Monday, October 02, 2006

Excuse Me, But Is that a Classic You're Reading?

Woo Hoo! According to the article “I Bet You Look Good in the Bookstore” in The Guardian, which I got from Lisa’s blog, reading is hot! Yeah baby. No longer is that woman with her nose in a book a shy, wallflower using the book as a wall to ward off unwanted visitors, it’s an invitation. That book you’re reading could influence other’s opinion of you, maybe even flirting with you.

OK, I admit it. I sneak peeks at what people are reading and form an opinion from that. Not a snobbish opinion, usually. More of a “Wow, he likes mysteries, too,” kind of opinion. And if someone is reading an “Oprah” book, I immediately turn away, that’s where the snobbery comes in. I started out reading books on Oprah’s list but I got so damn depressed I just couldn’t do it any more. So, Oprah books are a no-no. Plus self-help books. Those things drive me crazy, too. I’ve read some, but they aren’t telling me anything I don’t know. A self-help book for me would say, “Get off you duff, Kell, and do something!”

The article says that erotica, horror, self-help, and chick-lit books are a turn off, but classics, biographies, and modern library fiction are turn ons. I can see that I guess. But, are you really impressed with someone reading The Great Gatsby, or do you just think you should be. The real test comes when you start talking about the book.

Aaahhh, and there’s the rub. Just reading a book isn’t enough for me—I want to talk about what I’ve read. Too many years immersed in literary criticism maybe, but I don’t have to have a dissertation on whether Hamlet was really insane, either. Just, what was it that you liked or didn’t like and why? And that drives my hubby crazy. This is the way our conversations about books go:

[he closes a book he’s finished]

Me: How was your book?

Him: OK.

Me: Did you like it?

Him: I wouldn’t have read it if I didn’t.

[he heads to the kitchen for something to drink]

Our discussions on movies go the same way.

And yes, I’ve been in reading groups before. It starts out great, but there’s usually a handful of women (these groups are mostly women) who only want to read about women overcoming something, and I just can’t take it any more. There are so many different genres out there—broaden your horizons. It always reminds me of that Saturday Night Live skit that spoofed that horrible book The Bridges of Madison County. It was the only book the women read and they had really lost touch with reality, to the point where they kept looking in National Geographic for this man’s photos of bridges. Besides, in the group I was in, none of the women would read the book and the evening would quickly dissolve into complaints about their husbands or stories about the cute thing their kids did. I’m a little jaded now.

So, back to the original subject. What books would you be impressed by and what would you avoid? I’m just dying to know!


Jay said...

Whenever I'm at the library or if I just see someone reading or carrying a book I look to see what he/she is reading too. I'm just curious. Especially if it's somebody you've known for a while. Sometimes you'll see someone you know reading a certain book and say to yourself "NO WAY".

I agree about the Oprah books and the self-help books. But, most of all, if someone is reading Ann Coulter I run away from that person.

Newt said...

Well, if I was looking to make a connection with someone, anyone, boy or girl they would have to be looking at general fiction, mysteries, or sci-fi. I'm a little leary on sci-fi because I couldn't get into a "Comic book guy" who lives with his mom, but so many things these days wind up categorized as sci-fi that I couldn't rule it out. And if a person is looking at an author I love, or looking at a book I have read and really enjoyed I will actually comment to the person. More than once I have overheard a conversation when two people are discussing what they liked. If it falls within my reading experience I'll recommend a book or two to them. In other words I can be a nosey busy body in a book store. But 99 out of 100 visits I say nothing to anyone.

I would tend to avoid anyone in the romance section, self-help, child development, computer manual, or buisness sections. You nailed it on the head with the Oprah book club too. And any mass market female author that only rights about marriage, children, divorce, and affairs. Same goes for mass market male authors that only right stories about law firms or military espionage. The creativity level required for any of those books is nill. And almost no grey matter is required to read them.

I'm more of a snob, I like to think a little and reflect a little when I read a book. Grant you I have read my share of mindless beach blanket but my favorites are the stories with a little depth to them.

Betty said...

Impressed? I'd be impressed with a guy who was reading about Quantum Physics, but not necessarily anxious to get to know him. Avoid? Well, I'd avoid the guy in the cape and slicked-back hair, reading Ann Rice.

Kell said...

Jay--If I saw someone reading Ann Coulter I'd have to run away, too. Screaming.

Newt--I have the same problem with mysteries. I don't really like police procedurals, but I like Ian Rankin. I get bored with cozies, but I love Agatha Christie and MC Beaton. So, I just say I like mysteries.

Betty--Someone reading quantum physics would just scare me away--way out of my league. But I do like Ann Rice, that's why we don't always trade books :)

saz said...

I look to see what someone is reading just cuz I might discover a really good book that way. I would run from anyone reading Ann Coulter too.

Gary James said...

I would avoid anyone who was reading Bob the Builder books, at least for a number of years.

My two best friends - one man, one woman - both make presents of books, as I do to them both. Me and the woman can just say, 'here, I bought you a book,' whereas my male friend and I pretend to give each other books that we 'couldn't get into but you might,' sort of thing.

Susan said...

I'm not a snob...I'll read anything if desperate. Although tere are times when I make sure that no one can see the cover if it's something real low brow. (OK, I wouldn't touch anything by Scarey Ann, I do have some standards!)

I just finished a book that KT had checked out. It's not something that I would normally chose to read, but it was a very interesting/informative read. It's called "Born Confused" by first time author Tanuja Desai Hidier. It's a young adult book as I feel the need to keep tabs on those things. It's about an girl of India decent. Growing up, friendship, culture and generational clashes. Just in case you are looking for something different.

Tink said...

Finally! Someone else who thinks Oprah's book club sucks. That Wally Lamb book did me in... I like a wide spread of stuff: mysteries, history, science fiction, biography. My all time favorite series though is "Clan Of The Cave Bear." I just wish that woman would finish it already!

Kell said...

Saz--I've gotten some good titles that way.

Gary--I have a friend who keeps suggesting books to me, and I've learned not to take her too seriously. She's the one who got me into that reading group.

Susan--There are a lot of really good young adult fiction out there. When I worked at a library, I tried to keep up with some of them for the girls who came in.

Tink--I've had so many people suggest "clan of the Cave Bear" to me. I'm going to have to get started on those one of these days!

mike said...

Since my personal political barometer is that I generally won't vote for a candidate if I wouldn't want to invite him or her into my living room, I'll answer the same way.

Anyone with a book bag full of nothing but Michael Moore frightens me just as much as someone with a bag full of Ann Coulter. I also share the prejudice against the Opra-ficatation of books, so in general, customers clutching best sellers are at least suspect.

I find people who read non-fiction hot. Not necessarily current events, but history also. They gain points if they balance their reading... i.e not only reading about Vietnam, but reading opposing views about Vietnam. It's a subtle symbol of an open mind.

Fiction is the same. Give me someone who appreciates the poetry and storytelling of Luis de Bernieres or Mervyn Peake over the latest Jackie Collins.

mike said...

Oh,I forgot. The latest books I've enjoyed? Cynicism and the Evolution of the American Dream, by Wilbur Caldwell; and Jewels: A secret history; by Victoria Finlay

Kell said...

Mike--I'm completely intimidated! Quite an impressive range. I have to look up mervyn Peake--I haven't heard of him.