Do you judge a person by the books he reads?

book snob_Fotor

I once read an interview of an actress during the course of which she mentioned, “I’m a prolific reader’. So what do you read, queried the interviewer? “Mills and Boons”, said she. And there right then she fell from my estimation. Mills and Boons? Is that even reading?

Yeah yeah I was a judgemental idiot.

But dear friend do bear in mind that I was an impressionable teen then. Mills and Boons, to me, were no longer forbidden but definitely looked down upon. Besides, I had begun to enjoy the classics and, I’m ashamed to admit, had turned into a bit of a snob.

Even as an adult if I chance upon a person with a book while I’m travelling I try my best to check out the cover, covertly of course, and then I cannot help but think a certain way about that person.

Do you do that too? No? Think Twilight, think Fifty Shades of Grey, think Chetan Bhagat.

Yeah, it just wouldn’t be right if Mr Bhagat doesn’t come up at this point – the most widely read and even more widely trolled of Indian authors. Not many self-respecting readers are his fans and yet his books break sales records and are made into hit films.

I am pretty eclectic in my reading as long as it’s fiction. So yes, I have read him but I’m not a fan. However, I do have friends who read only Chetan Bhagat and I do not write them off, perhaps because I know them beyond Bhagat.

The point I’m making is that I know the impression of a person purely based on the book in his hand is completely unreliable. I know nothing of the person, I have no clue how he came about the book, I don’t even know whether he is liking or disliking it and yet I form an opinion.

And what if he does enjoy a book I completely abhorred? Does that necessarily make him a ‘not my kind’ of person?

Not at all. And yet I continue to judge.

Go figure.

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31 thoughts on “Do you judge a person by the books he reads?

  1. Varsh

    Know what…I do that too. Anyone who reads cannot help ‘checking out’ the cover of the book someone is reading, and yes, being judgemental about the choice of author or series goes along with it. Definitely, forming an opinion about the person would be unfair. Bhagat has single-handedly aided in the cropping up of hobby writers coming up with half-baked plots in passable language and becoming authors.

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    1. Beat About The Book Post author

      Ah yes Bhagat did start that trend. It’s easy to be judgemental and yet how silly, isn’t it?

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  2. Parul Thakur

    Ha ha!
    So VT at home thinks any kind of fiction is a waste of time. I’m away a struggling to prove that reading is better than no reading 😉 But you are right. People are far beyond the books they read.

    Liked by 2 people

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    1. Beat About The Book Post author

      I agree there – some reading, even Chetan Bhagat or Captain Underpants (for my son 🙂 ) is better than no reading.

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  3. Shailaja V

    I used to turn my nose up at trashy romance novels until I read one or two and actually enjoyed the play of words and the turn of phrase in them. Chetan Bhagat again, I cannot enjoy strictly from the literary point of view, but his books do two important things: sell and interest a generation that doesn’t otherwise read.

    So would I judge a person by the books he reads? I doubt it. I may be a bit of a grammar nerd but I don’t think I am a book snob. I hope not. I’ve had many friends who read an eclectic mix of genres and I’ve been glad to discuss whatever we can when we meet 🙂

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    1. Beat About The Book Post author

      That’s so good Shailaja. Self-awareness is the first step to self-improvement I hope. I am improving I think, but still some way to go.

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  4. Rajlakshmi

    I check the covers too… and if I can’t, I give creepy side looks on the pages to find out what they are reading 😛 I usually don’t judge because I too read all sorts of book but discontinue reading if I don’t like them. Life is too short to read crappy books. But then if someone calls themselves book-lover and praises the likes of ‘Of course I love … till I find someone better’ … Oh I will judge that person … with a haughty look!! 🙂

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    1. Beat About The Book Post author

      Haha.. that’s the thing – it’s tough to remember that the person is way more than the book he has liked.

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  5. Lata Sunil

    I also check what the person is reading, but not so judgemental except for Chetan Bhagat readers. It is also a conversation starter on buses, shared rickshaws. I still read M&Bs occasionally.

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    1. Beat About The Book Post author

      That it is. Once I remember a girl was holding Hunger Games and was telling her friend about it and I just could’t stop myself from nudging myself into the conversation. So hard to resist.

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  6. Inderpreet

    I hear you but I must admit I love M&Bs. Cannot resist them till date though I did stop reading them for a while. And I am a big Vampire fan…blame it on Dracula. 😉
    I like your thoughts…I check out book covers of other readers too.

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. Beat About The Book Post author

      I am a Vampire fan too. In fact I quite liked Twilight – there I’ve said it!

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    1. Beat About The Book Post author

      Ah poor Chetan Bhagat! But I did like some of his books. What I don’t like is that he spawned this whole culture of ‘anybody can write’.

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  7. Sreesha Diva

    OK I don’t know who the actress was but I remember many years ago (when I was in my teens), my mom quoted those exact words from an actress’ interview she had read/watched and she was annoyed that people who read only M&B call themselves voracious readers.
    As for judging people, yes, I sometimes judge people based on their literary tastes. Especially if they are CB fans or Durjoy fans or 50 Shades fans. And if they haven’t or are not interested in exploring anything else. I sigh patiently and hope their tastes improve.
    I understand sometimes tastes vary, but “good” and “bad” literature on a larger scale isn’t wholly subjective.

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    1. Beat About The Book Post author

      Your mum and I read the same film magazines it would seem :-). You said it – the key thing is ‘not being interested in anything else’. You should not be calling yourself a reader of you’re reading only M&Bs. However, the point I was making is we cannot judge a person’s tastes by that one book in his hand.

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      1. Sreesha Diva

        Yeah that’s true, but sometimes we end up doing it. At least * i*end up doing it. The funny thing is, at that moment I don’t realize that at some point I might also be reading a bad book in public and people might be judging me the same way

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        1. Beat About The Book Post author

          Exactly! When I’m travelling I mostly carry a book I wouldn’t normally read, something that’s not my preferred genre. I would definitely not like to be judged based on that.

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  8. Pingback: June Blog Challenge: Day 10 | A Texan's View of Upstate New York

  9. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    A good thought provoking post. As a reader, I too look at covers of books people are reading. I think however that I do it more from interest to learn new books that perhaps I haven’t come across (sometimes it will be the cover that makes me investigate further) and also to find if there is some commonality that will allow the tentative start of a conversation with a stranger. When I was younger I probably was judgemental but as the years have passed by I know that there are times in life that to concentrate on anything other than a good feel trashy novel is all you can manage. How often do you start a book and find you can’t read it but yet at a different time in life you pick it up and love it or vice versa. Belonging to a book club also makes you read different genres and occasionally books that you look down your nose at. Any book that makes it into the chain variety stores is usually considered trash however millions of people read them and like them. I think what you like is very much subjective. I’ll stop there as my comment is soon going to become as long as your post.

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  10. Beat About The Book Post author

    Oh I love long comments so no stress there. You’re right too about enjoying different books at different times. For instance when I travel I am most likely to pick up easy one time reads – like a romance or a short story collection, because I do not want to ‘spoil’ a good book since I would’t be giving it my full attention during travel. You’re right about the bit on starting a conversation too – books are great for that and there’s nothing better than finding a reader with similar taste as yours. Thanks for the ping back.

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  11. Avada Kedavra

    When I was young, I did not know what good literature was as I did not have reader friends to recommend good books to me. But now that I have access to Goodreads and blogger community, so I choose books wisely. I mostly judge folks who only read one kind of genre like chicklit all the time and never explore other genres. I read every possible genre as I like variety but I can’t understand how someone can only read romance or chicklit all the time.

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    1. Beat About The Book Post author

      To each his/her own. I guess people have preferences. For a complete non-reader to read a romance or a chicklit may be a small step ahead in his/her reading journey. But I do agree a reader should try out more than one genres.

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  12. shanayatales

    I guess we are all judgmental in that way, Tulika. I for one, read and enjoy M&B (though they are now a very small part of my overall reading), and yet, I would judge a person if they said that they were a prolific reader just on the basis of M&B. That term is something I would associate with someone who reads across various genres (whatever those genres are).

    Also, Twilight – it gets so much flak. I own the entire series (from years), but I haven’t read the books yet. And here is the thing – in my world, there is a time and place for mindless and/or sappy romances, and I can enjoy those. Everything I read doesn’t need to be great works of literature. But still, still – the criticism makes me second guess. Sigh.

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  13. Tarang Sinha

    I am always curious about people’s reading lists, but I don’t judge them. It’s their personal choices, and it doesn’t matter (to me as a reader).

    I don’t like Chetan Bhagat books (The only book I liked was 2 States), and am not fond of Durjoy Datta, and recent no. 1 Sudeep Nagarkar.

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  14. Moumita

    I basically judge people as readers and non-readers. If a person loves to read, then I don’t judge them by what they read and moreover they are much better than those who don’t read even a newspaper (yes,there are such people). Coming to my reading habits, I have no preferred genre of reading rather enjoy anything having good and impressive style of writing . I feel I haven’t read many good books and would love to read as much as I can.

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