Friday, June 1, 2012

why the f*ck friday (5)

Welcome to WTFF. In which I attempt to answer a single question--normally a thought on a book or a bookish subject--that I've been pondering for the past week. This week it's "Why the f*ck are you so smug?"

This one is kind of the reverse of "why the f*ck do I have to care?" The question this week is why the f*ck some readers are so smug about their reading habits.

We're all guilty of our smugness (no one can be completely unsmug). So what makes readers feel superior to TV watchers or frequent movie goers? What does one form of entertainment have over the other? Not much, actually.

There are several lines that come from devout readers (I am guilty of one of these):

  • "I read the book first."
  • "I don't watch TV." 
  • "I'd rather read a book."

To which I respond (internally):
  • "I'm sure you read it first, but I don't care."
  • "I watch TV on my computer, so that's a false statement."
  • "Me too!"

Then there are those that are so smug that they absolutely must--must--talk about how crammed their apartment is with books. About how many they. Just. Have. As if book hoarding were some sort of virtue or art that mankind has lost over the ages and they're out to resurrect it. 

The Following is a Real Conversation:

Former Coworker: What are you reading?
Me: It's a science fiction novel...
Former Coworker: Oh I love science fiction! I have a bunch of books in my apartment.
Me: It's about cyborgs in love that time travel.
Former Coworker: I have about ten thousand books in my apartment.
Me: That's nice.
Former Coworker: I just like having full shelves. I love having so many books. How many do  you have?
Me: I'm not sure? 200?
Former Coworker: I have way more than that!

While this former coworkers is very proud of her collection (that I do not see the point of) I'm wondering if her cantankerous attitude has been noticed by other readers. I pointed out to her at a later date that there isn't much of a point to having so many books if she wasn't going to read or share them. Her response: "I'm not a library." Then why tell me about your books?*

There also continues to be this issue of people who think reading makes them superior to others. It might make you smarter, but it is by no means an indicator of intelligence (see: former coworker). While we can learn from books: we can also learn from video games, movies, The History Channel, Animal Planet, etc.

I really contribute this week's WTFF to a few rogue readers or book collectors that smug up the universe for the rest of us. That make us appear as if we think our chosen form of entertainment is superior over any other. I am aware that previous WTFF are full of reading complaints and complaints about readers who don't read, but never would I be smug to someone about books to their face. I have more tact than that. Obviously. I'd do it behind their back first. 

That's it for this week's why the f*ck friday. Different opinion? Similar experience? Similar thoughts on this subject? Post it below in the comments. Feel free to berate me, praise me, or buy me some fancy coffee. You can even tell me to f*ck off and then buy me a coffee. I enjoy hearing the bookish and nerdy thoughts of others.   

*The extra fun part was when she couldn't remember who wrote them or what they were about. 


  1. Has your former coworker appeared on an episode of hoarders? I am an e-book person myself. I don't like the clutter. I have several signed copies of books from my favorite authors prominantly displayed in my home office (thanks to our trip to the RT convention this year) along with a few other books I LOVED and wanted hard copies of. The rest of my books are ebooks. As noted on my blog today...I actually prefer using the library to avoid just this sort of situation. It is funny that you brought this up today as well.

    1. I would think so. She was an odd one.

      I love ebooks. They've saved me so much trouble! People might not be aware of how many times I've moved in the past few years, but jeez, lugging books around gets to you after a while.

      I also use the library for that reason as well.

      I do keep books around my house that I love. If I love an ebook version enough I will go out and get it. But all these teen YA ghost story things? They can stay on my Kindle.

  2. I'll admit, I'm smug about my reading habits. There are very few authors who I need to read their books ASAP and most of them are romance authors. I don't read books when they have long wait lists at the library, if I end up reading them it's later when the hype has died down. Or after a few books in a series are out (Harry Potter, Twilight, Hunger Games).

    I prefer to read books before the movie in some cases, or I'll read it later, but personally I like the comparison point and sometimes I just don't care if there was a book before a movie.

    I am picky about what I read and which authors I like, I can get defensive about my favorites.

    Now with e-books, working at a library, and my need to buy books, I've worked out a system. If it's a series I've been buying I'll buy the book or a new author that I have reasoned the print over the ebook is worth it, I'll buy the book. I do a lot of free books on my Nook, as well as a few new series and ones I'll read again. For new authors or books I'll always check the library first and take home. (Being a librarian we're encouraged to check out a lot of stuff.)

    1. Thank you for your candor Amelia!

      I like that there's a method behind your bookish smugness. It makes me feel justified in my own.

      I just can't find a reason to have a lot of books. Once I read them and know I'll never read them again it's just bye bye for it. The Kindle/ereader thing has really saved me a lot of trouble as well.

    2. Can I also add...I'm a book horder. Not only do I have my collection but I refuse to weed out my Dad's book collection and there are so many in his collection I won't read like military history and old college text books.

  3. I understand that having tons of books is supposed to make someone look smart, but my thing is, if I read it and didn't like it, I'm going to sell it off or give it away to Goodwill. That way if someone comes to my house and says, "OH have you read THIS?" I can say "YES!"

    Just... Keeping every book I've ever read isn't really my thing. If I wanted a library, I'd work at a library.

    1. That's why I love Paperback Swap...I swap out the books I don't want/didn't like for replacements to my well loved and worn out favorites.

    2. That's exactly what happens to a majority of mine. My coworkers reap the benefits. Err, well, my coworkers kids, actually (I work next to a lady and give her stuff for her son).

      Doesn't the lack of clutter make you feel light and airy?

      I'm totally looking into Paperback Swap right now.

    3. You should definitely try Paperback Swap. It is reliable and absolutely worth it. IMO. I have been using it for a bit over 2 years, I have cut my book spending budget by a lot because of them. Also, I've discovered that some Goodwill have made it a point to sell have separate areas organized 'bookstore style'. I am guilty of being a 'mild' book horder, paperback swap and goodwill keep me in check.

  4. I used to be the worst smug person, but I've gotten better. For me, it's about story and what delivers the best story. There's some great TV stories, movies, books, stuff. And I decided along the line that it's better to expend energy enjoying what I enjoy. Hank and John Green have been especially inspirational on that front. I'm much more likely to let my nerd flag fly, and it's much harder to be smug when you're fangirling about the Avengers or Sherlock or Holly Black or whatever.

    1. I used to be very smug. I think it came from being younger and a reader. "Oh? You watch Jersey Shore? Well I'm reading..." It comes off as very superior.

      Pffh. I'm gonna fanboy over the fact that I get to meet Spike from Buffy this summer. Wahoo!

    2. Seeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeths with envy.

  5. I wouldn't say I'm smug. I honestly don't talk about myself all that much, even my reading habits. I do love to read, but I love music and movies and TV and all sorts of other entertainment...that I agree, you DO learn from. So yeah, it's not fun when people are TOO smug about things. I'm sure we all do it, but no need to be rude. :) Interesting topic though! Never really thought about it before.


    1. It's a very good thing to be quiet and reserved sometimes. I might not retain everything I see on TV, but every once in a while I do learn something.

      Thanks! Glad it got you thinking!

  6. I don't know if I'm smug or not about my reading habits. I know that I read a lot vs watching tv though and I try to read books before movies, which is a habit that carries over from book club.

    I try not to have tons of books at the house. I'm terrified of becoming a hoarder. I have a small stack of books that I am going to read for the and the rest are favorites and books I know I'll read again. The others I try to exchange or donate to the library book sale.

    1. Did you ever hear the story about the hoarder who got trapped under his collection of books and died? I Googled the story but can't find it. But trust me, it happened.

      Same here. Most of it goes out the door after I'm done with it.

    2. I haven't heard of people crushed to death by their own books (sad, f*cking way to go.) But I have heard of cat hoarders who die and then their cats eat them.

      Did you ever see the Twilight Zone where the guy unwittingly survives nuclear holocaust because he spends his lunch reading in the bank vault and is the only survivor. He finds the library unharmed and finally has time to read and then his glasses break? That show and the cats are why I get rid of things.

  7. Your coworker sounds like a winner! And also a fire hazard to her apartment complex.

    SO THANKFUL you are much more tactful than she is and would NEVER be that obviously smug. What a relief!

    I guess I'm smug because I fall under pretty much all of your bulletpoints? Dangit. Every dang time.

    1. Former coworker. And I think she might've lived in a house.

      I try.

      Sorry. You just can't catch a break.

  8. “Television rots your brian.” IMO that statement is why people who choose reading over other activities, are so smug. Because they’ve been told that they’re better than tv watchers, or video game players. “I read all day and finished two books!” also sounds better than “I spent the day watching a Throw-down with Bobby Flay marathon!” (I’m guilty of both of these btw). Reading is active. I feel accomplished when I finish a book. I feel even better about myself if the book is a “classic.” Anyone can sit in front of the tv, but you have to learn to read.

    But I also believe that people can feel smug about whatever they're into (movies, pets, scuba diving), especially if they find people who share their passion.

    And I think that interaction with your co-worker has little to do with ‘reading smugness,’ and a lot to do with the following three truths.
    1. All humans are selfish
    2. We crave connection
    3. Some people are less socially aware than others

    1. You bring up an excellent view point, Lola. I love it.

      You're right that reading is engaging whereas TV is very passive, so are movies. Not everyone who reads is a genius, though. I think it's really what the individual watches on TV. As you say: Food Network all vs. Discovery Channel. Guess who comes out ahead?

      But wow. That is just a good way of looking at it.

      On that one... I wish you knew this woman. Man oh man. I wish you knew her. She was very "me, me, me" and "I'm above you" in the work place, even though me and her were the same rank. So you might be right.

    2. Yikes. She sounds like the makings of a toxic work environment. Did you ever actually see her reading? Seems like she wanted to one-up you outside of work - if she couldn't do it within. And "I have more books than you!!!!" was the best she could do. You should of asked to see her book collection. Maybe she didn't actually have any books. Not that you would have wanted to go to her house.

    3. I did see her reading one her Kindle once. And eating an entire plate of bacon at the same time (this stands out in my mind because I was a vegetarian at the time).

      She did have an extensive collection of--ahem--free ebooks on her Kindle that I refused. Most of them were fairly bad quality and very, very adult.

    4. Wow, Adam. The more you talk about this woman, the more I think she fits in the category of "future book characters." Sometimes I run across people or situations, and I think "if I were to write a book, I would definitely include this!"

  9. Nice post. I hereby declare myself guilty of all 3 evidential some extent or other.

    Reading has been a hobby and passion for as long as I can remember.It was sort of innate. Reading has been my first love, so I guess that makes me passionate and smug about it.
    I don't necessarily attempt to read the books before the movies, but there are many cases in which I've already read the book before it's even announced that a movie will be made(Hunger Games, Harry Potter).

    I used to be smug about being ignorant on pretty much anything TV. I would probably only watch 3-4 hours of tv a week. That is not the case anymore. Ever since I discovered Asian TV, I've been doomed. Japanese, Taiwanese and Korean shows have offered such a whole new world and perspective that I've been captivated for the past few months with these. My way of rationalizing my new like is, that I feel like they are like reading books. Usually the shows are only 9 to 20 episodes long, there is low level of commitment (compared to US shows that last for years).They vary in subject, you can watch action ones, suspense ones, funny ones etc,yet they generally reflect a culture so different from what I'm used to, that they force me to read and learn from other sources to understand what is going on. I even discovered blogs and groups where you can have discussions, reviews, analysis of these shows.

    I am a bit of a book hoarder. I made a separate comment on how I use paperback swap and donations to goodwill in order to make sure I only keep books I absolutely love and want to share with others. There were no books in my house when I was growing up, I mean, other than school books. I still do not know if libraries exist in my country, so making sure I have the books I can touch and call my own is a passion of mine. I have an e-reader and I use it mostly for books that I'm curious about, but don't necessarily love.If I really like a book I e-read, I will make sure to buy the hard copy. I specially love hard covers.
    My first editions of Harry Potter, Stephen King's Pet Sementary and Salems Lot, signed books by favorite authors, etc, are like my babies.

    So yeah, I am smug about my love for books. I try not to shove it on ppl's faces, but it is something I like about myself.

    Yeesh... I am also selfish. Sorry for the long post. Have a good weekend.

    1. I own up to all three points as well.

      Jade! I do the exact same thing! I find myself saying "I'm sorry, I have no idea what you're talking about... I don't really watch TV anymore." Especially when people are referencing commercials: YOU. ARE. TALKING. ABOUT. A. COMMERCIAL. Sigh.

      I'm guilty of watching K dramas. My sister is huge on them so by proxy I've seen a few (Pasta, Boys Over Flowers, etc). My sister recently started a blog called K Drama Rama if you want to check it out:

      I had the same problem. I didn't grow up in the richest household, but I did get taken to the library a lot. Once I got my own job and got out of college I started hoarding them. Only to find that it was a pain and that there wasn't much of a point to it. I use the ereader for the exact same reason.

      Good answer all around. "I am smug about my love for books. I try not to shove it on ppl's faces, but it is something I like about myself." I could see someone saying this about their children. You know? If I have to put up with that kind of talk maybe I should be able to be smug.

      I enjoyed your long post. Thank you for it!

    2. Your sister does like KDramas! How awesome. I like her blog already. She watched City Hunter!!! That is one of my favorite ones. I have to tell her about this new one that is under rated, but it's being claimed to be "perfect". I'm excited, specially by the tag line, "my obsessing may make you feel normal"...I need that. LOL! Thanks for the link. I'll go stalk her site for a while.

      p.s. Your sister is very pretty.

  10. I think I'm smug about books in a different way because I worked at Borders and now I work at Powell's (in Portland Or) and so I get annoyed when customers completely screw up the title or author and have no idea what they are talking about and I have to figure it out based on random crap that sprouts from their mouth and mis-knowledge. My favorite is when I ask where they saw/read about it so I can go online and figure it out and they give me completely random places and later on I see it online where they actually saw it. GAH WRITE IT DOWN PEOPLE it's not that hard. Or better yet use your amazing smart phone and take a photo or bookmark it so you can show it to me. *grumbles*

    My other favorite is when they ask for your recommendation and then completely ignore it and buy rubbish. okayyyyy WHY did you ask me?

    1. I use my smart phone to take pictures of wines I try. And books. And cats. And where I parked.

      Have you ever had the question "I'm looking for a book... it's red." Or "I think it's about love?"

      I could never be a bookseller.

  11. Despite being an avid reader, I always seem to lose those "I have X number of books" conversation/competitions. I have a good public library nearby that can get me pretty much anything I want, and I'm poor. At the risk of sounding smug in the other direction I almost feel like *real* readers wouldn't brag about their collection, because it freakin' breaks the bank! Usually if I meet someone who wants to tell me all about their mountains of books, my first instinct is to ask them when the last time they read was (ugh, excuse the bad grammar there, can't seem to make that sentence right and still make sense, sorry). More often than not, I have this sneaking suspicion it's measured in years, not days.

    Sorry for the mini-rant, and semi-snobbery! I think this is a great point to think about, especially for those of us who so often interact with people who do read.

    1. Between rent and car insurance and food: books are low down on my budget. I got a gift card from work for Amazon and freaked. The. F*ck. Out. So, yeah, I feel your pain.

      I try not to be smug about my books because I can't bring myself to brag. I feel like it's a disservice to my books and me. Reading can be a very private experience, so talking about what you thought of a book or how many have can be very... voyeuristic (I find it hard to blog about the books I post here sometimes--because I'm sure my view point doesn't line up with others).

      I enjoyed your mini-rant and semi-snobbery. It's welcome on my blog and on WTFFs.


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