Monday, September 08, 2014

booksnobbery? don't bet on it


Go read this article on Huffington Post by Alexis Kleiman.

It's about the trending subject on Facebook right now, about books that readers have found significant in their lives. Kleinman contends that the bulk of Facebook users are lying through their teeth, and sharing impressive titles that buttress their literary credentials, instead of listing the books they actually read. Don't take my word for it, though. Read what she has to say and then draw your own conclusions.

Here's mine: Feeling morally superior, isn't she?

A few things bother me about this article. The first is that she's being disingenuous about what the list is about. She presents the trend as listing 10 books that have changed your thinking, and gives us a list of impressive titles that, yes, I can see how they could change or influence a person's thinking. Then she turns around and says, "No, those aren't your favorite books." Well, no; it's a list of influential books, not favorites. There's a big difference in those two concepts.
For myself, the only instructions I've seen were "List 10 books that have stuck with you." That's kind of vague. "The Foot Book" has stuck with me, but so has "Night." When I made my own list, I decided to focus on books that have affected me in a specific way, namely my understanding of race relations in America. I'm not going to pretend that they're my favorite books by any means. There was at least one book on the list that I found unspeakably tedious, but I listed it because it is relevant to the theme I selected.

Articles like this get me down, because the intent here seems to be to shame people who have enjoyed books that are literary in nature, and who are willing to share it openly. A few people have thrown the "humblebrag" charge around, and I don't really get it. There's no reason not to name the books we've read and appreciated when we're asked, and I won't allow some HuffPo blogger to shame me for it.

If you want my list of favorite books, it will be markedly different from my current list, and won't even reach 10, because I have a hard time doing favorites with anything. (The Bible doesn't even make that list.)

By all means, list your favorites if you like. My favorites would include:
1. The Hobbit
2. The Fellowship of the Ring
3. The Two Towers
4. The Return of the King

After that, I'm not sure. If we go by the number of times I've re-read them the past few years, I'd list

5. Good Omens
6. Small Gods
7. Inferno (by Niven and Pournelle)

And then I really don't know. Possibly

8. The Kindly Ones

And then I have absolutely no clue what to list next. But at least I can tell the difference between "favorite" and "influential."

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