A book snob is that person you know who scoffs at mainstream or popular book titles. You might be afraid to tell them your favorite books because of their reaction. Or maybe this is the person you know (online or in real life) who trashes anything that isn’t “literary” enough. The book snob (also discussed in this Book Riot article) will give tons of reasons for hating certain books such as bad writing and poor character development, but ultimately it comes down to declaring that certain books are “trash” and the readers of those books are somehow uninformed or ignorant.
For the record, the books many people tend to dismiss are many of the bestselling titles like Fifty Shades of Grey, Twilight, and Harry Potter. Sometimes book snobs disregard whole categories and genres including YA, romance, and self-help.
I am not a fan of book snobbery. The first time an acquaintance (years ago) started to dismiss Oprah’s Book Club picks, I tactfully and bookishly fought back. Oprah was helping people find books by placing a sticker on the cover. Since so many adults don’t know what to read or live in book deserts without bookstores (especially pre-Amazon), a smart woman’s endorsement meant everything. As long as people are reading, I said (and I still believe), it doesn’t matter to me what they’re reading.
When I teach literature, we talk about the literary canon, those works of literature deemed important enough to be taught in every high school English class and republished in every literature anthology. Shakespeare, Faulkner, Hemingway, Wolff, Dickinson, and on and on. The classics. The books you were assigned to read but didn’t actually read. I prompt my students to consider the following questions:
-Who gets to decide which books are “important” or “good”?
-What makes this book “better” than others?
-Why are so many authors, especially authors who aren’t old white men, left off reading lists?
The term “gatekeeper” often comes up and I think of it again each time someone rallies against certain book titles or authors or genres.
It is fine for you to like whatever you like and dislike everything else. Taste in books is subjective. Read (or don’t read) as your heart desires. But why dismiss what other people are reading?
Note: I am not talking about books with blatant hate speech or works of literature that perpetuate stereotypes. I’m talking, in general, about books that are popular and disliked for that popularity among other reasons.