Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Why Don’t You Tell Me What I’m Allowed to Read?

When it comes to reading, some people have strong opinions about what is appropriate. As I learned from my post defending romance novels, people don't mean to judge other people who read certain types of novels...it's just a side effect of the comments they make.



Literary judgment isn't limited to romance novels. The recent outcry against adults reading young adult novels is proof of that. Some people believe unless you're reading a literary classic, you may as well be watching reality TV.



I actually have personal experience with this. When I was a young PR consultant, I interviewed for a job in marketing at a very prominent bookstore. The interview was going well until she asked what types of books I liked to read. This man was part of my answer...




There wasn't even a delay. The woman looked absolutely horrified.



I thought later about the answer I should have given. It would have been a lie, but it might have helped me land the job. It's the answer we're all supposed to give when someone asks what you read. Just memorize the titles on these spines and you'll be all set.



When someone asks what you like to read, do you tell the truth? Or do you modify your answer based on what you think the person wants to hear?

This song is all the rage this Christmas...if you haven't heard it yet, you have to listen to it.

91 comments:

  1. She balked at Stephen King? The dude's book sales were probably a large slice of the sales keeping that store alive.
    Literary is overrated. Most of it is really boring. I have no problem telling people what I read - fantasy, science fiction, and thrillers. And I might add, the Bible. Have no problem telling them that, either.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a good answer when someone asks your favorite book. "The Bible." Nobody will make fun of you for that one!

      Delete
  2. I'm at the point in my life where I read what I want to read, and I don't care what other people think about it. I also don't care what other people read. As long as people are reading, I'm good. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree. With so many distractions, we should encourage anyone who wants to read.

      Delete
  3. I do not lie when asked what authors I read. Stephen King isn't one of those, but I love all things Dean Koontz. I wouldn't look at you weird because you love to read King. I think we all have our favorite authors and I think that's a good thing.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I used to like Dean Koontz...but I read a couple of super-violent books of his and just couldn't bring myself to read another. I even tried to re-read Intensity, which I enjoyed when I was younger. For some reason, if there's torture involved, I can't read or watch anymore.

      Delete
  4. I think it's more important that people actually read than what books they choose.

    ReplyDelete
  5. oh, and I love SK, too :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think we shouldn't judge others for doing what makes them happy. Even if it's watching Jersey Shore!

      Delete
  6. There isn't much I don't read, so I don't need to modify my answer. I love The Hunchback of Notre Dame and I love Bridget Jones (except the last one). If the writing is good and it's well-plotted, it's a book worth reading. Sadly, I'm finding more and more books with shaky plots full of holes and terrible writing (in the technical sense -- grammar and structure).

    If I give a book a bad review, it isn't because I didn't enjoy it, it's because it was poorly written. There are a few books I didn't like that I will say were very good books. Also, I hated Wuthering Heights and I have no idea why so many people love that book!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I find it interesting they're calling the latest Bridget Jones books "Bridget Jones for the 21st century." The other books came out in the late 90s. A few things have changed since then, for sure, but come on! It's not like it was set in the 50s!

      Delete
    2. Ha ha! The last one wasn't even very good. Better than a lot of other stuff being published, but paled compared to the first two, which were awesome.

      Delete
  7. I am often talking about the books I read but so few people read the same books as I do--I have enjoyed some of the classics, but also a lot of non-fiction and regional focused books as well as memoirs. And the Bible, I do read the Bible as well as some long dead theologians (and a few of Mr. Kings books).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I haven't read a King book lately--these blogs I've written including him make me want to read a few, though! The one about the time traveler who goes back to Kennedy's assassination was the last one I read.

      Delete
  8. I watch, never ever reality tv, blah lol, and read what I want. Someone doesn't like it, they can stuff it. Everyone is entitled to read or watch what they like.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. SO true--although I guess if you're marketing director for a bookstore, you worry about that sort of thing. That's a tricky question, though, if you're basing hiring on what the person enjoys reading.

      Delete
  9. I will read anything (except Fifty Shades, I couldn't finish the last book, my brain refused to keep reading) so I don't judge people for what they read. Except possibly my kids and that's only because they are super repetitive in what they read. I don't like most romance but I will give it a chance (not all books are created equal).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I made it through the first or second chapter of 50 Shades. I think the fanfic thing is what made that one take off. She had a HUGE following as a Twilight fan fiction writer and all of those people bought her book. There really was nothing all that special about it--there are MUCH better romance novels out there, in my opinion.

      Delete
  10. In most cases those prejudices against YA do have a healthy basis in reality :PPP As someone who has MA in literature and has also translated and read tones of popular genre books, there certainly is a huge difference and most wouldn't even call them literature, but as always, there are exceptions. My bigger problem is people who think Jane Austin is classic literature :) You may like her, I really don't mind, but that is not a serious literature.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You might want to tell the college professors who teach Austen that her books aren't literature ...

      I also have a degree in literature and I think most people in the field agree that Austen is serious literature -- even those of us who aren't fans.

      Also. there is some excellent YA out there. It isn't all the same. A book is YA based on the main characters' ages, not the book's quality or literary level.

      Delete
    2. That is why I said 'in most cases' which you failed to notice :)

      Austen will never be serious literature with its superficial topics and silly characters and can never stand side by side with French, German and Russian classics which have depth dealing with serious social issues and build characters almost scientifically. Austen's novels are cheap weekend booklets about constantly fainting lasses and bored rich men

      Delete
    3. I've personally found that people tend to scoff at things that aren't within their taste range. I had action adventure movie fans tell me back when I was writing romance that "all romance novels are alike." When I pointed out that every action movie I'd seen since 1988 had the same plot, they didn't see that at all. If you aren't a fan, you don't get it, I've found. It just all blends together into a bunch of stuff you don't like.

      Delete
  11. I usually do. Young adult. I haven't had to deal with any literary snobs though so maybe if I did, I'd do a little fibbing too. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Some of the best books out today are young adult. They win awards, are made into movies... 13 Reasons Why was incredible, as was Faking Normal. These are some fairly deep books with multilayered characters. Even The Fault in Our Stars, which non-fans saw as cheesy, had a very deep message that really made you think about life. That's what it's all about, after all.

      Delete
  12. If I have to form an answer based on what someone might think of me, I don't really care what that person might think of me.

    You would not have been happy with that job.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree...I ended up becoming Public Relations Director for the Tennessee Arts Commission. The bookstore job would have required me to help out on the cash registers at Christmas when things got busy--so it was Marketing Assistant, but it was definitely entry level. HOWEVER, I would have gotten to work with all the authors who came in for signings, which would have made all that worth it. I think that was the job where they went with someone who had a master's degree. At the time the job paid $18,000 a year...so that tells how valuable it is to be able to meet visiting authors!

      Delete
  13. Great topic, and one of my kids is a huge Straight No Chaser fan and saw them in concert last year.

    I'm surprised Stephen King would be frowned upon! I think it's important to read some of the classics in high school, but when you are an adult, read what you want! There are classics I love and classics I hate. Same with any genre. It's good to try a bit of everything.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I loved Straight No Chaser's Can Can Christmas song. I heard this one on the radio yesterday and didn't realize it was Straight No Chaser. I was just mesmerized by the girl's voice--only when I got home did I figure out it was actress Kristen Bell. Where has she been hiding that singing voice all these years? Until Frozen, I didn't even know she could sing!

      Delete
  14. I am very honest about what I read but then again, having a blog and posting reviews pretty much takes care of that for me. :P

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is true--and to be a reviewer, you probably have to have a wide range of reading tastes.

      Delete
  15. I'm just not sure why people need to have opinions about what other people read. A good book is a good book, and if the purpose of reading is for enjoyment, then who cares what it is as long as the person reading it is having a good time doing so?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think perhaps it makes them feel better about what they read? I think we all have "guilty pleasures," though, even literary snobs!

      Delete
  16. cute video. such a strange world we live in these days. :)

    i answer truthfully - that i rarely read books (sorry!) and when i do, i read self-help, new age, spiritual stuff. haven't read fiction in about 25+ years. don't really know why.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I used to read a lot of celebrity bios when I was commuting to work every day. I could listen to them on audiobook and they didn't require the intense focus that fiction does. I found it much easier to do that and drive than listen to fiction, where my mind was constantly drifting to my surroundings.

      Delete
  17. I didn't think Stephen King was for me until I was staying in a holiday home and someone had left a couple of his novels behind. Having run out of other books to read, I picked up one of his and loved it. The great thing about that was that it broadened the range of books I read. Let's face it, there are far more books out there than any of us will ever be able to read in one lifetime.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A lot of people assume all of Stephen King's books are horror and they aren't. I can't believe how many people are surprised when I tell them The Shawshank Redemption was based on one of his short stories. 11/22/63 was more sci-fi/adventure than horror, really.

      Delete
  18. Been there! I read a lot of the classics but honestly, they didn't do anything for me and I had to read the Cliffsnotes just to understand them. Did it make me feel stupid? No. Do people give me looks like I must be an idiot when they hear I didn't like Wuthering Heights, but consider Anna and the French Kiss a literary masterpiece? Yes. I'm always honest and proud of what I love, whether it be a YA book or a Disney channel musical hehe :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm with you!!! My mind drifts when I read older books. The language is beautiful and poetic at first, then it just gets old. My mind goes elsewhere. I've read the classics...I just prefer modern-day books. I don't like to live in the past in anything I do--I don't even usually watch old movies and TV shows. To me, it just feels too much like living in the past. (Although I do enjoy the Twilight Zone and get a kick out of how they were always talking about "the good old days" of the 1930s on that show!)

      Delete
  19. The only reading that is wrong in my book is not reading. If that makes sense. I don't let genres define me and will happily read and reread just about anything and everything - from childrens books to the classics, stopping off to explore at a lot of places on the way.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think that's a good idea--genres shouldn't define us. I have certain genres I prefer to read, but I've liked at least one book in every genre at some point.

      Delete
  20. I don't say what I like to read. I've read some literary classics, and I actually like some of them. I have nothing against contemporary fiction either. I guess the question doesn't really come up for me too much.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It doesn't come up very often for me anymore, either, and I'm an author! You'd think it would.

      Delete
  21. I've read a lot of classics, and I'm glad I did, and I still read literature, but I love genre fiction, especially speculative fiction, historical fiction, and other stuff to make a snob cringe. I think reading anything is fantastic. When trying to get my brother to read more, my mother gave him comic books. Reading is always fantastic.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I read a lot as a kid--mostly contemporary books that were popular fiction. If my mom had limited me to classics, I might never have developed the love for reading that I have now!

      Delete
  22. Well that woman is a but pretentious. it's the same in art, one is supposed to love the Masters but also Warhol and Christo but if you say you love Robert Bateman they look at you as if you committed an act of murder. These are the same people who have no life and you are better off never to have worked for this person. I bet it would have been hell. i am happy to say i read about film, bios, art and even People magazine when it looks good to me. I don't care one bit what others think..life is too short to deal with peoples' judgements

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When I was the PR person for our state arts agency, one year I had the brilliant idea to hang a Thomas Kinkade calendar in my cubicle. It seemed relevant... I was told that I had "hotel art" in my cubicle. At the same time, we had a painting of a guy holding a gun to his head in the gallery. Thomas Kinkade paintings made me feel at peace...the gun painting made me want to turn it around so I didn't have to look at it!

      Delete
  23. The song is cute as can be. I'm a literary snob, but even I know that if you work in marketing you need to be up to speed on what's popular. It doesn't bother me if people read romance novels. I like YA. If someone asks what my favorite books are, then I don't have a problem telling the truth. They usually say, I've never read that. I say, That's okay. You can live without it.

    Janie Junebug's favorite novels: 1. The Great Gatsby 2. A Portrait of the Artist As A Young Man 3. The Sound and The Fury

    I like Anne Tyler and Amy Tan and Anna Quindlen and Jane Austen and Dee Ready and EC Stilson and Pat Conroy and tons of other writers. When everyone else talks about the latest mystery or romance novel. I don't know what's going on. I don't care that I'm left out. It's my choice. We should read what we like to read and not criticize other people's choices.

    Love,
    Janie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a diverse selection in the last paragraph! I think it really helps us grow to read a wide range of types of things.

      Delete
  24. I truly believe that any reading is better than no reading. It drives me nuts when people judge others based on book choice. We all find joy from different things in life, and reading is no exception. And who knows what wonderful journeys are out there, just waiting for us to take them with the characters?!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think we can learn from any book, definitely. I learn things even from reading kids' books. You're getting a different perspective on the world than you would have otherwise, definitely.

      Delete
  25. I love to read all kinds of books and I think it doesn't matter what you read. I read YA, MG, picture books, classics, chick lit, romance, mysteries, etc. Different books for different moods and there are so many stories and worlds to enter. I think people who judge might only like certain books or might feel that the books they like are better in some way- I don't know I just don't get it. :)

    That is my first time hearing that song!
    ~Jess

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's brand new for this season! Kristen Bell (the female singing) is pregnant--there's a behind-the-scenes video of her singing and when she finishes, she goes to the control room to ask how she did. They're all too busy texting to answer.

      Delete
  26. Who doesn't like Stephen King? The man is a genius.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think it's literary snobbery--but I personally think Stephen King will someday be studied in English classes as one of the best literary minds of all time. He just won't be appreciated by the elite until we're all long gone...but I'm sure he's perfectly fine with that! "Laughing all the way to the bank!"

      Delete
  27. I have no problem telling people what I read. I just can't confine my answer to certain genre anymore. For example, I normally don't read books about war but I have read several that pulled me in and won't let me quite until I finished them. Their loss for not hiring you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'd say, "Depends which day you ask me!" Mostly I tell people I read chapter books and middle-grade novels--books for people between the ages of 5 and 12. That's what I write, so that's primarily what I read. They don't ask questions after that.

      Delete
  28. I tell people what I like, it's unfortunately not always the best thing as was your case in the job interview but I think I only read two of those books and I had to because they were required reading in school... they aren't really my type of novels to read ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I did enjoy a few of them. There was a short story called The Necklace (by Guy de Maupassant) that still sticks with me to this day. All I remember of it was this poor woman lost an expensive necklace, so she replaced it but she had to work years to replace it. When she met the owner of that necklace years later, she found out it had been fake and if she'd just been honest and admitted she lost it, she would have saved herself years of misery.

      Delete
  29. I hadn't seen the Text Me Merry Christmas. What a hoot. Thanks for sharing.
    And I'm appalled Steven King wasn't appreciated. Your post made my evening:)

    ReplyDelete
  30. I think the lady at the bookstore should have been glad that you at least read! I like to read modern fiction; if someone likes historical romance, that's fine with me. We all have different tastes with clothes, food, etc., why shouldn't it be the same with books?

    betty

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have a feeling she would have kicked me out right then and there. I think her questioning also included requiring me to name the last few books I'd read.

      Delete
  31. I always tell the truth because I'm always trying to convert people to paranormal romance. lol

    ReplyDelete
  32. No I tell the truth but it's difficult because they don't understand. I read a lot of UF so when I try to explain what the genre is, they look at me like "well it's like twilight"... yeah no. One, it's adult, Two, I didn't like twilight. But well in the end it's complicated.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When I worked for the state, one of my co-workers said, "You write? You should write a book like Harry Potter. That author is really rich now." Yeah, I'll get right on that!

      Delete
  33. There are three things that I love to read that people might judge me for: true crime, Archie comics, and fashion/women's magazines. But I don't hide it. I read a bit of almost everything, except maybe romance and scifi, but if a book in that genre interested me, I would read it. I was a bit embarrassed when I was re-reading the Flowers in the Attic series and took it on the bus, though.

    I hate literary snobbery, and here in Canada, we have SO much of it. If you're not writing fine Canadian lit about an old woman reminiscing about her life while gazing with melancholy upon the wheat fields...or poetry about similar subjects...you're a hack. It's infuriating. If it's popular and a lot of people buy it, it must be crap.

    I like some classics and literary novels, but I've also read plenty that were bad. Great Expectations was fantastic, IMO, but Dickens could have used an editor for A Tale of Two Cities (great story, but some horrifically bad writing). Some classics are just too far from today's reality to be enjoyable anymore. Few people I know want to spend a month reading about what Russia's farmlands looked like in the 1700s.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The one thing I like about writing children's/middle grade fiction is that nobody gives me crap about it. They're actually very supportive. When I wrote romance, I heard all kinds of horrible things. "You're writing that trash?" I worried people would look down on children's writers but they don't at all. Perhaps it's because children's and YA are more popular than they've ever been before...but also, how can anyone fault books that encourage children to read?!

      Delete
  34. I read all sorts of novels according to my mood: romantic comedy, crime, thriller, horror and young adult books. I think a writer can learn so much from reading a variety of genre and styles. I hate snobbery of all forms: it's just plain ignorance and a lack of willingness to open one's mind. I think you are right to have told the truth at the 'snobby' bookstore. Would you really have wanted to work alongside such people? In my opinion, the main objective of reading fiction is for enjoyment and appreciation of a story.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would have loved that job...but I ended up much better off, since the job I landed was with the state and it came with a pension that I'll get when I'm old!

      Delete
  35. People rarely ask me what I read. I don't worry about telling people what I read.

    I don't like literary snobbishness. Reading is entertainment and education, plus many modern books qualify as classics or future classics.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Yes, I've heard of Edelweiss, but I'm afraid to commit to them. I'm already a member of NetGalley.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I joined Edelweiss first--a fellow S&S author recommended it. I get all the upcoming Aladdin M!x titles before they come out and get to review them on Goodreads early.

      Delete
  37. I'm not a literary snob, but I've met many people that are. I find it awful that parents invoke this belief into their children too. Love video and your entire post. I never mind telling people what I'm reading, it may just enlighten them to new great authors.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So true--and if they don't even want to open their minds to try it? Their loss!

      Delete
  38. Love the song and hadn't heard it! Really does say a lot about society and where we are today. As for reading I'm of the firm belief that any book you read is a good book.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, we definitely spend far too much time texting...and most people don't spend enough reading!

      Delete
  39. This year's reading was focused on Biographies. I've learned things about people I wish I never had, but that's part of it... read whatever you want.
    Cute little song!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I felt that way after reading Rick Springfield's biography. I probably was better off not knowing what a jerk he's been to his wife. I didn't know what was worse--that he's repeatedly cheated on her for the past 30 years or that he embarrassed her by writing about it in a very public memoir.

      Delete
  40. I try to tell the truth most of the time. There are a few times when the person will argue so we just don't talk about it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, I try not to argue with people who are narrow-minded. They'll never see anyone's point of view but theirs. I feel sorry for them that they'll never be able to see outside of their tiny little worldview.

      Delete
  41. I generally tell the truth about what I read because it's what interests me and I don't feel the need to hide that.

    I think it's ridiculous to tell people what they can/can't/should/shouldn't/must/musn't read. Whatever gets people reading a book is fine by me!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think people become annoyed over really popular books. You can see the hatred in the reviews of Gone Girl or Twilight or 50 Shades of Grey (as examples). As Nathan Bransford once said, though, if a book is successful, there's usually a reason for it. It resonated with the public for some reason and instead of freaking out over it, we should study it and learn from it.

      Delete
  42. :( I can't believe she balked at Stephen King... I find my own voice growing small when I tell people that I enjoy YA reads, but have no hesitations admitting to enjoying epic fantasies. I try not to be bothered by it (for my own sake). There shouldn't be any shame to admitting what books we enjoy reading so long as we are reading.

    LOL on the Jersey Shore meme. Love it.

    ReplyDelete
  43. I always try to be truthful about my likes an dislikes, in a kind way. That approach is totally self serving; I don't want to be forced to read something that has no appeal to me.

    Everything that is hugely popular will peak and then be a target. People are fickle. But I find it annoying that so many say they don't like something when it falls out of favor (said the lady who would still listen to the Beatles and the Monkees).

    ReplyDelete
  44. Matt Haig wrote a blog post about reading whatever the hell we like and that we shouldn't be made to feel squirmy about our favourite genre. (What's wrong with reading Stephen King?)

    ReplyDelete
  45. I read all kinds of genres from mg to adult. And I must say I loved the Twilight Series when it came out, and the bashing poor Stephanie Meyer is receiving is weird. 50 Shades, I understand.

    ReplyDelete
  46. If people ask what I read, I tell them. If they ask what I don't read, I tell them as well. I save most of my venom for literary fiction/non-fiction.

    Father Nature's Corner

    ReplyDelete
  47. Whew! You generated a lot of comments here. It's a great discussion. I'll just add that one of the greatest books I've read on writing is...ON WRITING, by Stephen King.

    ReplyDelete
  48. Went back and read your defense of romance. Loved it! I read and write romance, but I also read other genres. I usually have to defend my choice of romance every time I mention it, but I refuse to be cowed by narrow minded opinionated people trying to brow beat me into reading what they think is good for me. lol! Great post!

    ReplyDelete
  49. I'll read off-the-wall items just so people will look at me like that. I adore breaking arbitrary "rules" that are utter nonsense. You know what happens to people who read (whatever genre or author will get a gasp)? They learn to enjoy reading, and then do it more. You know what happens to people who only read books that they don't like? They move on to another "hobby," and never understand why some people like reading.

    ReplyDelete