By Mel Broere
Like many book lovers, I am a person who likes to arrange their books. Every few months I go through a kind of literary Next Top Model. All my books start jostling for a prized position at the front of the bookcase. After a recent re-organisation, I was proudly showing off my shelves to a friend when he stopped short and gasped, ‘I can’t believe you would read THIS. I thought you were a real reader!’
Uh-oh, I thought. I’m about to be book-shamed.
Sure enough, my friend’s look of disgust was directed at my tattered copy of In Her Shoes, complete with its splashy movie tie-in cover featuring Toni Collette and Cameron Diaz.
This book happens to be one of my comfort reads. I found it on the shelves of a hostel bookcase while backpacking in China. It got me through a harrowing few days of food poisoning. And look, it’s not that I won’t read classics such as Wuthering Heights. But the plight of Cathy and Heathcliff is just not what you need when you’re a quivering mess on a dormitory bunk bed.
Of course, my friend didn’t know this. All he saw was Cameron Diaz’s glossy blonde bob and immediately made a judgement call about the kind of reader I am.
But here’s the thing about book-shaming – it’s unnecessary and potentially damaging. I acknowledge that many books are vastly more well-written than others. I’m also of the opinion that every book has something to offer someone. As fun as it is to mock a friend about sparkly vampires and talking werewolves, that copy of Twilight on their coffee table might just be the first book they’ve picked up in a while. Poor, pale Edward Cullen might be their gateway to reading. And you’ve just crushed their burgeoning bookish heart with your snobbery.
So let’s not judge readers by whether they know the complete works of Dostoyevsky inside out. Let’s just take pleasure in the fact that in this digital age, people are reading. Even if their choices make you cringe a little inside. It’s time to start putting our so-called ‘shameful’ reads front and centre on our shelves. Let your literary freak flag fly!