Reading Rants from a Couple of Book Snobs

As a bookaholic, I hate to be asked, “Whatcha readin’?” by anyone other than my very best reading buddies.  In this pet peeve, I have an ally.  Cdsquee and I discuss this from time to time, seeing as how she’s possibly an even bigger bookaholic than me.  It throws up our defenses for a few reasons: (1) the annoyance of the interruption if I’m actively reading; (2) the effort of summarizing the story for someone who probably won’t appreciate it; and (3) the inherently personal nature of the question for someone who reads like it’s religion.

If we’re actively reading when you interrupt us to ask, “Whatcha readin?” then you have committed a serious faux pas revealing that you yourself are not much of a reader. Never interrupt a reader except in the case of extreme emergency. After we’ve made the 911 call, then you can ask between hits of oxygen, “Sorry to interrupt. Was your book good?”

Interrupting a reader in the midst of reading is sort of like unhooking Neo’s body while his mind is still inside the Matrix. It could have severe repercussions.

If we’re not actively engaged in reading when Random Person asks us, “Whatcha readin?” then we have another reason for hating this question, which is: Do you really care what I’m reading, or do you just think you’re being engaging?  Cdsquee gives us the following scenarios to help illustrate:

Whatcha readin?

I’m reading book number 15 in a mystery series about an Alaskan Aleut private detective. Have I said enough that you don’t care about?

Whatcha readin?

I’m reading book number 5 in a series about an undead Shaman in an alternative universe St. Louis. Have I said enough that you don’t care about?

Whatcha readin?

I’m reading a historical romance.  I am thoroughly embarrassed about it but I still love it especially when he saves her from the man she is being forced to marry. Have I said enough that you don’t care about?

Even if I’m reading a cheesy urban paranormal romance, my choice in literature is personal and is therefore a reflection of me, particularly the internal parts of me I usually keep obscured from the casual observer.  Asking me, “Whatcha readin?” is almost akin to, “What are your views on God?” Unless I know my audience, it’s never an easy answer. Sometimes, the “why” of the book I am reading is more important than the “what”.  Hence, don’t ask me unless you really want to know.

For instance, I’m not going to tell Random Person that I’m reading a book about a plucky female telepath who is kickin’ it with a weretiger because I’m hormonal this week. When Cdsquee asks me “Whatcha readin”, I know she really wants to know. She may be looking for something to read next time she’s hormonal. It’s a trust thing, and only another bookaholic can empathize. (To be fair, Kimtastic is a respectable bookaholic, too, when she’s not busy ranting about unfair referee calls against the Wolfpack during the ACC tournament).

On a lighter note, one of Cdsquee’s other passions is stand-up comedians. She loves Bill Hicks and has mentioned him before on this blog. If you don’t know Bill Hicks, look him up.  This is one of Cdsquee’s favorite Bill Hicks lines– so apropos to this topic I had to include it.

“I was in Nashville, Tennessee last year. After the show I went to a Waffle House. I’m not proud of it. I was hungry. And I’m alone, I’m eating and I’m reading a book, right? Waitress walks over to me: ‘Hey, whatcha readin’ for?’ Isn’t that the weirdest fuckin’ question you’ve ever heard? Not what am I reading, but what am I reading FOR? Well, goddamit, ya stumped me! Why do I read? Well . . . hmmm…I dunno…I guess I read for a lot of reasons and the main one is so I don’t end up being a fuckin’ waffle waitress.”
― Bill Hicks

Another book question that drives me monkey nuts is, “Who is your favorite author?” Oh sure I have favorite authors, but, chances are, you’re expecting me quote a name that regularly reigns at the top of the New York Time’s best seller list.  I have read most of those authors, but I wouldn’t put them on my short list of favorites. You  won’t hear, Grisham, Sparks, Patterson, Cornwell, Picoult, Roberts, Stockett, Larsson, etc., come out of my mouth, and then you will be sorely disappointed because you thought we could talk about girls with dragon tattoos, or serial murderers, or tragic romances where someone always dies in the end.

At best, you can hope that I’ll say Stephen King. And I will. Love me some King (so does Cdsqee). But then you’ll ask me about Cujo, Carrie, It, or Misery because you saw the movies. But no, I’ll even disappoint you there because I’ll want to talk about The Stand, or something more recent that they haven’t made a movie about like, Full Dark, No Stars or Under the Dome.

Or, the opposite will happen. You might anticipate I’ll list Pulitzer Prize or National Book Award winners, the classics (Joyce, Faulkner, Steinbeck…), or even just the standard list of literary respectables from Oprah’s book club. Then you’ll know that Cdsquee and I calling ourselves ‘book snobs’ has a different meaning from the one you expected.

So, you’ll ask me who my favorite authors are, and I’ll take a deep breath and tell you a few, knowing that you’ll probably wish, after the first one or two, that you hadn’t asked. I’ll say, Gaimon, Pullman, [Aw, crap, she’s already lost me] Lewis, Uris, L ’Amour (sweet spot for westerns), Martin, Butcher, Scott Card, Tolkien, Stirling, Moning, Gabaldon, Andrews…at which point you’ll have walked away, and I’ll still be speculating about the next thing I might choose to read by any of these writers, or which one I’ll read again for the umpteenth time.

I give you fair warning.  Unless you got a spare hour or four, don’t even ask me, “What’s your favorite book?” It’s not necessarily congruent with my list of favorite authors, and it just opens up a whole ‘nother can of worms.  And if you ask that question to Cdsquee, she says she’ll pull up her ‘Books Read’ spreadhseet. She swears to God she will!

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8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Elizabeth
    Mar 13, 2012 @ 02:26:41

    Ha! I went through this phase last fall where all I read were books about people who were kidnapped, abused, tortured, and many other horrible things. I had a (college) student ask me what I was reading and I explained the particular plot of the book I was reading and he gave me a strange look like I was the disturbed one, not the crazyass characters in the book. Then again, he has since stopped asking me that question and stopped interrupting my reading at lunch time. Which is a plus.

    Reply

  2. kimtastic7878
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 18:58:19

    I had a friend who would go to a bar, read a book, then get upset that people asked him what he was reading. I might sympathize if he was in a booth in the back, just trying to get away from his roommate’s loud monkey sex. However, he lived alone in a small but nice apartment with air conditioning, a balcony and a working fridge that was completely capable of keeping beer cold. And he was obviously not seeking solitude since he sat AT the bar, the most sociable part of the restaurant. I mean, if you’re not looking for some one to talk to, why sit in a spot with a captive audience? Anyway, I suspect his annoyance was inversely proportionate to the hotness of the chick asking. I’m pretty sure he never succeeded in picking up a lady, but he was a master at making himself look like a douche.

    Reply

    • squee1313
      Mar 18, 2012 @ 19:04:58

      You know what, Kimtastic? You’re right. Water for Elephants is Sparksish. I listened to it on CD rather than read it and I saw the movie too. I think I have a thing for R.Patt despite Twilight. I listened to the Notebook as well, I didn’t finish it either. I got through most of it, but the end really started rambling so I just chucked it. Notebook and Water for Elephants have a lot in common…old men remembering their lives. Notebook the move, now that’s another thing entirely. We got Ryan Gosling, brooding and sexy as all get out. The reuniting scene is worth paying the $2.50 to rent it.

      Reply

      • squee1313
        Mar 18, 2012 @ 19:08:47

        Kimtastic, I swear to you that I never read in a highly public place. I’ll be asked that question in fairly legitimate reading places, like on public transportation, or during a dine alone restaurant experience. “Will anyone be joining you?” asks the waiter. “Yes, my sexy vampire boyfriend, Eric Northman.” “Whatcha reading?”
        “I’m reading about my sexy vampire boyfriend, you dunce!”

        And before I even finished reading your comment, I was already thinking “what a douche!” about that guy, and then you said it too, so it must be true. Tell me, does he also own an Ed Hardy t-shirt and a collectin of axe body sprays?

  3. kimtastic7878
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 19:07:50

    BTW- I just finished “Water for Elephants” which was very Sparks-ish. Very. He should sue. I’ve never actually read one of his books- Ok well I started reading the notebook once in college on the recommendation of my roommate, but couldn’t get through the first chapter. But I saw “A Walk To Remember” because I love that little Many Moore. And all I’m saying is I wouldn’t blame Sparks for getting pissed that some one was biting his style.
    I’m currently reading “A Confederacy of Dunces”. I think I started it years ago, but didn’t get it. Now I do and it’s pretty freakin funny.
    Mostly I just wanted to prove that I’m semi-literate since I don’t post much about all that fancy book learnin’.

    Reply

  4. kimtastic7878
    Mar 23, 2012 @ 19:00:03

    Oh you silly woman, people who buy Ed Hardy shirts can’t read!

    Reply

  5. Trackback: The Diviners by Libba Bray « Songs in Squee Minor

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