I’ve heard more than one person express worry that they will be considered a snob because they have been only reading classics lately. Why is that?
I made a comment on Claire at Paperback_Reader’s page a few months ago (yes, that’s how long I’ve been thinking about this) and her responses got me thinking about being a discerning reader. In part, Claire wrote:
If there are any gaps in my reading then I like to fill them. I know what I like but I would never consider myself so well-read that I could simply write-off an area of literature that doesn’t appeal to me; I would be scared that it would also be to my detriment as a reader.
I hope I’m not misunderstanding, but unlike Claire, I feel okay putting off areas of literature for now. It doesn’t mean that I’m considering myself so “well-read”: it just means that I have to make choices. I’m realizing I can’t read every book that I want to read. But not only can’t I read everything that has been published, I can’t even read one thing from each genre and still feel good about my reading. There are certain fields that I’m most interesting in gaining expertise in, certain fields that I enjoy above others, and certain genres and authors that I’m incredibly interested in reading next. Those are the works I feel good about selecting to read.
As a result of those selections, there are going to be gaps in my reading, and I fully accept that.
I’m new to so many genres and formats, but I read to learn. I write on my blog to make sure I am learning something. As of right now, I am not an expert in anything: not classics, not poetry, not really old classics. I feel I have been reading a variety of things as it is, and even with that, there are going to be gaps in my reading, especially in terms of newly published works. Assuming the same rate of reading, I’ll only read another 6,000 books in my lifetime. Which 6,000 will it be?
In the past months, I’ve written posts about really old medieval and Greek classics. I’ve written about opera. I’ve started a Classics Circuit, in which I encourage people to read works by classic authors. I’ve written about poetry. I have written about how hard it is for me to read in Spanish. But I honestly don’t know very much about any particular genre. I don’t know Greek classics. I don’t know Wilkie Collins or Edith Warton or any classic era or author in general. I haven’t heard of most of the classic authors people suggest and I don’t know where to begin sometimes. I don’t know how to write about opera or even how to enjoy it (sometimes it is hard, I know!). I’ve only seen four or five operas in my life, and I fell asleep during one of them (yes, really). And poetry: don’t get me started on how inadequate I feel discussing that genre!
The bottom line is, I feel I have so much ground to cover with all these classics (which I’d love to learn about) that I don’t have time to read the Newbery winners or the best selling YA novels (for example) this month. I haven’t picked up a mass market romance novel in my life. I have never read a Stephen King novel. I’m sure there are good books in all these genres, you see, but I have to choose. Since I’m only going to have time to read 10-15 books this month, I have to be selective about what I pick up next. I want it to be a book I really want to read!
I want to be a broad reader, but I’m also realizing how important it is to me to be a selective reader. I’m not crossing anything off the list for good. But I am saying “not now.” For example, I’m not saying I’m never going to read Twilight — just not any time soon. If I ever have a teenage daughter or if I’m ever asked to work with the teenage girls at church or if there is any other reason I feel I should (or if I ever feel like it), I’ll pick up Twilight too. I’m not saying I discount all “romance” at sight. I just have so many other things I want to read this month, I haven’t felt the urge to move it to the top of the priority list.
Why do people indicate that making reading choices could be “snobbish”?
And more importantly, why is it a bad thing to make reading choices?
Does choosing to read Twilight and not a biography of Wilkie Collins likewise make someone a “snob”?
These are the books I finished this week.
- The Creative Family by Amanda Blake Soule (215 pages; nonfiction).
- Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (190 pages; children’s fiction). For My History of Children’s Literature Project.
- The Harlem Renaissance edited by Harold Bloom (300 pages; nonfiction/essays). Background info for the upcoming (February) Classics Circuit.
Each week, I list my progress so I can see how my reading compares week to week.
- Our Latter-day Hymns: The Stories and Their Messages by Karen Lynn Davidson (85 read of 455 pages; nonfiction).
- Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson (on chapter 10 of 30, about 150 pages, from Project Gutenberg; children’s fiction). For My History of Children’s Literature Project.
- Jesus the Christ by James E. Talmage (305 read of 735 pages; nonfiction). My December priority. I’m making steady progress and I was right: it’s perfect for immersion during the month of December!
- The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon (about 350 pages; fiction/really old classic). I didn’t read as much as I expect this weekend beyond Talmage’s volume and the Stevenson books, so I still haven’t begun yet!
Old Library Loot
- Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather.
- One of Ours by Willa Cather.
- O Pioneers by Willa Cather.
- Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Fenyman by Robert Fenyman (on disc 9 of 10, about 11 ½ hours total; nonfiction/science). Eh. Fenyman has become rather enjoying in memoir format. I can’t believe I haven’t quit. But now I’m almost done.
- A Son at the Front by Edith Wharton. For the Wharton Classics Circuit. I’m first in January, so I intend to get to this soon!
New Library Loot
A couple of the books I got were a direct result of The Creative Family, new loot which I’ve already finished (see above).
- The Ultimate Preschool Playbook by Dorothy Einon. For skimming.
- Games to Play with Two Year Olds by Jackie Silberg. For skimming.
- One Dough, Fifty Cookies by Leslie Glover Pendleton. For baking ideas. I’ll probably stick with my own recipes, but oh, the cover looks pretty!
This list includes finds from the past two weeks! Also, The Dewey Tree Project deserves special mention. Online Publicist is encouraging people to donate books this Christmas in Dewey’s memory.
- The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa. Amanda’s glowing review of this novel caught my attention.
- Proust and the Squid by Marianne Wolf. Eva’s thoughts convinced me to read this, as it’s a nonfiction book about how we learn to read. Since my son is just a few years away from this, it sounds like I should read it!
- The Storyteller’s Daughter by Cameron Dokey. Ladytink wrote about this retelling of The Arabian Nights and I love the sound of it!
- Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. Jason’s review reminded me that I meant to finish this someday!
- Nelson Mandela: The Authorized Comic Book by The Nelson Mandela Foundation. Valerie had mixed thoughts on this but I loved Mandela’s memoir, so I should try this one some day.
- Nation by Terry Prachett. Both Becky and Wendy wrote about this Prachett novel this week and it caught my eye both times. Is it time for my first Prachett?