Do "Books Make You a Boring Person?"

The question probably isn’t exactly what you think; it’s related to this article. (May require free registration to New York Times.) It’s more of a “does too much reading dull rather than sharpen your wits” query.

I have to admit that I enjoyed this article in part because “book snobs” grate on my last nerve. I would dare say I’m better read than most, but I also after 37 years can say “I LOVE TELEVISION AND MOVIES” as well. I’ve seldom known anybody who had the condescending “I don’t even HAVE a TV set- I’m a reader” attitude to be able to converse on any more subjects, if as many, as most people who both read and receive electronic info-tainment.

Anyway, your thoughts on the article please.

I will admit that I look down on people who do not read. It’s an unfair prejudice, I know, but when someone announces that they do no like to read, I file them sadly into the Nonreader category, and I never expect to have a really good conversation with them. I have known a couple of very smart people who say that they do not enjoy reading becasue they have dyslexia and one older gentleman who didn’t get much formal schooling but is sharp as a tack, but, barring a few special exceptions, sorry to say, “doesn’t like to read” equates to “doesn’t particularly like to think” in my mind.

Even worse, though, is to meet someone you think is another Reader, to feel that joy of coming across a kindred spirit–but then to discover that they only read self-help books, or romance novels, or spy novels, or political books that they know they will agree with before they even crack the spine. I don’t think these people are actual Readers. Actual Readers may love a book just for being a book–but that means that they love a variety and a challenge. Reading and rereading the same sort of thing over and over doesn’t make you a real Reader.

I don’t think I know anyone in the category the article discusses, the people who read constantly to avoid thinking for themselves. I think all that Readers I know are the sort who enjoy criticising, comparing and contrasting, who love to find someone else who’s read the same book and having a good hash-out of its good points and its bad points. But–full disclosure–I’m the sort of person who almost always has a book in my hand. I don’t think that means that I never stop to think, but perhaps a snobbier class of Reader might look down upon me, as well.

Uh oh, my cover has been blown!
I’ve always been a big reader. One interesting thing I’ve noticed is that I have a very short attention span when it comes to watching a movie. A lot of movies will start out with just music, while you watch a guy packing a suitcase, or look at some scenery, etc. I can only take a very small amount of that before I lose interest, and I’ve wondered if it’s because, as a reader, I have the ability to skip over description or boring parts. Furthermore, books have less ambiguity. They can’t just show you something and leave you to pick out what’s important in the way that a movie can…something has to be said.
So while for the most part, I don’t think books make you boring, I won’t say that stance has no merit whatsoever.

I this it’s interesting to compare a hardcore bookworm to a television or internet addict. You can be reading romance novels or watching sitcoms, reading history or watching documentaries - the experience really can span the spectrum. I think the idea of balance is important. I believe reading books should be a vital part of life experience, but there are other ways to learn about the world.

I love books, but I never let it become an addiction (except when I come across an exceptional book), even if society has a kinder view of that particular affliction. People think I’m a bookworm and look at my bookshelves with awe but I always try to make it clear that the majority of my reading takes place on my lunch hour! I don’t have my head buried in books for hours on end. You really can read a good amount of books with an hour of reading per day.

Are their jack-assey book snobs out there? Yeah. Big whoop.

I’m an avid reader; I read a lot - but I do not read a lot of fiction. I do agree to some degree with the article. I know several people who are hardcore sci-fi readers. I get very frustrated talking to them at times, as it seems they can’t discuss anything outside of their sci-fi fantasy world. Often times I want to yell loudly, “hey, you like reading? Why not try reading an ACTUAL science book for once!!”

This just in: too much of anything can be bad for you.

I am a reader. always have been. I go through cycles- some months I will only read pulp, other times, i only read ancient epics, or history. Single mindedness is not a healthy trait, whatever you are into.

I also love movies, though I don’t do TV very much. But I’ll admit, I’d rather surf the web and read and engage interesting ideas than watch pretty much anything. I can’t understand how some folks can be non-readers, barring some physical, mental, or circumstance-dictated condition. For me, reading is a transforming experience, and that one would willingly deprive themselves of it is scary to me.

So yes, I am a book snob. Add that to the list of other types of snob I am, depending on who you ask…

Sure, there are book snobs. It’s pretty pathetic to go around feeling infinitely superior to other people based on the fact that you’ve analyzed Hemingway and they haven’t, but I’m a booklover and happy about it. As with all other things, don’t go overboard.

I recently started a thread on reading plans, so yes, I try to read ‘good’ stuff as well as my favorite mysteries. But I didn’t mention in the thread what I put on the cover of my notebook:

“She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain.”
-Louisa May Alcott, 1873

People should have a sense of humor about themselves, is all I’m saying. Reading is great, heck, I’m a librarian, I’m all about reading. But there’s no sense getting all snooty about it.
(Confession: I also love to watch Stargate.)

You just put this So well!!!

I agree with most of what is said above. But to me, first off “boring” is in the eye of the beholder. Secondly, IMHO, there is a point at which readers become unbearable snobs. In fact, there is a whole group of people that I consider “entertainment” snobs that I find really irritating, they’re just so arrogant and “cooler/more well read, more cinematically connected” than thou. :rolleyes:

Otherwise, really really what Podkayne said in the first two paragraphs. It’s not that I write them off, it’s just that I don’t connect on as deep and frankly as fun a level as I do with fellow readers.

I especially agree with what Podkayne said about people you mght THINK are readers but then turn out to just read romance novels or something.

I’m an avid reader and I’m not boring.

Hey! I heard that!

Damn …

An article urging me that it’s more important to read critically than to read voraciously. Hey, if I don’t already read critically, reading the article isn’t going to be of much help, right? Anyway, it’s not in book form, and everybody knows that information must be in the form of a book to be useful. But then again, this isn’t in a book either, so why should you listen to me?

So, if I get the guy correctly, some books are good, but some have dangerous ideas and should be set on fire. He did say that at some point, right? I have to admit, I just kind of skimmed it.

When searching for a lifemate, the reading habits of my current candidate was a pertinent factor. Did he understand the lure? (Good) Did he get captivated and was unable to kick himself free from his tome? (Not always good) Would he call in sick to finish a story? (Bad) Would he whine at me for buying books and reading for 2 hours solid on a sunday afternoon? (Very bad)
Anyone who only does one thing can be boring. I’d rather talk to someone who only reads than someone who never reads because I don’t understand not wanting to read *something. * Histories, biographies, romances, cryptology, pshychology, physiology, New York Times Bestsellers…a little of each?
Come sit next to me.

I’ve read all of Cecil’s books. So there.

I love books but my reading habits vary. I can go for a very long time without reading fiction. It’ll be educational books and “how to” books. (My Photoshop book collection is a thing of legend.) But I love books.

My sister is a big reader. When she lost a lot of her eyesight many years ago, she fell into a deep depression (this would be expected). She said that a lot of the cause for her depression was not being able to read. For two years, she was really depressed. She listened to books on tape, but it wasn’t the same. Then she was able to get this machine that would magnify the text of any book, and she said that her depression immediately lifted. She feels like she got her life back when she was able to read again.

She also says that reading anything—anything—is better than not reading. She has read a lot of Harlequin Romances in her time (used to have a subscription with Harlequin and got new books each month). She was never ashamed of this (made jokes, but never was ashamed), because it was reading, and reading is good. I agree with her on this.

Both of us have good reading comprehension, a good vocabulary, and good English skills (well, better than average) because we read. I read a lot of Harlequin Romances when I was a teenager and I occasionally read them today (right now I’m mainlining Harlequins in Spanish, to help me learn the language). I don’t feel ashamed of this. I know it has helped me. Spelling and vocabulary tests in school were always a breeze for me, in part because I liked to read. Doesn’t matter what I read—I read. So, in my opinion, I’m respectful of anyone who reads anything (just about). Because I think there is great benefit in reading for pleasure.

I also believe that sometimes (not always) those who read for pleasure read faster and more efficiently. Okay, maybe not always faster (though almost every ‘reader’ I know reads faster than average), but it’s not a chore. It’s not torture. And that’s a benefit too.

But, with all that said, I feel a certain snobbishness towards those who are passive consumers of any form of entertainment—whether it be reading, TV, movies, music, anything. The article linked in the OP mentions something of this—that reading is passive. You aren’t writing anything, you aren’t creating anything, you are just absorbing stuff. I don’t necessarily admire someone who just absorbs and consumes all the time. Come on! Do something! Sew a shirt! Surf! Do something! I know a few people who absorb and consume, consume, consume, and sometimes, it’s kind of true—they aren’t always that interesting. (It depends. Can they have articulate and insightful discussions about the stuff they consume? Then they are not boring.) Some of the most exciting conversations can be had with people who are passionate about creating something or working on a new project. They may or may not be big readers, but if they are all fired up about working on something, then usually they are not boring. So I guess I’m trying to say that even though I respect and admire reading, I realize that on its own, it’s not always enough.

I’m more of a movie guy, but I do like to take in a good (or even a crappy) book from time to time. You can definitely get more engrossed in the world of a book vs a film. An epic book somehow feels more epic than a movie. A movie can last at the most three hours but the fact that it takes a lot longer to read a book somehow makes it feel more like the story is happening in real time.

Spinning off a point Yosemite made, I think some avid readers can be boring if they just passively consume but don’t really learn or reflect on anything they’ve read. One of the most mind-numbingly people I ever met was a middle aged professional student who read voraciously. He could quote some of the most arcane stuff imaginable but was totally incapable of making sense any of it. His erudtion wasn’t that far removed from memorization. He could be very aggressive about defending his accurate citations but couldn’t for the life of him apply any ideas. Ask him to spin them into a discussion and he was lost, not to mention baffled. I guess extending the idea of reader/consumer, he consumed voraciously but didn’t digest a thing.
I’ll readily admit I go in phases with reading (the librarian’s curse), following interests as they crop up. And I’m much less educated in fllm and movies. I’m not proud of it but with limited free time, reading comes out first priority. This is probably due to my (self) limited exposure, but I just plain got out of the habit of watching movies and TV because they interested me less and less over time. I read somewhere (natch) that most movies are geared toward young males because that’s the most reliable demographic: lots of special effects, action, fantasy, SF or cartoon bases, etc. I’m sure there are still movies out there that would interest me but I don’t bother to seek them out much any more. I used to see a movie every few weeks and some of 'em were real stinkers–that I loved anyway. I’ve just limited myself from those happy discoveries.
Oh well.


I sure hope not! Although I concede like Stonebow too much of anything isn’t a good thing. (This confessed knowing full well I rarely am without a book within arms length.)

I’ve met a book snob or two. It’s an uncomfortable feeling to have someone look down their nose and declare, “I don’t read fiction.” at you because this week you’re reading a novel. I guess to me it’s like being a snob about whether you prefer to play basketball, take walks or swim laps. Each has it’s own merits.

I agree with Podkayne’s remarks.

Like Dung Beetle sometimes I really have to force myself to sit through a television show or movie. My husband and son have both commented or teased at different times of my carrying a book into the t.v. area when they say “Come on Mom, the movie is about to start” and I bring a book, “just in case”. At the same time, even though I haven’t seen as many I enjoy talking about and sharing movies in much the same way I enjoy talking about and sharing a book.

Now and then I come across something in a book and decide to try it out because of something I’ve read. Reading doesn’t have to be all about critical analysis, although sometimes that’s great; nor does it have to be all passive, although sometimes that’s great too, somewhere in between is a good place for me.

There’s nothing wrong with idolising and fetishing a good book. I love the smell of my ancient copy of Lord of the Rings and when I’ve just bought a book by a favourite author, I’ll cradle it in its brown paper bag all the way home, like a surprise present for myself. I also occasionally stand in front of my bookshelves and gawk happily for a while.

But that’s for good books. My textbooks are haphazardly piled on a low shelf and The Da Vinci Code is handily propping up stuff on my desk, and my computer used to rest on a pile of paperbacks that I didn’t appreciate.

Sure, I’m fetishising some books, but it doesn’t follow that I’ve lost my critical faculties, as the article suggests. For instance, I thought the article was a heap of awkwardly-written rubbish.

I have a very similar view.

Back in highschool, a friend of mine was never a “reader” and she could never quite fathom why I loved books so much. Once, she became exasperated with me because I was raptly reading the back of a pizza box, whereupon was printed the history of the pizza shop. “Why do you have to read everything?!”

So, I went to the store, and bought her a few books: Valley of the Dolls a book of Stephen King’s short stories, a novelization of an episode of her favorite TV show, Forever Amber, and a few romance novels. Skeptical at first, she agreed to read them “a little bit.”

In less than a week, she was marvelling at how much she liked reading, and quoting little factoids she had picked up from the books. She’s still not a major reader, but at least she’s reading something.

It’s my personal belief that every book, no matter how asinine or badly written has at least some value. I have never read a book in which I learned nothing. Buried in every book is a little tidbit of knowledge. As much as I personally dislike certain authors and genres, I don’t look down on people for reading them. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of “brain candy.”

That said, I will admit to being a book snob: I become deeply suspicious if I enter someone’s home and see no evidence of books of any kind. I’m equally leery of those who have the lovely leather-bound classics which are in mint condition. (You hear that virgin-book crackle when you open the front cover.) No books signal a dull evening ahead, books solely for decorative purposes signal pretention-- and a boring evening ahead.

I’m sure the author of that Times piece thought she had a point, but I’ll be damned if I can figure out what it is.

Maybe somewhere in this world, there’s SOMEBODY who reads a lot of allegedly classic books for the sole purpose of mindlessly regurgitating what’s in them, but I have yet to encounter such a person.

Maybe somewhere, someone is reading Cicero just because he thinks he’s supposed to, in order to be a Serious Intellectual, but I haven’t encountered anyone like that, either.

I’ll concede that it’s quite possible to read all the Great Books of the Western canon and STILL be a ignorant, undeducated philistine. Heck, I went to Columbia, where everybody had to read all the classics- but I know lots of extremely intelligent, very successful Columbia alumni who couldn’t tell you the first thing about Plato or Augustine. But that’s a reflection of the uselessness of forcing culture on people who aren’t interested in it, not on the value of the culture itself.

Do you mind if I use this quote as my epitaph? :smiley: