Monday, January 21, 2008

"Respectable" Reading

So I'm thinking today about an incident that occurred a couple of summers ago. I had brought a romance novel to church with me because I had gotten there early and had to kill time until children's choir started. Someone approached me to ask about my book, which I put away before she reached me because I knew what she would say about romance novels. I was right--she wrote a whole blog entry about me, sniffing at my reading choice and just generally being very unkind about it.

Fast forward to today. I'm busy adding books to my shelf at Shelfari (MUST recommend that site to anyone who wants to feel better about giving their books away--you can still have them on a shelf and look at them whenever you want to!), and it occurs to me that the format of a book makes a big difference in people's attitudes. If you read a paperback romance, there are oodles of people who will feel perfectly free to look down on you for it and snipe about your plebeian preferences. Put the same book in a trade paperback format and charge five or six bucks more for it, however, and suddenly it acquires this veneer of acceptability. Like, if you paid that much for it, it must be worthy?!

Anyway, I'm wondering if anyone else has experienced anything similar. If you have, feel free to jump in and comment here, because I would love to see what others think about this issue.


jaime said...

I totally agree with you that some people consider certain books "trash" and not worth reading, whether it's a bodice ripper or just any sort of fiction. I just don't let them bother me anymore. I freely admit that I read trash, and I like it!

Erin said...

I just have to ask you how you managed to write down all the books youve read in the past years. Thats amazing..i wish i could even remember to write down any books ive read.

Mellanie C. said...

Jaime, ordinarily I'm very open about what I'm reading, whether it's a Harlequin or Hamlet. It's just that I knew this particular person would not be kind or even neutral about it, and the things she said about me on her blog were very hurtful. She did exactly what I knew she would do, despite my best efforts to avoid the situation altogether.

Erin, I still occasionally forget to put a book on my list, but I have a top-bound spiral notebook that I've been using since January 2003 to keep track of my reading. I write the page count in the left margin, then title and author on the line. At the end of the month, I tally my totals for the year-to-date of number of books read and number of pages. It's just a matter of keeping my notebook handy, and keeping track of what I read at work and adding it into my Reading Log when I get home.

I've done this off and on for years. I wish I had some of my old reading journals--I even kept track of magazines read (I'm kind of OCD about them because I read every article of every magazine). I'm having fun with Shelfari now, because I'm adding the books I've kept that I've read over the years. I love the whole Shelfari concept. I have way too many books, so I generally give them away as soon as I'm done with them. Shelfari lets me look at them whenever I want, and I just love that!

Pammy said...

darn ... I had an eloquent post ... and it disappeared ...

so I'll recap ...

When I was younger I was concerned with what other people thought ... especially about what I was reading.

Now that I've turned 50 (will be 52 this summer) I really don't have time to care what they think. I read what I want to read. And I read what I enjoy.

Don't let someone make you feel bad for reading what you want.

ruthie said...

No one has the right to make you feel bad for what you choose to read. And to put you down on her blog is just so not right. What's respectable to one person may be totally offensive to someone else. It's a judgement call, and one that's best kept to oneself, I think.

That being said, I agree with you that the format of a book seems to determine its acceptability and respectability. Many people seem to have this mistaken notion that more expensive equals higher quality, which is definitely not always the case.

Thanks for a great discussion.