I have to make a confession…I used to be a book snob.
This was back in the day when all I ever read was non-fiction. And not just any non-fiction, non-fiction about wars and the banking industry.
And when I saw people who read Eat, Pray, Love, I’d scoff at them. Who cares about reading stuff like that when you could read something about important things? At least that was how I justified it to myself, at least.
Book Snob Called Out
I didn’t realize how snobby, and frankly anti-fiction I was until I joined a monthly book club with a couple of other ladies at my 9-5.
We rotated monthly, each picking a book for the others to read.
Every month, without fail, the other book club members would pick a fiction book.
Then when it was my turn, every month, without fail, I’d pick a pretentious non-fiction selection.
Guess who’s books rarely got finished (or even liked) by the group?
It was during one of these book club discussions during our lunch break where I caught an off-handed comment about something I had said that helped change my mind.
We had read the book American Wife, which is a sort of fictional take of a woman loosely based on Laura Bush as she moves through life with her husband going from a librarian to the First Lady of the United states.
I said I didn’t like the book because I didn’t learn anything.
Yup, now I can feel the pretension dripping off that comment.
And this person whispered to someone else, “you don’t always have to learn something.”
At the time I’ll admit, it stung a bit.
But it also made me try to be a bit more open-minded about my reading.
For my next book club selection, I scoured high and low for a fiction book to try to open my horizons. Goodreads suggested that I read The Shadow of the Wind.
The description sounded good, it had very high reviews and so I thought why not?
Thankfully, I decided for once to listen. I absolutely loved that book (I highly recommend checking it out) and it really helped restore an interest in fiction for me.
When it came to embracing different styles and types of books I also found something else pretty important.
You can learn quite a bit from fiction.
Like how to be a better writer. Or the depth of the human experience and condition. You can learn about other cultures and other places around the world that you might never otherwise know.
There is a lot to learn.
Now I love reading fiction.
I’ve even broken my last book snob pretension barrier: science fiction and fantasy.
I always poo-pooed that segment of fiction as being stupid. But now I read a ton of it. I loved the Harry Potter series, and George RR Martain, I’m 2/3rds of the way through the Queen of the Tearling saga and have dipped into the likes of Neil Gaiman and Ann Le Guerin.
These authors are incredible and now I almost look for new books in this genre first before hitting up others.
So, while The Shadow of the Wind helped remind me how much fun I could have reading fiction, I’m still not all the way there yet. It’s taken a while to get to a 50/50 ish split between fiction and non-fiction, something that I’d like to focus on over the long term.
Hey, I can’t completely lose my book snob cred! But, I’m well on my way.
Plans for the Future
I want to read books that explore other places and cultures. I think it’s really important to expand the circle of books anyone reads outside things like gender and race. I’ve tried in the past to read more books from authors and about topics that don’t speak to my own experiences, but I want to expand that out even further.
Which is why I’m already planning something pretty interesting for my 2017 reading goals.
I’m not ready to officially unveil them just yet, but I was inspired to think outside the box about books from a recent podcast from Tyler Cowen with guest Michael Orthofer. I’ll have more on this podcast in an upcoming post because I think it was really interesting.
In the meantime, though, stay tuned.
Have you given your 2017 reading goals any thoughts? I’d love to know your plans, add them to the comments!