Apr 26, 2012

by English Muse

Hello again!  It’s Katie from unwritten, untitled again, here to talk about what I imagine is a common book lover’s problem: reading (and enjoying) books that embarrass your inner book snob.

Sometimes–no, often–I feel as if I should devote myself to capital-L Literature.  Do you ever get that feeling, like you must solely read literary fiction to be a true bibliophile?  The stack of books and authors I feel I ought to read is probably higher than my to-read list. The result of this feeling is sort of amusing, though: for every guilty pleasure book I indulge in, I end up reading at least two works of literary fiction to assuage my inner book snob’s shame.  Oddly, I find that my inner book snob only judges me, and never other people’s reading choices–in fact, I’ll often find myself jealous of others who can devour entertainment fiction without feeling guilty.  It’s not that I mind reading extra books, of course, but I’d like to read them with a motive besides guilt.

The process generally goes like this: recently, I plunged through the last published book in a YA series, then read the Pulitzer Prize-winning Interpreter of Maladies and the critically-acclaimed Sputnik Sweetheart (discussed here).  I loved all three books equally and in different ways.  Yet I still felt like I need to read Dostoyevsky or Melville or some more capital-L Lit books written before 1950.  So I went to the dust-accumulating stack of classics on my bookshelf and picked up Mrs. Dalloway, which I’ve started and enjoyed three times but never finished.  It lived in my purse for a day or two before being exchanged for another YA novel, which will start the process all over again.

So I wonder, do you share my bibliophile’s guilt?  Do you have an inner book snob or literary critic?  What are your favorite guilty pleasure books?  And how do you calm that inner book snob when you’ve polished off a few books read mostly for their entertainment value?

 

[original source of image unknown–I’ve searched for it unsuccessfully. please comment if you know!]

This entry was posted on Thursday, April 26th, 2012 at 8:00 am. It is filed under Books and tagged with . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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15 Responses to “Guilty Pleasures and Inner Book Snobs”

  1. Iva Y says:

    Oh, God, yes! I feel the exact same way… After reading Twilight (yes, shame on me!) I got Jane Eyre. I was in fact so embarrassed to read such a series like Twilight that I only got the first book and the others I read as e-books. I just felt silly having it on my bookshelf.
    To be completely honest though I love classics. I had a list in high school called “top 100 classics I have to read before I die” or something like that (no joke!) :D And even though I enjoyed most YA that I have read quite a lot, I don’t think they are among my favourite books. My all time favourite books are in fact classics, they are just timeless and each has such a unique plot (unlike the millions versions of vampire/werewolf/dystopia books that came out over the past few years). Plus the quality of the books is just different, I’ve read Jane Eyre in English (which is not my native language) and a YA book and the first one was definitely way more challenging to read.
    And of course, let’s not forget how good books make us think, feel and make us grow emotionally and intellectually rather than flip mindlessly through the pages. Well, those are my two cents at least :)

  2. Christina says:

    I can totally relate! I don’t read much as much as I used to because I’m busy with school (science major) but when I do read, I feel like I have to read the “Greats,” even though I secretly have a list fun, airy chick lit to read this summer. When people ask me my favorite books, I tell them Jane Eyre and the Great Gatsby (both of which I truly adore) but I’m reluctant to also include PS I Love You and I Am the Messenger, which I equally adore. Strange, isn’t it? I say we love what we love and be proud!

    PS I just discovered your blog and I’m hooked!

  3. Christina says:

    I can totally relate! I don’t read much as much as I used to because I’m busy with school (science major) but when I do read, I feel like I have to read the “Greats,” even though I secretly have a list of fun, airy chick lit to read this summer. When people ask me what my favorite books are, I tell them Jane Eyre and the Great Gatsby (both of which I truly adore) but I’m reluctant to also include PS I Love You and I Am the Messenger, which I equally adore. Strange, isn’t it? I say we love what we love and be proud!

    PS I just discovered your blog and I’m hooked!

  4. Trisia says:

    I feel that way quite often myself! However, one of the greatest shames with the capital-L literature is that not many of the authors were revered or even appreciated during their time–and it would be awful if we missed out on a modern Poe or Woolf because everybody was too busy reading pieces from the canon. This thought at least helps me assuage the gilt for a little bit :)

  5. Mairead says:

    I completely understand. I read The Hunger Games this past weekend and am actually starting Interpreter of Maladies (stolen from my boyfriend who had to read it for his english class) in order to balance it out. I couldn’t believe I actually read Hunger Games! I was so determined not to, but I gave in :P

  6. Liz says:

    I loved this post… What you’re saying is so relateable…

  7. Tonia says:

    Oh yes – literary guilt stalks me too! Usually because I can’t bear Charles Dickens, not even the on-screen adaptations. Still think he was in need of a darn good editor.

  8. Mandy says:

    Yep, I’m the same exact way. I have this idea that there is only so much time to read, so I better be reading something “important”. We all deserve some time to read fluffy stuff though! I’m rereading childhood favorites right now, and I’m loving it! It’s definitely not a waste of time, as my snobby brain would want me to believe.

  9. Mariana says:

    My inner book snob never shuts up. Granted, I have read a good share of “real” Literature (it’s what I studied in college), but it’s just good and fun to read something “easy & breezy” too! That kind of calms down the book snob- because if there’s anything I love about literature it’s that it gives you something. It makes you feel.
    So, as long as whatever you’re reading makes you feel something (like amusement too) or touches you in a way, it’s doing its job :)

  10. Rhianna says:

    Oh my this always happens to me! It’s gotten to the point where when I buy a book that isn’t quite literary enough for me, I also have to buy a copy of an old classic that I’m yet to read. Or maybe even two classics, just so the cashier knows I don’t have terrible taste, which is completely absurd!! Great to know I’m not the only one :P

  11. So glad I’m not the only one!! I often wonder why I feel so guilty about not reading a ‘real’ literary book but it’s so silly. Perhaps we should follow our hearts and worry less about how it might be perceived in society when we are reading a book that’s really for pure enjoyment!

  12. Cara says:

    I don’t know… I definitely feel as if there is a list of should-reads out there, that I wish I was more culturally and intellectually conversant with, but a very beloved and wise librarian in my childhood taught me my first lessons in the fact that good books, the kind that infect your brain and stay with you, are as likely to be found off the beaten path as on it. How many lists of children’s/YA classics include “The Good Master”? Most people haven’t heard of it. Yet it is without a doubt one of the best books I’ve ever read.
    To me, I guess I’d say is that I’m never ashamed to read a GOOD book. Sometimes, what’s good is the incredible innovation of the story (“Tristram Shandy”), the perfection of the language (anything by George Eliot or George Bernard Shaw, and, in my opinion, L.M. Montgomery of “Green Gables” fame), or just the truth, however simple, of the story (Louisa May Alcott is a personal favorite).
    As long as a book is plausibly linguistically fluent, I like to read for the truth, insight, or perspective it gives on life. Some L-literature books expose great sorrows and joys in a way that makes them worthy of their hype. Some, to me, just never elevate me in the same way. I despise “A Separate Peace,” and I just couldn’t live with the ending of “The Grapes of Wrath.” But, even comedy like P.G. Wodehouse tells funny foibles of human nature that strike me as true-to-life, as do lots of Alcott’s less-famous girls’ stories, even though they’re less critically acclaimed. I tried to read Twilight, but couldn’t – to me, the language and the message were both trite and tired. But I’d be willing to try “The Hunger Games” without shame, and to keep reading it, it struck me as having any good it in, whether in spirit, style, or both.

  13. Naomi Bulger says:

    LOL this is such a familiar feeling. I love Hemingway and Steinbeck and Austen and Woolf with the rest of them, but then last year a friend got me hooked on the Sookie Stackhouse novels. I was such a book snob I didn’t even want to try them but because my friend brought her copies over, I felt it would be rude not to. I became shamefully addicted to these books and read every one in the series (so far). Most embarrassing!

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