I read … a lot. I reread books over and over. When I was in school, carrying around my stack of textbooks, my latest read was always sitting on top. I read before classes started and when teachers gave us free time at the end of a period. Even when I went to college, I still threw a book in my bag for in between classes and when professors were running late. I love riding the bus because I can read while I wait for the bus to arrive and while riding the bus. At least thirty minutes of my break every day is devoted to reading. I’ve brought books on errands with Husband, vacations, and even when we went to a UFC live event in Chicago (I knew there’d be wait time between fights). I do attest that my social life is as hermit like as it is because of my devotion to reading books. Yet my vocabulary is as immense as it is solely because of my extensive reading. I used the word ‘deign’ at work the other day and my coworker asked me what the heck I meant.
I think I started becoming a snob about reading once I realized, sometime in junior high, that I was really the only one who actually read books. I had been checking out books in towering, wobbly stacks from the library since I was seven (reading since 4), but I hadn’t bothered to glance around me and see if anyone else was doing the same. But in junior high, when we actually got library time, I was pretty horrified to see people acting like books were these mysterious, weird objects. A lot of the kids in my class didn’t know how to check out a book at the library or even what to get.
I didn’t get how people could NOT want to read. To this day, one of my favorite parts of reading is how much I can learn from books. Besides vocabulary, I was growing in my knowledge of obscure facts, science, history, and culture. There were some things that, even at 12, I knew more about than my older sisters because I had read about them.
In high school my book snobbery was at an all time high. Again, I was reading furiously and no one else in my class seemed to share my passion for reading. Or if they did, they had a single minded focus of what they wanted to read (like science fiction, or trashy romance novels). I really had no one to share what I was reading with. I was also frustrated because a lot of my peers would say things like, ‘Oh I love to read! To Kill A Mockingbird is my favorite book.’ Yeah … it was also the mandatory fall reading for our English class. Has anyone NOT read this book?
On the flip side during those years, I knew a girl who was a worse book snob than I was. I didn’t really ‘advertise’, so to speak, with my teachers that I was book fanatic. I brought my books to class with me, and read whenever I could, but I didn’t hold up the book in front of them and say, ‘HEY! LOOK AT ME! READING VOLUNTARILY!’. But this girl … whew! She bragged (even when we were freshmen, barely 14) to our English teachers constantly about all the classic literature she read, ‘completely understood’ and loved … like Wuthering Heights, Pride & Prejudice, and Catcher in the Rye. I don’t know if she was trying to impress our teachers or what, but she acted like she had read all these books in junior high (on her own). Even back then I believed this was a load of BS, but if she actually did this, then I guess kudos.
When I was in college, my book snobbery dropped significantly. I was really conflicted about what I was reading and whether it was good enough. The English program at my school was (for the first two years I attended) filled with really smart, above average kids who could analyze literature like nobody’s business. I felt out of my league. Then I got to junior year, and with the exception of Husband and a couple others, it was high school again. My class was filled with a bunch of girls who really liked reading To Kill A Mockingbird and wanted to share the one book they had ever bothered to read with the world. My book snobbery reigned supreme.
Fast forward to now. After a year or so of cable TV dominating my life, I am safely back in the comfort of snobdom. Last year I read 100 books, excluding the entire series of Harry Potter which I reread over the summer and the five or so I read in December, after I had hit the 100 book mark. I read many amazing, thought provoking books last year, and have in general over the course of my life.
And honestly? None of my ‘favorite’ books come from a school list. And that’s really where my snob radar comes in. I hate it when people list cliche books they had to read for school as among their favorites on Facebook. To me, that simply says that they never branched out in their reading to find something beyond what a teacher demanded of them. I roll my eyes every time my cousin posts a quote about being a ‘book nerd’ even though she’s read exactly ten books: the Harry Potter and Hunger Games series.
And don’t even get me started on GoodReads. For me, I love it. It’s a great, modern, stream lined way for me to keep track of everything I’ve read and wanted to read. My grandmother kept a specific book journal for all this; I have GoodReads. I love what it’s recommended to me, and the yearly book challenge. I like seeing what other people are reading and taking those suggestions as well. However, I DON’T like it when I see people jumping on GoodReads simply to fulfill a spot on their social media checklist. Definitely know people, and have just seen in general on the site, that some people like to use it as another friend collector site. That makes me sad, because it’s such a great site. I don’t know how many ‘friends’ I have on GoodReads (somewhere in the single digits, I’m sure), but that’s because it’s not what I’m there for. I’m there for the books. Because I love books.
Currently, I am reading Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin. It’s the second longest book I’ve ever read (Anna Karenina is top honor), and it’s so good. [[Side note: GoodReads has it wrong; this book is 750 pages long, not 944.]] I’m learning a ton about the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln, and his Cabinet. It’s a prime example of how diverse my book selection is (another reason I’m such a book snob). I love Mary Higgins Clark and good YA authors like Deb Caletti, but I also enjoy adult fiction like Liza Palmer and Emily Giffin, and non fiction like the (amazing) Lori Gottlieb, Koren Zailckas, and Elizabeth Gilbert. Team of Rivals is my first serious foray into historical non fiction, I’m vowing to read at least one more this year.
So there you have it. I am a certified book snob — meaning, I am well read, I read A LOT, and I really dislike it when people consider themselves ‘big readers’ because they read one YA book every three months, or read only what their favorite author likes, or are still clinging to their To Kill A Mockingbird days.
But I have to say this — despite all this, I still have a soft spot for people who really want to read a lot, and actually make it happen. My (other) cousin was never bookish, but over the past year she’s been popping up on GoodReads about three times a month, polishing off another book and starting a new one. And each time I see this, I quietly ‘Yay!’ and do a little fist pump. Because it doesn’t matter to me what she’s reading … she’s reading not because the book is a new craze or required for school … she’s reading for joy, something I wish everyone could truly appreciate.