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Bookish Pet Peeve #3: The Book Snob

We’ve talked a lot about book snobs here on 101 Books. But, today, I want to take it to a new level and make the dreaded Book Snob one of my official bookish pet peeves. This is a select group of which, to this point, there’s only three.

I know a lot about book snobbery. I’ve been one at various points in my life, and I still have book snob tendencies. It’s not a point of pride. So I can speak with some authority here.

Here’s the deal with the book snob. The book snob regularly confuses his or her personal taste over a matter of art—that being literature—with gospel. You see, the book snob respects only one opinion—his own. He respects only one type of book—the ones he likes.

If you don’t read “The Classics,” if Beowulf and Shakespeare and Chaucer and Joyce aren’t prominently displayed on your bookshelf, if you can’t give four different critical interpretations of Gatsby’s green light, then you’re an amateur, a wanna-be, a literary piss ant.

Doesn’t The Book Snob sound lovely?

Some question whether or not The Book Snob is actually an organic lifeform, whether he might actually be a cyborg of some sort, programmed by academia to circulate “well-respected” literary opinion out to the masses—to the peons like you and me.

The typical Book Snob is more militant in his opinions than a Tea Party recruit or one of those if-you-dare-immunize-your-child-from-disease-your-child-will-soon-die type of parents. He also feels it to be his divine right to share his literary opinions without prompting.

Pop fiction? Surely you jest. John Gresham? Oh my poor dear. Vampires? Zombies? Space men with pointy ears who save the galaxy? You are a sad, sad child, aren’t you?

The Book Snob will desperately attempt to make you feel as if your opinion on a book isn’t good enough. He’ll desperately attempt to make you feel like you have the intelligence of a brain-damaged sloth.

So how do you respond to his literary trolling? Just smile and say, “That’s nice.” Then move on.

If you’re feeling insecure, remember this: The Book Snob is more insecure than you. How do I know? It’s reflected in the arrogance of his tone, in his insistence that he is always right, in his eagerness to butt in and insert an academic opinion into every conversation.

The Book Snob is the literary equivalent of an NFL rookie who scores his first touchdown and proceeds to taunt the other team and earn a 15-yard penalty. On the sideline, the coach will pull him aside and say, “Act like you’ve been there before, boy!”

The true academics—the noble ones—know that you don’t have to be an arrogant [insert your favorite word for the male sexual organ here] when you disagree with another reader. They are just as willing to listen and try to understand your opinion as they are to explain their own. And, you see, they explain—they don’t lecture.

So if you’re a book snob, I offer you hope. I am here to tell you there’s another way. You don’t have to be the person in your book club that everyone hates.

Come to the other side with the rest of the brain-damaged sloths like me.

Previous Bookish Pet Peeves

#1: Bookstore Cell Phone Blabbermouth

#2: The Nosey Over-The-Shoulder Reader

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53 Comments Post a comment
  1. Gwen #

    Bravo! Interesting point you make about Book Snobs being insecure. I never would have considered that. I’m probably the furthest thing from a Book Snob – I find the classics boring, and I love pop literature, romance, women’s fiction, and the occasional speculative fiction novel. Book Snobs love looking down their noses at me.

    Like

    July 12, 2013
  2. I have at times been called a book snob, because I refuse to accept things like Twilight at 50 Shades as good literature. However, I don’t enjoy most classic novels (but I do love Gatsby!) so I think I lose some points on the snobbery scale for that. I addressed this same thing on my blog!

    Like

    July 12, 2013
    • I think it’s more about tone, mainly. I wouldn’t read either of the books you’ve mentioned, but I TRY–and that’s a big TRY–to not be judgmental about it. At least I’m trying to grow in that area. I’m sure someone could look at my older posts and nail me on this, but I really am trying to get to the point where I’m just happy when people are reading without being judgmental over what it is that they’re reading.

      Like

      July 12, 2013
  3. I agree with you. People should be more open-minded about other people’s tastes. We’re all different and we all have reasons for liking what we like. Just because I like something you don’t or vice versa doesn’t mean that one of us is wrong. I’ve noticed that people tend to get very offended when someone doesn’t like a book that they do (I see it a lot on Goodreads). I think that they feel that their taste is being questioned. We all like to think that we’ve got good taste, but in order to think that some people feel that they need to disparage what other people like.

    Like

    July 12, 2013
  4. Oh man. I love this post so, so much.

    Like

    July 12, 2013
  5. “Brain damaged sloths.”
    I love you.

    Like

    July 12, 2013
  6. I overheard one talking in the library yesterday. He was telling the librarian that he reads Shakespeare for pleasure, and that because of it, he wasn’t like “most people.” He also claimed that reading old English improves brain function, then went on to name some of Shakespeare’s plays that he had read. I wondered if he knew what Middle English was and if he would consider reading Chaucer. I also wondered if he knew that Shakespeare is best performed. Anyway, I think this guy was a teenager, so I should be gentle with him, but what stood out to me was the idea that reading “better” made him special or smarter than.

    Like

    July 12, 2013
    • Wow. Poor kid. Hopefully he’ll come around.

      Like

      July 12, 2013
  7. I was a total book snob in my teens–wouldn’t read anything except for the classics (and Harry Potter, of course). This post was fun to read.

    Like

    July 12, 2013
  8. I can relate. My agent says,”there’s plenty of room on the bookshelf for all kinds of books.” I figure it’s like TV, plenty of channels for plenty of tastes. Personally, I cannot fathom why someone would want to watch shows about fishing, but that’s dissing all those passionate fisherpeople out there. To each his own! ☺

    Like

    July 12, 2013
    • I used to think those fishing shows were pretty silly too. (Why would you catch such a nice fish and throw it back? Take it home and eat it!) Then, my son grew up and became one of them. He fishes huge salmon and sturgeon in zones where you’re fishing just for sport. You HAVE to throw them back. Oh well…

      Like

      February 27, 2015
  9. You certainly make a good point. There is no greater feeling than successfully challenging the book snob, and highlighting their shallow depth of opinion. It’s amazing how often they haven’t even read the book in question. Bravo

    Like

    July 12, 2013
  10. acwaechter #

    Oh book snobs… Not that I haven’t been there, but after getting an MA in lit it’s impossible not to be sick and tired of them (and myself). After almost four years reading and discussing nothing but the best literature the Western world has to offer, I’ve been enjoying popular fiction immensely. And don’t ever reveal to a book snob that you *write* “vampire” fiction… Yikes, it’s worse than telling them you read it.

    Like

    July 12, 2013
  11. Well said – I like the “that’s nice” approach, I’ll try that next time I encounter a music snob as well!

    Like

    July 12, 2013
    • Music Snob is terrible. Why do they stop liking bands they’ve always liked as soon as the bands become popular? See Mumford and Sons. The music never changed but now they can’t like them because they’re too “mainstream.”

      Like

      July 14, 2013
      • Absolutely – I believe it’s a reflex for the music snob. As soon as there’s a hint of commercial success, the ‘sell out’ label is assigned! My theory (for books and literature) comes from a Bryan Ferry quote: “there’s nothing wrong with being accessible if it’s good.”

        Like

        July 15, 2013
  12. Good post! I read many types of books – fiction and non-fiction – but never seem to be reading the latest that everyone else is reading. And sometimes I need something light to cleanse the palate after reading something heavy. A good mystery will usually do that.

    Like

    July 12, 2013
  13. Yes. I have read and thought very arrogantly about what mu thoughts were. Really. Now beginning blogs have me explaining more about why I have read the book. I wonder if anyone will read it and give there thought on it. I hope that keeps me from being a book snob. And I will one day read all the classics – I hope.

    Like

    July 13, 2013
  14. You made some great points! No one can be a well-rounded reader or critique without multiple genres on the bookshelf. All philosophy and no pleasure reading makes books snobs dull boys (and girls).

    Like

    July 13, 2013
  15. Coastalcrone, I belong to a mystery book club at the local public library. That ensures I read lighter fare that I truly enjoy, and that I talk about books with other people who don’t take themselves too seriously.

    Like

    July 14, 2013
  16. yourgirlsbf #

    Absolutely hilarious. My cousin adores the classics but has done nothing but lend me her books and share her passion for literature with me. Book snobs would be much better off (and happier!) if they chose a similar route.

    Like

    July 14, 2013
  17. deweydecimalsbutler #

    I do, indeed, love me some classic literature, to be sure. But have you ever read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies?! Hilarious! Also, if I hadn’t finally gotten my nose out of the classics, how could I met my beloved Elphaba? I find the Book Snob to be somewhat concentrated in his/her knowledge. If you go outside of what he/she liked to discuss, then they become strangely quiet. Fun times! This is the salt-and-pepper counterpart to the Music Snob. I despise that person even more than the Book Snob.

    Like

    July 14, 2013
    • Yes. The Music Snob cracks me up because they immediately begin disliking bands as soon as they become “too popular.” I’ve witnessed this with Mumford and Sons. All the hipsters used to love them, but now that too many people like them, the hipsters can’t like them anymore. As if the music itself changed or something.

      Like

      July 14, 2013
  18. deweydecimalsbutler #

    Oh good gawd, the hipsters! They’re too mainstream for me.

    Like

    July 14, 2013
  19. Reblogged this on Adithya Entertainment.

    Like

    July 15, 2013
  20. Reblogged this on Rakesh Gandhi and commented:
    FYI

    Like

    July 15, 2013
  21. Catching up on old posts here.

    Maybe the Book Snob could relate to most subject tackled by the all-knowing crowd. (Is this an American only thing? Not sure.) Consider any subject in which a person voices his/her opinion as fact. Taken to the extreme, this same ‘snob’ feels the need that all others conform to their belief. (yeah Twitter!)

    In some ways our culture seems to foster this behavior through the sensationalization of even the most unimportant issue.

    …or maybe I’m just annoyed with everyone….

    Like

    July 15, 2013
    • Nope, it’s not just an American thing. I can’t speak for other countries, but it’s a matter of course up here in Canada too. And I agree, our (mostly) shared culture does foster this kind of warped thinking.

      Actually, I’m pretty sure it happens in any literate culture, regardless of the language(s). It’s sadly human nature for one group to look down on other groups. History proves it over and over again.

      Wordsgood

      Like

      February 22, 2014
  22. Yeah, ok, I may be a slight book snob. I do warn people. Props to me? I did “insult” a few women in a Jane Austen group that I hated Emma. Oh, no! How could I. They kind of avoided me for the rest of the afternoon..

    Like

    July 15, 2013
  23. Can I just say that I will read and devour any story I can get my hands on? Consequently I have Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice proudly displayed next to my 20 or so issues of MAD magazine!

    Like

    July 16, 2013
  24. MARK WHELAN'S LITERARY BLOG #

    Terribly controversial statement, and yet so true. How do I handle it, as you say; read, and then move on, kindly

    Like

    August 6, 2013
  25. Not a book snob…I love Twilight and certain classics, like Pride and Prejudice and Rebecca, and I’m trying to read more…but I probably *could* give four different critical interpretations of Gatsby’s green light if I tried. Had to do it for an assignment once, and I remain convinced that the reason I hate most ‘classics’ is because that’s the sort of book I was assigned for school, and expected to analyse it into the ground. Same with Things Fall Apart, Cracking India, and Ordinary People. I’m sure they’re good books, but I hated doing assigned work on them so much that I can’t read them now. I tried rereading Gatsby very recently…as in, two weeks ago, at the most…and I couldn’t force myself to do it.

    Like

    September 3, 2013
  26. sobroero #

    We are not insecure, we are frustrated to see the ever growing number of “brain damaged sloths” perpetuating bad literature. If we lecture it’s because we have lost our patience to reason with you people.

    Like

    December 8, 2013
  27. I am a book snob for sure. But I don’t think I treat people like they’re stupid my taste is just different. Frankly I’m just glad that people read at all, but I do despair that someone like Dan Brown sells a bajillion copies and really awesome emerging authors and those with interesting new concepts & ideas struggle to get published.

    I generally get a bit snooty about the epic, never ending torrent of fantasy novels the size of minibuses. But I recently started reading Game of Thrones and I’m quite pleasantly surprised so you never do know I guess.

    Like

    January 17, 2014
    • Dan Brown had one of the most read books of all time because he wrote on a controversial subject and people took what he wrote as ‘gospel.’

      Like

      February 27, 2015
  28. hi!,I like your writing so much! share we be in contact more
    about your post on AOL? I require an expert on this space to resolve my
    problem. Maybe that is you! Having a look forward to see you.

    Like

    January 19, 2015
  29. I have such eclectic tastes that two weeks ago when I was reading from my Kindle and the pastor and his wife walked by saying, “Now there’s a lady who reads her Bible,” I felt a need to say something. It was actually Blaise Pascal. Yes, I like dead authors as well as contemporary ones. Anything by Michael Chabon or his wife, Alexander McCall Smith and John Irving. There have been very few books that, when I get in about halfway, I have to put them down. But I was pleased as punch when a fellow I was dating told me (almost as if he’d be arrested for it) that he was bored by Gatsby too.
    Great post.

    Like

    February 27, 2015

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. The lines were too long | Book Rhapsody
  2. The 101 Books Guide To Responding To Book Snobs | 101 Books
  3. Bookish Pet Peeve #4: The One Upper | 101 Books
  4. What Type Of Reader Are You? | 101 Books
  5. Giving Literary Thanks, Year 2 | 101 Books
  6. Bookish Pet Peeve #5: The Book Borrower | 101 Books
  7. Harry Potter Readers Are Stupid | 101 Books
  8. Bookish Pet Peeve #6: Speed Reading | 101 Books
  9. Bookish Pet Peeve #7: Buying Books I Don’t Read | 101 Books
  10. Bookish Pet Peeve #8: Preachy Authors | 101 Books
  11. #4 In 2014: Harry Potter Readers Are Stupid | 101 Books
  12. Bookish Pet Peeve #9: Snobby Authors | 101 Books
  13. My Most Popular Posts, Broken Down By Category | 101 Books
  14. Bookish Pet Peeve #10: Book Trailers | 101 Books
  15. Bookish Pet Peeve #11: The Coffee Shop Writer | 101 Books

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