I’m probably putting myself out there with this post but I feel I have to address it because I was accused of book snobbery not so long ago.
Book snobbery comes in many forms and I will deal with how it has manifested itself in my life a little later but I’ll start with the obvious book snobs. You know, those people who drop into the conversation the latest ‘must-read’ that’s all the talk in the right literary circles. Have I read it? No I never have. Those who will only ever be seen reading the classics, or something worthy. Those who only have the ‘right’ books on their shelves.
I don’t care too much what people think of me and to back this up there is a photo below that I took of a section of my bookshelves. I promise this is authentic and I very nearly left in place the massive, and dusty, cobweb I found adorning this corner but even I have some standards. I have eclectic reading habits and you will see here two trilogies you may have heard of.
I read an article in a magazine ages ago on the Fifty Shades phenomenon and I wish, wish, wish I had kept the details of it for reference but I had no idea I would ever be writing a blog. Basically it slated the books condemning them and their BDSM content to the fiery pits of hell for the way these books promoted the abuse of women. At the end of the article the journalist stated that she for one would most definitely not be reading the books because of their degradation of women. She said all this and she hadn’t even read them. She hadn’t even read them!! I was honestly surprised the magazine had even printed it.
I am unlikely to reread these books but they are on my shelf for a couple of reasons. The first is that I read these in the summer of 2012 and they were part of the series of events that kick started me to get on with writing something. And before you ask no, not in that terribly pompous way people have of saying well I can do better than that!! I had no idea if I could do better or in fact if I have. What I can say with some certainty however is that I have not sold over 125 million copies. I am also it seems in the minority of people who actually applauds E. L. James and says bloody well done. She was there at the right time with the right book so good on her.
I feel for her actually for having to put up with all the sniping and yes I’m sure the millions she has earned has softened the harsh words but… and this is a word to any writers who read this. How much do you love your characters? How much has it hurt anytime anyone has said something against them? So do we think E.L. feels any differently about her characters? I doubt it and yet she has had to put up with constant criticism about them.
Who the hell are we to sit in judgement of the work of others anyway? In my opinion it is just as well there are as many different types of writers and their books as there are readers and their choices.
The second reason why they are still on my book shelves is that due to my tardy housekeeping I have missed the boat on being able to pass them on. Oxfam has recently pleaded with the public to stop handing them in because they have had so many they have been able to build a fort with them. I can’t throw them away, sacrilege for any book so for the moment there they will sit.
The second trilogy which the cover designers have not made quite so in your face and you may have to squint a bit to read is The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein, so that’s alright then. I can hear the collective sigh of relief, a bit of quality as counterbalance and that’s one to tick off on that top 100 list of books to read before you die. Tell you what though, I know which was more fun to read…and yes, I did just say that.
I’ve read a lot of books over the years but I am not particularly well/widely read. I can’t tick off that many from some of those terribly worthy lists people put together of the books you should read. I think this is mostly due to my laziness, it’s easier to pick up and get into the latest thriller than have to engage brain and concentrate on something a little more literary. It’s also down to the fact my reading time consists of the last 20 minutes at night and, with the alarm clock set earlier than necessary, the first 20 minutes of the day, hardly ideal conditions for concentrating.
I read most on holiday, but this is definitely not the place for highbrow reading I have found after struggling to get excited a few years ago by the several chapters that covered a letter arriving in a village in Emma. However, as Pride and Prejudice is one of my favourite all time reads it’s not like I’m not capable of absorbing myself in Austen, in that case I’m sure it was time and place. My lack of reading pedigree is something I plan to improve over what remains of my lifetime but only out of interest, to see other types of writing, study the way other authors go about things than having been seen to have read a certain book.
So I’m back to the point of this post which was about my book snobbery. I was accused because since I published my own books independently I haven’t read anything else that wasn’t written by an indie or small press author. There I’ve said it…it’s an inverted form of the usual book snobbery but it’s there all the same. So I thought I should do something to counteract that accusation and I have therefore just read One Night in Winter by Simon Sebag Montefiore which is published by Random House.
The blurb reads…
What would you do if your children were forced to testify against you?
Moscow, 1945. As Stalin and his courtiers celebrate victory, a teenage boy and girl lie dead nearby.
But these are no ordinary teenagers; they are the children of Russia’s highest leaders.
Is it murder, suicide or conspiracy?
So begins a terrifying witch-hunt which unveils secret love affairs in a world of merciless power where the smallest mistake is punishable by death.
Of course it has a host of wonderful quotes littering the back page, some of which I agree with, some seem a little over the top.
I feel a little foolish writing a review for this but as I believe in equality in all things it is only fair that I treat traditionally published books in the same way as I do indie published ones. Otherwise I am just lowering myself to the same level of all those who won’t do the same in reverse or indeed often and rather sadly refuse to have anything to do with an indie published book.
My findings? Well my heart sank a little to find the List of Characters stretched to four pages but I enjoyed the read. I will say however that I didn’t notice a stark difference between reading this and a well written indie book. So there wasn’t any ‘so this is what I’ve been missing’ revelation. To read my full review please click here.
I had intended on reading several traditionally published books in time for this post but at 448 pages this was the only one I managed but I’d be interested to hear your views. Do you scour the literary columns to find out and read what’s ‘hot’? Do you read what certain critics tell us we must? Or do you read books you feel you shouldn’t and only discuss those you think you should? I think we should be told 😉
Don’t be swayed by anyone else, do you point out what they should or shouldn’t be eating? or Drinking? or Wearing? Who is right? Who is wrong? Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Read what YOU want and blow the others. I read all sorts, indies, published, non-fiction, fiction, what matters to me is a story I love and connect with and I know the next man or women may well not agree with me, but that’s because we are all individual human beings. I haven’t read 50 Shades of Gray because the subject didn’t appeal, I wasn’t persuaded by the hype or fashion to read it or see the film, I haven’t read the Lord of the Rings trilogy either, but I have read The Hobbit twice. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve read the Harry Potter series and seen the films, because they just fit with me. This year I’ve read close to 60 books already, a mix of published and Indies, but most of all I do it because I love books
Excellent comment Rosie, thanks so much, you’re totally a woman after my own heart – love Harry Potter!! I do read what I want and perhaps should have made it clear that the accusation made at me was tongue in cheek because my choices are pretty much the opposite to the way snobbery is generally perceived.
I can really identify with this G. I think when our time is limited it is much easier to go for lighter, tried and tested reads which bring us most pleasure. There are so many different reasons for reading – as you say to broaden our experiences or to challenge ourselves but these aren’t necessarily pleasurable. Rosie’s point is spot on and as far as I’m concerned it’s each to her own. Anyway if these people who like to point the finger at others spent less time criticising they could probably fit another book in 😀
Thanks for commenting E and you’re quite right of course there are so many different reasons for reading and right now it is my relaxing time so I only read books that I’m going to find pleasurable.
An excellent post, Georgia. I agree with Rosie – read what you want to read. I read roughly as many traditionally published books as Indie books, and I’m not usually a fan of anything literary. I enjoy Shakespeare but, as you say, you have to be in the mood to give it your full concentration. I’d much rather read a synopsis then see it performed. 🙂
I really can’t get into Shakespeare anymore, probably because I did so much of it at school. I have shelves of traditionally published books waiting for me to get to them and am determined to manage a few more this year as there are some great thrillers on there but I agree with you Heather, read what you want to read. Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂
This comes from Terry Tyler who isn’t able to comment here…
I neither know nor care what the ‘must reads’ are, by anyone’s standards, because I’ve only ever read what I want to. I didn’t enjoy LOTR much either; I don’t think I even finished it, but that might be because I don’t like fantasy epics! It’s not silly to review trad pubbed or classics – reviews are for readers, book recommendations, or not, if you like. Books are books – which is why I don’t like to differentiate by only including the ‘indie pub’ in my quarterly top tens on my book review blogs, or my end of year top twenties. To draw a line between the two means maintaining the gap between them, encouraging snobbery, inverted and otherwise. The only way that the self-published can achieve true recognition is to allow themselves to be judged by the same standards as the best of the best, whether that ‘best’ is DIY, small press or traditionally published.
I totally agree with what you say here Terry and I would add that I hadn’t even realised I’d only been reading indie books, until it was pointed out to me. I shall be making a determined effort to read more from across the board in future. You’re quite right about the reviews as well, but that’s just down to my lack of confidence. Many thanks for commenting 🙂
I agree with the comments already posted. I read what I want to read, indie or traditionally published, and don’t want to be dictated to about what I should or shouldn’t read. I didn’t read 50 Shades because, like Rosie, they didn’t appeal to me. And again, I haven’t read The Lord of the Rings trilogy either for the same reason. I’m not really into literary books. I loved Harry Potter, and don’t hesitate to read YA, or even younger, if I fancy them. I’ve just finished an Edgar Rice Burroughs, an audiobook actually, but I enjoyed it despite it’s age, and will post a review.
Thanks for reading and commenting Cathy and it doesn’t surprise me that you read what you want to read as I am very familiar with your blog! I’m glad you said that about reading books meant for younger people as well. I’m always delighted to see The Very Hungry Caterpillar makes it onto many a ‘must-read’ list and love browsing the children’s section of the bookshop for my nieces and nephews 🙂
Reading Dan Brown taught me how to write a pacy page-turning book. Reading Janet Evanovitch taught me how to incorporate humour into my work. Reading E L James gave me an insight in how (not) to write sex. …..Reading ‘chicklit’ taught me how to create well-rounded women with flaws….need I go on? Dickens was considered ‘rubbishy’ by his contemporaries. Wuthering Heights was slated as absolute tripe.
Haha! So true Carol, we pick up such a lot from what we read and what you say about Dickens and Wuthering Heights just shows that books live their own quiet lives and some take decades to be fully appreciated. I find I read all books differently now I have my own out there as well. Thanks for popping in and adding your wisdom to the comments 🙂
I don’t think I’m a book snob and I also have the Sue Grafton set and think she is absolutely and utterly brilliant. I’ve never managed to finish LoTR (hangs head in shame) because I start hyperventilating and having anxiety attacks, haha. I do like what you’ve said here, though, because I’m currently pushing a book myself and running into that ‘do you have a GOOD publisher?’ or ‘has it been reviewed by someone GOOD yet?’ with the clear message that until it is, dahling, precious time can’t possibly be wasted on it. I’m faithful to old favourites, I delight in stumbling across good stuff which often isn’t mainstream, and I think we have far more fun our way than the booksnobs do. Here’s to us! 😀
Love Sue Grafton E! Though I haven’t read X yet. I struggled through LoTR and I know for a fact that if I’d put anything that wordy in front of any editor I’ve had it would have come back more red than black. But there you go it’s horses for courses isn’t it and fortunately there are readers out there for everything written, pretty much. I have just realised that today is the big day for you 🙂 Congratulations and I hope it has gone very well. My copy will be waiting for me when I next manage to get to my kindle and I shall look forward to reading Second Rainbow just as soon as I can 🙂 May all your sales be big ones E!!