowed to learn how to read. It seems a little arrogant to not read when there are people (women) who want to read, who wished they could read, so they can better their lives. I’m not saying people need to read Tolstoy, or Stephen King, or Jane Austen, or Dickens, or Bram Stoker, or Eudora Welty, or Anias Nin, or Joanne Harris, or Shakespeare, or Neil Gaiman, but to say you flat out do not like reading is a mite smug; you are not above the written word.
Today we read more than ever. We have the Internet, email, text messages, street signs, store names, price tags, and expiration dates. The ability to read is essential to Western Culture, and there are members of this culture who have fallen through the cracks. Learning how to read is seen by many as a privilege, when it needs to be a right. I’m happy people read, and read a lot, and are confused when people who can read don’t. But what I truly wish is that the people who hate reading because they struggle with it weren’t left behind. Illiteracy is an issue that doesn’t deserve censure or mockery. It requires action and compassion.