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PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2005 9:30 am 
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Interesting article from the Guardian.

Quote:
John Ezard
Monday October 24, 2005
The Guardian

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 British Airports Authority and the travel website Expedia, which jointly commissioned the poll of 2,100 people as a prelude to their own travel books prize ceremony on Tuesday, say it suggests snobbery is no longer just a matter of keeping up with the Joneses.

"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."

Yet the results indicate that "reading" is a relative term. When asked about specific titles, only one in 25 people turn out to have read the novel chosen as the best in the Booker prize's 25-year history, Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children - and half these had failed to finish it.

Only one in 100 had read Andrew Levy's Small Island, picked earlier this month as the best of all Orange prize winners. Not a single reader had yet opened this month's Booker winner, John Banville's The Sea.

Other strongly publicised titles endorsed by literary panels fare only slightly better. One in 20 members of the public has read Zadie Smith's White Teeth and only one in 25 Yann Martel's Life of Pi or Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist.

Some consumers hedge their bets by keeping two titles on the go - one an impressive book to show other people, the other an escapist work to enjoy.

The biggest group, more than two in every five people, follows the traditional method of choosing their reading; relying on recommendations from close family and friends.

The sample's own top 10 titles, a mixture of classic and popular, is: the Bible, Lord of the Rings, one or other of the Harry Potter stories, Catch-22, Animal Farm, The Hobbit, Pride and Prejudice, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Da Vinci Code, Wuthering Heights.

Elyas Choudhury, an Expedia director, said yesterday: "We seem to have lost sight of the fact that reading a book should be a personal, enjoyable and relaxing experience, not one dictated by social pressure."
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2005 4:28 pm 
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What a sad (but unfortunately quite accurate) commentary on human nature.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2005 6:18 pm 
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Shortly after I graduated from college there was a study done on the reading habits of college grads, looking (iirc) at the ten years following graduation and asking subjects how many books they had read.

The results were bimodal. Something like 20% of the grads read on average 50 books or more per year. The other 80% read on average zero books per year. They read newspapers and magazines but easily went a whole year without reading a book.

It was discouraging!

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2005 7:31 pm 
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I don't buy books to impress, but I did stretch the truth a bit once. :oops:

At a job interview at a newspaper, I was asked to name the latest book I had read. The actual latest book was a mindless mystery (I've forgotten which one), so I named the next-to-last book I'd read, "The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind." :) I would guess that they'd never had an applicant give that answer!

I suppose I should feel guilty, but I was young and competitive -- and I really did read it.


Last edited by WampusCat on Wed Dec 14, 2005 9:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2005 7:53 pm 
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*Pats Wampuskitty gently on the head*

Its okay, we still love you. :)

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2005 8:56 pm 
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How terribly sad. :shock:

What's the point of having a book if you don't read it? It may look good on the shelf, but as soon as someone actually comments on it to you, the whole pretense is gone. Seems rather pointless to me.

Not to mention the fact that they're missing out on some wonderful books.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2005 9:20 pm 
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So do they just buy to impress, or do they 'read' to impress?

I know that I have broguht books on the best seller list only to find they lack what I am looking for and often work to some sort of formula.
Another time: I purchased a Tom Clancy book siply because everyone was talking aobut it, couldn't get interested past the first chapter, and was very disappointed.

I buy books often by their cover or their title. :oops: The theory being that a title should be clever, it should capture the essence of the book and so should the art work.
And I guess at the end of the day, IF they buy a book and read it, thats better than not buying one at all :D

says she who has book obsessions, and has several large full bookcases, books stacked in corners, stacked on cabinets, and a very eclectic selection at that :D :oops: MOST well read and worn, but teh occasional implulse buy sitting on a stack waiting to be 'rediscovered' and explored thoroughly :D

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 20, 2005 4:39 am 
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Well, I think this is the thread where I should post this RL experience.

I was in a bookstore on Saturday.....one of those nice, big, well-organized ones with the comfy chairs and the coffee/tea bars *sigh.....I just love those touches*.......Anyway, there I was, looking at some of the discounted hard-cover books in passing, when I overheard a conversation between two women (middle-aged, trendy clothes, trendy hair, excellent cosmetic skills) that went pretty much like this:

Woman #1: So what do you think? Do you think this one goes with these? (shows friend what appears to be about three pretty hard-cover texts)

Woman #2: Oh, absolutely. I mean, look, the colour is just about perfect........and I think the title is nice, too.....not stupid or cute or anything.

Woman # 1: Yeah, the gold and the burgundy goes really well with the black and gold on this one (considers one of the books)...........so the colours are black and this kind of winey-red burgundy, and gold, and that deep, blue......you know the one I already have? Do you think that will look good together with these?

Woman #2: Oh definitely. These (motioning to all the pretty coloured books mentioned) will really go with the colours of your living room. They're going to make that shelf such a focal point.

Woman #1: Especially with that new vase I got next to them, and the display case light shining down on it all.

Woman #2: Perfect!

:help:

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 20, 2005 5:21 am 
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That would be amusing if it weren't so depressing.
What have we come to?

The printing press was one of the single greatest inventions of all times, and this is how society uses it?

:help: :(

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 20, 2005 6:08 pm 
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ATH....

that is hilarious....... :rotfl:

says she who tried to get her bookcases looking coordinated (using books she has purchased on their subject and prose merits, not that of coordinated bindings) and fails, and now just piles them on each other in a chaotic sort of order, so they are lumped together by subject.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 20, 2005 6:48 pm 
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Why, that's the way a library SHOULD look, TIGG.

:scratch:

I was watching a home decorating show recently (I love Home and Garden Network) and saw women go to a bookstore and choose books simply because they were old, leathery, and "looked literary".

They never did tell us the titles of the books they bought...

... just made me want to crawl through that t.v. screen and SNATCH those great old books out of their hands. Buy a plant, or something, for decorations.

Books are meant to be read.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 20, 2005 6:59 pm 
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(Athrabeth -- that's very funny!)

But as far as the main topic of this thread goes, I have to confess I have done worse than buying books to look intelligent: I have not bought a book so as not to look stupid.

I recall distinctly being in an airport bookstore and thinking I wanted to buy the Da Vinci Code and then talking myself out of it, because everybody was reading that (and I had work with me).

That's as low as it gets, folks, and I bow my head in shame.

:)


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 20, 2005 7:15 pm 
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To throw a different perspective into the mix: I'm overjoyed that people are pretending to read for show - because that suggests that reading is a respected, celebrated activity, rather than one scorned and snubbed. I'm not sure if the Guardian's findings translate overseas, though.

I'm used to being the only one with my nose buried in a book at all times, literally. If I'm not working on the computer or socializing with friends, I have a book in hand. What a treat it's been to live near Boston, where I've often been in subway cars in which every commuter, bar none, is engrossed in a book. This place is truly the city of higher learning, and one manifestation of the same is the love of reading that so many display constantly. In my hometown, I've been informed that my parents "deprived me of my childhood" by introducing me to a love of, nearly an addiction to, reading (:scratch: - I thought it was one of the things they actually did right). I grew up incessantly hearing about books being the worst use of time - in fact, in one of the families I babysat, the parents would always discipline the children by making them read a certain number of chapters of a book! (I wasn't sorry when they moved away.)

So, no matter the deception of feigning to read an "impressive" title - it strikes me as a backhanded way of showing respect for reading. I'll accept the compliment on behalf of serious readers everywhere, and throw the pretension out with the bathwater.

Ath - most hilarious story I've read in a while!

WC - I don't think there's anything wrong with that at all! I've done that repeatedly during interviews (am I going to get in trouble for admitting that?) Interviewers will often ask you to talk about the last book you read - and if the next-to-last book was something remotely pseudo-intellectual, but the last book was me rereading Harry Potter, then of course I'm going to talk about the next-to-last book. In my mind, "What was the last book you read?" is code for "Let's talk about a recent, thought-provoking book that you read."

Do I need to go sign up for remedial ethics, now? :(

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 20, 2005 7:34 pm 
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One of the used bookstores I frequent sells books by the foot, for people furnishing offices or filling living room bookcases. :D

I've had friends in the past who purchased book to 'collect' them without actually reading them. That always struck me as kind of its own punishment.

But I agree with tp that it is heartening to see books given prestige, even for their covers. It makes the rest of us seem reasonable to have a book constantly by our side. Now, instead of assuming that we are snotty intellectuals, the other people in the plane terminal assume we are just trying to impress them; and since that is behavior they comprehend, they like us better for it. :D

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 20, 2005 8:55 pm 
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People have to fill bookcases? :shock: Mine are always crammed so tightly with books that I have to stack new ones in piles on the floor.

I used to read more before sharing a house with a spouse who would rather watch TV and a son who would rather fall into the Cracks of Doom than open a book. :(

Oh, and I think your ethics are just fine, tp.

Once I was sitting at a bus stop reading a book that was in a quilted book cover when a co-worker walked by. "Hiding a steamy romance novel?" he asked. "Not exactly," I replied, taking off the cover. It was St. Teresa of Avila's book "Interior Castle." The look of shock on his face was delicious.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 20, 2005 9:03 pm 
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Wampus, I love that. :love:

Ath, I don't know if that story is more funny or sad. :scratch:

Teremia, The DaVinci Code is next on my reading list, and I'm proud to admit it. :)

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 20, 2005 11:02 pm 
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WampusCat wrote:
People have to fill bookcases? :shock: Mine are always crammed so tightly with books that I have to stack new ones in piles on the floor.

I used to read more before sharing a house with a spouse who would rather watch TV and a son who would rather fall into the Cracks of Doom than open a book. :(

.


I too have a husband who seldom reads and watches tv, but I love to read , and I am called antisocial :shock:

I buy more bookcases to accomodate the books...:D and still end up with piles of books everywhere.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 20, 2005 11:10 pm 
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Quote:
Teremia, The DaVinci Code is next on my reading list, and I'm proud to admit it.


See, Voronwë? You're a better man than I. :bow:

But we knew that already!

Let me know if it's any good.




tp -- I agree with you! It was so nice, for exactly those reasons, to have Harry Potter become the "cool fashion accessory" among the second-graders!

and WampusCat: *chuckle*


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 21, 2005 12:11 am 
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Teremia wrote:
See, Voronwë? You're a better man than I. :bow:

But we knew that already!

Of course, but he is not a better woman.

Quote:
Let me know if it's any good.

It's not.

It's one of those books where you keep turning pages to see what the author will invent next, not to learn what happens to the characters you care about (which I didn't).

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 21, 2005 12:31 am 
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Eliitist!

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