Why Do Readers Judge Other Readers?


Lately, I've seen a few articles, posts, and comments that have irritated me to some degree. My irritation led me to ask the question:

Why do readers judge other readers based on reading preferences? And why do readers scoff at genres they don’t like and the people who read them?

It’s bad enough that non readers judge us for reading in the first place and then proceed to judge us based off of books we are reading. (And judge us without ever having read the book!)
Other readers are judging readers, too, and I think it’s ridiculous.

People are passionate about the genres and types of books they love. Sometimes, we can’t understand how someone could hate a book we love or could love a book we can’t stand. But it happens all the time because everyone is different. It’s nice, though, to understand why people feel differently about books than we do. Being open minded and trying to understand those who disagree with us is always a good idea.

It’s really easy to get into the mindset that things (not just books) that you don’t like are crappy, stupid, trashy, or beneath you.

Sometimes, popular opinion agrees with you. I mean, we all know what we are “supposed” to think about Twilight, right? It’s so obviously crap. And Dan Brown, too. Right? But what makes what we read any better than these books we scoff at? Sure, we could go on about how they are well written, interesting, complex, etc, but it’s all relative in the end.

The books we like that are sooo much better than those other terrible books are better because we like them. Entertaining books aren’t beneath educational books. They are just different. Reading to learn something is great, but so is reading for entertainment. Occasionally, books can be both educational and entertaining. There are hidden gems in every genre and even smaller hidden gems in every book. Overlooking that is a mistake.

It’s bad enough to judge an entire genre of books because you don’t like. What’s worse, though, is judging people who love that genre. I feel like this happens often with romance readers. Somehow, romance is such a horrible genre that is obviously beneath so many of us, so those who read and love the genre must be stupid women with no desire to learn anything complex and wouldn’t appreciate a good story if it slapped them in the face. (I’ve actually heard someone say this before. *sigh*) The other group this happens to is the YA reading community. Despite the fact that YA isn’t so much of a genre as a category, a lot of the books do have some sort of romantic plot somewhere in their pages. And this, along with the fact that the main characters are teenagers, makes them somehow completely beneath other books. Apparently. And those who read and love YA are obviously stupid, too, as a result. Seriously?

I really hate stereotypes. Especially about books that have romance and the readers who enjoy them. Because good books have romance, too. Love is a human condition. Maybe some books deal with them in different ways, maybe some authors use various tools to tell their stories that people respect more, and maybe dissecting a book in English class makes it better than a book you pick up on a whim.

And then there are the people who insist that whatever they like is the real thing and others are just trash. You know, those who insist Twilight is beneath them because they like real vampires or vampire novels. Real vampires should be terrifying instead of love interests. Instead of saying “Real vampires are…” they should say “The vampires I prefer are…” Because vampires aren’t real at all, we just prefer one kind to another. What makes one better than the other is your own preference. (For the record, I don’t think vampires should sparkle, either, but that doesn’t make them fake as a result or worse somehow.) Anne Rice’s vampires are only better than those in J.R. Ward’s series if you prefer them.

Or the people that insist they read real science fiction or fantasy, not this new science fiction/fantasy that has romance and should be considered romance with science fiction/fantasy elements. Really? Science fiction/fantasy doesn’t typically have romance? That’s funny because I just finished reading A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs and I assure you there was indeed romance (over the top, gag-inducing romance in my opinion, but to each their own.) There are different styles of science fiction and fantasy and one is not real and the other fake; one is not better and the other terrible. They are just different. And people who prefer one kind aren’t better than others as a result.

We should stop thinking that books we like make us superior to others.

We should be happy that there are enough books for the different kinds of people in the world.

We should be happy that people are reading instead of judging what they are reading as crap.

Maybe, we should just do what we do best: read books and stop bashing other people.

I heard an author say (or should I say I saw an author tweet?) that people shouldn’t be happy kids are reading if they are reading crappy novels. There are more intelligent games or shows that he/she could play/watch instead. I disagree. Reading is a good habit to get into and sometimes those crappy books lead to better books later. Instilling a love of reading is the important part and once that is done, people can move around in the reading world and mess with different genres later. Also, reading has to be different than watching television or playing video games. Even if all three make us think and get our wheels spinning, reading requires us to use imagination, learn words, think abstractly, etc. I’m not saying that educational television or video games are worse than reading. I’m just saying they’re different. They make our brains do different things and it’s probably best that young people get the full experience from all of them. One doesn’t replace the other. These activities aren’t interchangeable.

We all have our “gateway” books. Maybe in order for some people to end up loving Dracula, they started out with Twilight. Maybe some people will discover 1984 because of The Hunger Games. Maybe someone will start reading Gossip Girl and eventually fall in love with The Picture of Dorian Gray later on. Or maybe people will always read their preferred genre and that’s okay, too. Maybe these other genres we don’t like aren’t worse. They’re just different. And maybe book snobs will pick up a book in a genre they hate and end up loving it.

We are all readers, we all appreciate books and authors and reading. We share a common bond, even if our tastes are different.

Degrading readers for what they read only shames them and for some, maybe it will backfire and they’ll do away with reading altogether.

I hate that I feel the need to defend my love of certain genres and books. I feel like I need to say, “But.. but.. but I also love other stuff, too. I love 1984, Things Fall Apart, The Picture of Dorian Gray. I read classics, too! I don’t only read YA. I don’t usually read steamy romance!” Because so what if I did only read romance? Why am I trying to defend what I like? I like it. I don’t need to explain myself to anyone!

What I like to read and what I’m in the mood to read at any given moment doesn’t reflect my entire personality. It doesn’t tell anyone anything about me.

I didn’t mean for this post to be quite so long. I hope it doesn’t come across as an angry rant. I’ve just seen too much of this kind of thing all week and I wanted to put in my own two cents. =)

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