Are you a book snob?
The above question begs some critical self-examination. As the self-righteous human that you likely are, your first instinct is probably to deny it vehemently. After all, you’ve never dissed any author, book, or genre.
You’ve never scorned a book publicly or privately. And, even when you discuss books you didn’t particularly enjoy, your criticism is done graciously. On this basis, you really can’t be said to be a book snob.
Who Is a Book Snob?
A book snob is a person who shows significant prejudice against a particular book, author, or genre.
Now, reread the above and reconsider. Does this make you a book snob? Think again. Recall all those times you ranted at a book that you found frustrating. You probably swore not to touch anything written by that author ever again.
Or the occasion when you realized that a particular genre was not for you. Do you still let out a skeptical huff (consciously or unconsciously) when these genres are discussed? Or, perhaps you struggle to keep from dropping a snide quip (subtle or not) when these books, authors, and genres are discussed in public spaces?
Have you ever not found yourself in any of the scenarios? If none of it applies to you, then congratulations! You must be some type of rare literary saint. However, if it is all too familiar, I congratulate you on your self-honesty.
Cheers! You’re a book snob!
What Makes You a Book Snob?
You’re a book snob if you have or display any form of bias toward any form of literature. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a snob is:
One who has an offensive air of superiority in matters of knowledge or taste
The same source goes on to define a snob as:
One who tends to rebuff, avoid, or ignore those regarded as inferior
Both definitions are similar. However, the first definition is strongly worded, with the phrase “offensive air of superiority” sticking out like a sore thumb. On the other hand, the second definition implies a slightly less subtle form of snobbery.
This is the point of contention for those who say they are not snobs. They insist that they are not offensive about their prejudice. But the truth is that literary prejudice of any kind, whether active or passive, subtle or overt, is book snobbery. This is what truly makes everyone a book snob.
The Classism/Elitism Debate
Book snobbery shows in classism or elitism, favoring a book, genre, or author over, and often to the detriment of others.
Some readers talk up a particular genre as superior to others. For instance, some readers read exclusively African Literature, with a bias for other forms of literature. I know many literary fiction readers who do not even see non-fiction as worthy of being called literature. Still, many readers embrace almost all genres but still have some subtle disregard for some subgenres or even authors.
If one looks closely, book snobbery manifests itself foremost along the lines of genre followed by author and then the individual books. This book elitism or classism irks others, who take offense to such high and mighty behavior. However, the very recipients of this behavior are often found guilty of the same.
What Type of Book Snob Are You?
Book snobs are of two kinds- those who are subtle about it and those who are not. And it is pretty funny to see the first category deny that they’re book snobs at all. People like this always base their arguments based on active participation. You hear stuff like:
- I’ve never trashed a book in my life
- I like the author as a person, but I just won’t be reading their books
- I didn’t say I hated the book; it’s just not my thing
- XXX genre is okay, but I can’t read it because it’s too (gives a subjective opinion)
What do these statements sound like to you? To me, they sound like a hangman playing at being a therapist, trying to make the prisoner feel a bit easier about the guillotine about to take his head off. The point is that you don’t like a book for specific reasons and have chosen to be less vocal about it. In other words, you’ve taken a subtle approach to snobbery.
But it’s snobbery, nonetheless.
This is the great hypocrisy of being a book snob- you’re a snob about books you don’t like, but take offense if your friends are snobs about your favorite books.
Should You Be a Book Snob?
The answer to this would be that no one can not be a book snob. Literary appreciation, like it is in any form of art, is highly subjective. What one reader sees as awesome is exactly what turns off another reader. Who would then begrudge the latter for choosing to do away with the book, the author, or the genre altogether?
Reading tastes are as unique as our DNA makeup. No two readers enjoy the exact same thing. And, of course, no reader truly enjoys everything. You may stick to books that you enjoy for various reasons, but there will be books you’ll read that’ll disappoint you. And sometimes, the frustration is great, and you say something someone finds offensive.
How Can You Be a Decent Book Snob?
Since it is impossible to avoid book snobbery altogether, there is only one thing for it- to be subtle about it. Here are three ways to be a decent book snob:
Show some respect
No matter how you feel about the book, you should always show some respect. All art takes effort to create. So, show some respect to the author and be sensitive to other readers’ tastes.
Avoid trashing books
Not everyone might want to listen to you spew fire and brimstone over a book you hated but they, coincidentally, liked. However, even the most sensitive people might actually listen to you if you make your argument logically and back it up with points instead of curses.
Limit the curses to similarly-opined circles
If you must rail and curse, do so among readers who share the same opinion of the book as you. This way, you’ll avoid hurting the sensibilities of others.
Everyone is a book snob. But it is up to you to choose the type of book snob you want to be. You can be the loud-mouthed, fiercely opinionated, high and mighty reader of fantasy, looking down from your lofty perch at the lowly readers of romance and other genres. Or you can choose to be subtle about it. The choice is yours.
Nevertheless, always remember that it’s all art. It’s another person’s work, not yours. You’re the audience, not the creator. So, don’t take it personally.