One of my favorite things to do on a Sunday morning is take my current book (s) du jour and hit up a local coffee shop, enjoying my latest page-turner with a cup (or three) of freshly brewed java and
bagel doughnut anything made with just all of the gluten. If I’m lucky (and the weather is cooperating with me), I’ll grab a table outside and hunker down for a few glorious hours.
On one such morning a few weeks ago, I was approached by a man rocking a pretty spectacular fedora who wanted to know what I was reading. Now to preface this, I’d like to point out that I am an equal opportunity reader. I like to dabble in all genres by all kinds of authors. I’m talking mysteries and young adult to non-fiction and the literary classics. My book rolodex runs the gamut! On this particular day, I just happened to be indulging in some chick-lit (if you haven’t read One Plus One by Jojo Moyes, you need to! Like, yesterday). When I told this man what my book of choice was, he kind of gave me a kind of snooty, hoity toity sneer, his nose turned up like he just got a serious whiff of sweaty gym socks.
“Hmph,” he said as he turned back to his table. “I’m more of a literary purist.” That’s when I noticed the book he happened to have in his hands: Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past. I’m not gonna lie; I felt my face turning a bright shade of red, slightly embarrassed by my apparent lack of bookish intelligence. Should I be dabbling in these philosophical, historical, meaningful [and ridiculously hard to understand] books too? Am I wasting my time and energy (and ridiculously high level of brain power) on mere chick-lit?
Now, I’m not a psychologist (actually, I’m a librarian which makes things even more confusing. I mean, I am in the business of books after all). I have however been a teenage girl (’nuff said) and definitely noticed that since my crimped hair and Hanson-listening days of middle school, those who scream the loudest about how great they are, are usually the people who are just compensating for actual lack.
This can be applied to many areas of life; school, work, the sports teams you cheer for, and even the kind of beer you drink. The more self-conscious you feel about a certain aspect of your life, the more likely you are to overcompensate for those things/skills/abilities/talents that you think you lack. What I’ve recently discovered is that is also can be apparent in the world of books. Generally speaking, those who are worried about their intelligence level (or lack there of) feel the need to prove their smarts in ways that actual intellects don’t. They suffer from very low shelf-esteem.
Mr. Fedora, I’m talking to you buddy.
Signs that you too may be suffering from a bad case of low shelf-esteem include:
1.You mention what you are reading, but make sure to tell people who your REAL favorite author is (typically someone who’s tres “important”).
“I mean, yeah I’m reading this now, but I usually stick to anything and everything written by Hemingway.
*J.K. Rowling is my girl!
2. You make excuses for what you are reading.
“Oh this thing? Yeah, I only started reading it because…my dog ate my copy of War & Peace.”
*Definitely reading The DaVinci Code, again, because so good, right?!
3. You don’t tell your friends what you’re reading, because you’re intimidated that they read “more important” things than you.
“I’m uhh, well I, it’s actually…but enough about me. What are you reading?”
*Twilight, okay?! I’m reading Twilight!!
4. You nod along when people talk intelligently about dead Russian white guys that you don’t really know anything about…instead of being honest about not knowing.
“Oh yeah. He was the one who wrote that book about that thing that happened a long time ago in that one place, right? Sooooo good!”
*Yep. Nope. I have no idea who you are talking about.
5. You have a fake favorite book for when people ask you what your favorite book is.
“My fave book is totally The Sound and The Fury by Faulkner. Obviously.
*HARRY POTTER! HARRY POTTER! HARRY POTTER!!!!!
6. You keep something fancy on the coffeetable for guests to notice.
“Oh these old things? Yeah they’re just the complete set of Tolstoy’s greatest works. The printed originals. In three different translations. No biggy.”
*Copies I got at a garage sale for $.50 each because they looked neat.
7. You won’t get rid of books you hated because you want people who come over to see that you’ve read them.
“Wow! Of Mice and Men? Crime and Punishment? Anna Karenina? Impressive shelves, girl!”
*Yeahhhh….about those….not a big fan. In fact, I couldn’t finish any of them because I kept falling asleep.
8. You make blanket statements about which kinds of books are bad without actually reading them.
“Pshhh. Comic books are soooo 2014.”
*Comic books are sooo 2015 and I can marry Thor please and thank you.
As I mentioned before, everyone has their reading preferences. I am not ashamed to admit that I love a good tear-jerker, mushy-gushy love story. I think I’ve single-handedly supported the stock in Kleenex for the number of Nicholas Sparks’ books that adorn my bookshelf alone. There’s nothing wrong with reading what you want to read. Ever.
Just because you choose not to read the difficult, heady or highbrow novels all the time (or any time) doesn’t mean that you are in any way less smart or intelligent. In fact, it probably means that you are confident enough in your
self shelf to read what you want, to not be intimidated in any way by judgy McJudgsters who feel your reading is not up to snuff. Be proud of what you read and own your interests no matter what anyone says.
So to Mr. Fedora, I would just like to say, “Yes I am reading the chickiest of chick-lit books and yes it is amazing (and yes I could use a tissue, thank you). So you can just take your Proust and shove it (but not really because that actually is an incredible book and can I borrow it when you’re done?)