On book lovers and bibliophiles

January 28, 2013 § 2 Comments

Listen, folks! Reading is boring and for losers. It doesn’t require a lot of talent, it’s something you do alone and it’s not competitive at all. A perfectly dorky pastime. Although I could question these arguments, they all have a grain of truth in them. Where do people with boring hobbies go in order to find other people with the same boring hobby? Right, the internet. The internet harbours all kinds of freaks, from train spotters to foot fetishists to readers. Since I neither particularly like trains nor feet, I hardly know a thing about the first two groups, but what I know for sure is that there are different types of readers –

Today’s article distinguishes the bibliophile from the common book lover. Both species can be found on the internet, but their habits and habitats differ. On almost every social networking website you can find people who list “reading” or “books” as their hobby. Luckily, facebook also offers you to list your favourite books, and a quick glance at somebody’s favourites can sometimes be enough to classify them.

The common book lover consumes a lot of written material, mainly best sellers, crime novels, well-known series and the occasional classic. The common book lover is harmless, but boring. They say you should never judge a book by its cover, but I think you can judge a person by their books. The common book lover’s perfect Saturday afternoon involves “a good book, a blanket and a cup of tea”. Nothing wrong with that, but not exactly the most exciting thing on earth either.

The bibliophile, on the other hand, has a more refined taste in books and literature. The bibliophile condescendingly looks down to best sellers and the people who read them on the train. He (or less often, she) avoids big chain bookstores and everything that was featured on Oprah – you can call him the snobby, elitist hipster of literature. As annoying and narrow-minded as his opinions might be, I still consider him more interesting than the average book lover (and to a certain extent, I’m a bibliophile myself). He usually has a vast knowledge of literature, maybe even literary theory, and he can actually make good book recommendations.

5921641478_561034727e_zThe common book lover, too, likes recommending books. She (or less often, he) is usually found on pen pal websites, looking for people to talk about books with. When you ask her for a recommendation, she’ll name the last good book she has read, even if this book is Twilight and you have clearly stated that you do not like “teen paranormal romance”. They mean well, but they lack the experience. Unfortunately, more often than not it’s the book lovers who pride themselves with having a good taste in literature.

It’s also the common book lover who runs the book-related boards and pages on tumblr and especially Pinterest. Pinterest is a cool way to share stuff with the world, and I enjoyed browsing through the book boards for a couple of days, until I realised that my taste greatly differs from the Pinterest mainstream. Also, most people there seem to value quantity higher than quality, they brag about the amount of books they’ve already read this year, whereas I’m proud of myself if I find my way through a particularly difficult or demanding book.

The bibliophile is less prominent, he hides in little niches that you don’t find right away. He will not shove book memes in your face, he’ll try to get to know you first and then make some recommendations you might actually like or at least give a try.

Back in the real world, those differences hardly matter. Reading the latest teen paranormal romance novel is no less nerdy than reading Arno Schmidt. Some months ago, I was hunting for a room and met with a potential roommate who had a room to offer. “So, what are your hobbies?”, she asked me. There it was. My kryptonite. I don’t really have any hobbies, or do I? I don’t play an instrument. I don’t paint. I don’t knit. I only cook in order to satisfy my hunger and I only do sports in order to stay in shape. The only hobby that I have is literature – this is what the bibliophile would say. The common book lover would say that she loves books, or reading. I just said that “I read a lot”. The interview was over, and needless to say, I didn’t get the room.

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