Thursday, April 8, 2010

the dark side of the english department

I can't imagine choosing a major other than English. Writing papers gives me a sense of satisfaction, even as I agonize over choosing thesis statements and stay up until 3 am to finish writing before the deadlines. Reading has always been fun for me, since I was a toddler.

One day in my freshman year, I was sitting with a bunch of fellow English majors, and we were chatting about - what else? - books. There happened to be a copy of The Princess Bride lying around, and one girl rolled her eyes and smiled derisively. "At least it's not Dan Brown!" she snickered. I was taken aback. I had no idea that Dan Brown was not Appropriate Reading Material For English Majors. This was my first encounter with a Book Snob.

For those of you who may not be familiar with Book Snobs, let me describe them for you. Book Snobs are usually, but not always, literature majors who read "the classics" when others their age read Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. They have read Harry Potter, but do not consider the series to be a "favorite" because it isn't "serious literature." One of their favorite pastimes is mocking the Twilight series and bemoaning how badly Stephenie Meyer writes. They are not caught dead with "beach read" books, such as Dan Brown or Meg Cabot. They do not watch TV, except for the news, the Discovery Channel, or maybe HBO if Shakespeare in Love happens to be on. They often walk around quoting their favorite long-dead Russian author. The more extreme Book Snobs prefer black turtlenecks, black coffee, and black framed glasses.

You think I'm joking? I have observed these beings in their natural habitats: the library, the writing center, the English department, and my own English classes. These people repulse me, my friends. I admit, they used to intimidate me. I used to find myself musing, "Maybe I shouldn't be an English major. My favorite books are Harry Potter 7 and Gone With the Wind. I don't like poetry. I don't like William Faulkner. Oh my God, I'm a disgrace!" Then I'd sink lower in my seat and listen meekly to the witty banter of the Book Snobs around me.

I felt like I didn't fit in. And I was ashamed.

Then, this semester, I realized how much I dislike Book Snobs. I don't mind if Absolum! Absolum! is your favorite book ever, or if you'd much rather delve into a little Tolstoy than watch American Idol. I'm not saying that the above description means you're a bad person. It doesn't, really, unless you think you're better than others because you prefer so-called "serious" or "higher-level" literature. True Book Snobs take themselves too seriously. Pretentiousness is the defining characteristic of Book Snobs, and it's not a pretty thing.

This is my confession to the Book Snobs across the world: My name is Susie, I'm a sophomore lit/creative writing major, and I hate William Faulkner. My favorite writers include J.K. Rowling (duh), Shakespeare, Meg Cabot, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ridley Pearson. I like "kiddie" books, like The Kingdom Keepers and Percy Jackson and the Olympians. And you know what? It's okay for me to be bizarrely obsessed with a certain fictional nearsighted wizard. It's okay for me to read Moby Dick and not know what the heck's going on. It's okay for me to be a non-Book Snob English major.

I'm gonna go drool over this, now. I can't wait to read it!

What's your favorite book? (I promise I won't sneer.)


  1. Some of my favorites are:
    "An Old Fashioned Girl" by Louisa May Alcott
    "Beauty: A Retelling of Beauty and the Beast" by Robin McKinley
    "Phantom of the Opera" by Gaston Leroux
    "Rose in Bloom" by Louisa May Alcott
    there are many more. The list just goes on an on. However, I've read very little "high literature". So I know exactly what you mean about book snobs. =)

  2. Ignore them. I do. I love the classics, but I also love Dan Brown and John Grisham, and Anne Perry, and ...
    I think the important thing is that you love to read, no matter what it is.

  3. Reading is great no matter what! Some of my current favorite authors include JK Rowling, Lois Lowry, Suzanne Collins, JRR Tolkien, Christopher Paolini and Hermann Hesse. And I've read all of Dan Brown's stick that in your black pipes, Book Snobs!!

  4. A few of my favorites are:
    The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
    The HP series
    Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
    Macbeth by S'speare

    And I haven't read that many classics. So you're in good company :)


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