“When anybody asks, 'What are you writing about now?' if I try to reply, the book-in-the-works sounds so idiotic to me that I think, 'Why am I trying to write that puerile junk?' So now I give up; if I could talk about it, I wouldn't have to write it."
- Madeleine L'Engle, A Circle of Quiet


Read What You Want

Saturday, May 08, 2010

I have a confession to make.

I'm a bit of a book snob.

Actually, it's worse than that. I'm really a wanna-be book snob, which means I'm just a poser.

I'm a poser book snob. It's sad.

But I have come to realize that maybe being a book snob isn't all it's cut out to be. Don't get me wrong – being a "snob" about certain things is noble and good. Take, for instance, grammar. Grammar snobs are, in my opinion, noble and necessary forces for good. Without grammar snobs we would have no one to keep the world from collapsing under all the "is-ises", "a whole nothers", and "I seens" that threaten us daily.

But book snobs, while they may serve a purpose, have a tendency to get out of control. If the snobbiest of book snobs had their way, the world would read nothing but Henry James, Rudyard Kipling, and Kurt Vonnegut – and Henry James would be questionable. (By the way, I have never read Kipling or Vonnegut and I was not impressed by the one Henry James novel I read, which proves unequivocally that I am only a wanna-be book snob.) I happen to love certain classics, and there is a reason many of these are classics, but what about the not-so-classic books?

What makes a book a "good" book? For a long time, any time I picked up a book that might be classified as romance or chick-lit, I immediately went into apology mode. "I'm just reading this because I need something a little lighter than my normal fare right now," I'd say. Or I'd excuse myself with, "A friend recommended this, so I really should read it." And if I enjoyed the book, I'd say, "Well, it's no Jane Austen, but sure, I enjoyed reading it anyway – you know, for a change."

Of course, the irony is that Jane Austen and Henry James were the chick-lit of their time, but since they have endured the test of time, and because their use of the English language is so superior to our severely devolved English language, they are now considered serious literature.

The truth is, while I adore Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy, and Charlotte Bronte, I have read many modern chick-lit novels that I enjoyed (shocker!) just as much. (You might want to sit down before you read this next sentence.) I even enjoyed the Twilight series. Yup, you heard right – the series by Stephenie Meyer – with vampires – and teen angst – I devoured all four of them in a matter of a few weeks.

So what makes a novel a "good" novel? I suppose that question would have a different answer from every person who answered it, but I think my answer would come down to this: A good novel is one that engages your interest. It doesn't have to inspire meaningful conversation or deep introspection to be good. If it engages your interest, entertains you, makes you laugh, cry, or just want to read more, it might be a good book.

This doesn't mean I'm equating or even comparing Stephenie Meyer to any of the great classic authors. It also doesn't mean that I think everything on the shelves of the big box book stores these days is good – there's a lot of crappy writing being published that should never see the light of day, especially when a lot of good authors are waiting to be published. All I'm saying is that it's okay to read something simply because you enjoy it.

Or maybe I should say that it's okay for me to read something simply because I enjoy it, since I'm really writing about me. I'm sure you're not a wanna-be snob like me.

So from now on, I'm giving myself permission to read what I want, guilt-free. If I want to pick up something shallow, I'll do it without making excuses. Billerbeck, Kilgore, Carobini, Meyer, Vanderbilt and Dayton, they're all fair game, with no apologies. Chick-lit, sci-fi, fantasy, it's all acceptable reading material, as long as I enjoy reading it.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go do a little light reading.

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At 5/09/2010 10:31 AM, Blogger Blond Girl wrote:

Ah, so happy to read this - I've been waiting for a dose of Geekwif!

I believe that a few of those "I'm reading this because a friends said I should" are because of me. I'm actually proud of you to see that you're now expanding your list to include modern authors. I have a few engaging series that you may want to consider...

And I will say that I've been considering reading the Twilight series. I normally really don't like vampires, but I happened upon the entire Twilight movie on YouTube one day and ended up watching the whole thing. It got my attention and now I want to know what happens with Edward and Bella. I know, it's sad, isn't it. So you think I should read it?

Besides, you don't need to be a book snob; snobbery is not nearly as appealing as most people think it is. ;-)

P.S. I just want to tell you that the word verification word that I need to type is "gacke". For some reason, I thought this would be something that you appreciate the humor of. Perhaps it's our shared love of cats....

At 5/09/2010 10:33 AM, Blogger Blond Girl wrote:

Oh, P.P.S.
Not that many people will find me from you and all that, but can you update my blog in your list so the link actually goes somewhere? Yes, I realize this is a totally vain and narcissistic request. Sorry. Maybe.

At 5/21/2010 3:55 PM, Blogger Geekwif wrote:

BG, you should read the Twilight series. It's a super fast and easy read, so even though the four books are huge it won't take long to get through them all.

That said, I know you, and I want you to promise me that you won't stay up all night reading and then suffer the next day for it. They will suck you in and you will want to stay up and keep reading. Just put the book down at a reasonable time and remind yourself that it will still be there waiting for you tomorrow. :)

I hope you enjoy them. Let me know what you think once you've read them.

At 5/30/2010 9:36 PM, Blogger Blond Girl wrote:

A couple of thoughts:

1. Grammar Geeks also help to save us from the crushing weight of "like" and "I know, right?!"

2. Up all night? No, not so much. But up till 1:30 or so? Um, guilty as charged. I lay in bed, on my right side, reading to the light of my open cell phone. It's sad, isn't it?


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