Monday, October 24, 2005

Fashionable Book Buying

According to an article in today's Guardian one in three people buys a book just to look intelligent. John Ezard reports that:

Books are the new snobbery, according to a survey today. Social competitiveness about which titles we read has become one of the new mass forces of the era and only middle-aged people are relatively free of it.

Driven partly by pressure from incessant literary prize shortlists, more than one in three consumers in London and the south-east admit having bought a book "solely to look intelligent", the YouGov survey says.

It finds one in every eight young people confessing to choosing a book "simply to be seen with the latest shortlisted title". This herd instinct dwindles to affect only one in 20 over-50 year-olds.

"The latest literary pressure is keeping up with the rest of your fellow travellers and commuters. Bookshelf contents are fast becoming as studied and planned as outfits as a way to impress others. Books shortlisted for prestigious literary panel awards are becoming 'de rigueur' reading for many."

I confess to finding myself slightly baffled by this information... Leaving aside the craze for buying the latest Harry Potter (which is a phenomenon of its own), I've never considered buying or reading a book in order to be fashionable - but then, as anyone who knows me could tell you, I don't take any notice of clothing fashions either, so maybe that's not much to go on ! Plus, I don't think I possess a herd instinct - I'm such a non-conformist that it wouldn't occur to me to follow a herd.

Where books are concerned (aside from the aforementioned young wizard), I'm more likely to avoid a book that everyone's reading than read it too: The Da Vinci Code springs to mind - long before it became de rigueur to read it, I'd read the first chapter in electronic format and it did nothing for me. When lots of people around me started raving about it, I briefly considered giving it a second chance and my sister loaned me her copy - which sat around on top of my pending pile of books, being ignored and collecting dust, for about a month before I sent it back to her, still unopened... I guess this must make me an inverse snob ?

Oh and spot the gender-change for one of the authors mentioned in this article - I bet the author concerned isn't impressed !


Kelly said...

This article is truly weird, Michele, I agree! (Although I must admit I'm with you on Dan Brown. Have yet to read because "everyone else LOVES "The Da Vinci Code.") Call me a non-conformist too. Or an inverse snob.

Still, no one can make me finish "Infinite Jest" even if I'll look smart carrying it on the metro.

Michele said...

I think that we inverse snobs must stick together ! I confess to having to look up Infinite Jest - it had escaped my notice as I was immersed in First World War literature back in 1996 and the only post-FWW literature I was reading was The Lord of the Rings ! It doesn't sound like my cup of tea, though, so I think I'll join you in eschewing it !

Camille said...

I read Brown's 'Angels & Demons' and thought it was ok but 'Davinci code' is just a redux and if possible more ponderous and plodding. If it were not for THE AMAZING SUBJECT the book would sink like a brick. Even I picked out the bad guy as soon as he entered, "stage left." After I read it, I wanted that time back in my life.

Michele said...

Heh ! I know what you mean ! I felt rather the same after I finished reading (under protest and interrupted by the then latest HP novel) Richardson's Pamela back when I was doing my degree !

Michele said...

Thanks, but I think it is highly unlikely I'll enjoy it. I did say I read the first chapter before the book became so popular, and it bored me senseless. I doubt I'll find it any more interesting a second time around, popularity or no popularity. I'm not disdaining it purely out of inverse snobbery - it genuinely didn't interest me.