Saturdays @ the South: Book Shame & the Right to Judgement-Free Reading

embarrassed-readingThe other day, I read an article in Business Insider that talked about the “real” reason people buy e-readers. It wasn’t the ability to offer hundreds of books at your fingertips (making the loads for readers that travel so much lighter), or the opportunity to read free and steeply discounted classics, or the chance to read a book in any size font (great for books that never made it into large print), or even  having an in-text dictionary available while reading books with insanely broad vocabularies (I’m looking at you China Mieville!). Nope, according to this article, the reason people like e-readers is so that no one can tell what you’re actually reading. It got me thinking about how people categorize their reading and the fact that, whether we like it or not, there is a certain level of pressure about what is and is not “socially acceptable” reading on the subway, or park, or any other public place where people can possibly judge you for your reading tastes.

As a librarian, and as someone who believes in wide access to reading materials of all types, this gets my ire up. As a human being it bothers me that people make assumptions and snarky judgments about someone based on what they’re reading. Reading tastes are as wide and varied as the people who enjoy them and they aren’t necessarily representative of who that person is or is not. Reading sci-fi doesn’t make someone a dork; reading romance doesn’t make someone a sap. It doesn’t even necessarily represent a genre preference or an author preference. Horizons can be expanded in any direction. Why should people be embarrassed for this?

In one of my classes for my MLIS, I was appalled to read about how librarians used to try and “guide” (i.e. force) readers into “correct” choices by telling them they should be reading “proper” literature. There was even a push to keep popular authors out of libraries because it wasn’t what people “should” be reading. Today, any librarian worth his/her salt today should have their hearts leap with joy because people are reading (no matter what or in what format), but readers now fear public judgment instead. In a Bustle article about narrowing down book choices to read, one of the “concerns” was: “will this book cover embarrass me in public?”

In one sense I’m glad that e-readers have enabled people to read what they want with less fear of being embarrassed, but I don’t see the need to be embarrassed by reading something you think you’ll enjoy in the first place. Therefore,  the point of this little rant is to call for a ban on book snobbery, to recognize fellow readers as kindred spirits in the fact that they are reading for pleasure and to accept each other’s tastes.  As such, here are some suggestions to read, in hard copy, in public, unabashedly. Borrow them freely knowing that we at the library will NOT judge you for what you read and your tastes will be respected:

319963450 Shades of Grey Trilogy – E. L. James

I’m going to address the giant, handcuffed elephant in the room right off the bat, although frankly, given the popularity of these books, the new Grey sequel AND the movie, I wonder why people are even raising their eyebrows at reading this anymore. Over 100 million people worldwide can’t all be wrong…

3081372Flowers in the Attic – V.C. Andrews

There’s something about a book that has characters with lots of secrets that somehow makes people think that reading that book should be a secret. Time to let the cat out of the bag and bring this book out into the open. If you get the South Branch’s copy, you’ll be treated to a double-feature with this book followed by the sequel, Petals on the Wind.

2393457Twilight series by Stephanie Meyers

Yes its another example of 100 million people can’t be wrong, but the Twilight series also brings to light an interesting note about YA books and the stigma attached to them. Some feel that YA books should be left for younger readers and aren’t suitable for adults. As someone who has already gone on record encouraging adults to read children’s books, I see no reason why adults can’t read YA books. And as a rebuttal to these naysayers, I offer you not one, not two, but three articles recommending great YA reads.

3640167Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley 

This book, and often fantasy in general is looked upon as not having any “literary merit” (though I’d defy anyone who’s read anything by Neil Gaiman to prove that comment). But fantasy, much like romance, has the ability to take people out of their norms (and sometimes out of their comfort zones) which may be exactly what the reader needs at that time. What are books for if not to give our minds a bit of a vacation?

2644601Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

I recommend this book, not so much because this title is considered a “guilty pleasure” but because it is a graphic novel and those are often categorized as “geek reads” or too “immature” for adults. Well, they’re not. There are plenty of graphic novels that deal with adult content and can be downright enjoyable for adults to read. And this article tells why far better than I could.

Before I sign off for this week, I’d like to thank my terrific friends who helped me think a bit outside the box and compile this list! My hope is that they, and all of you never feel the need to justify, make light of or be embarrassed by anything you read. Feel free to leave a comment about your favorite no-longer-guilty pleasure book. Till next week, dear readers, be proud to be readers, whatever your tastes are!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *