Over the weekend I went to a lovely wedding down in Ascot. At these events you inevitably chat to people you don’t know so I met some really nice family and friends. I got talking to one lady about books and almost immediately she started in enthusiastically about The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - a great novel I thoroughly enjoyed. However, she didn’t seem to understand when I repeatedly told her I’d read the novel because she kept insisting she’d lend it to me. Also, seemingly it’s the only book she’s read in the past few years. This is a dilemma which I find comes up now and then in social situations. I meet a casual reader who enthusiastically recommends a popular novel I’ve either read or that I’m not interested in and pushes with all their might to lend it to me because I’m a “book person.” I love getting book recommendations and talking about books, but it baffles me when more casual readers want to flog the latest Dan Brown on me. Part of me wants to turn around and drop The Luminaries or some other great big weight of a novel on their laps and say “Give me a call when you finish this!”
I think when people don’t read very much they don’t have anything to measure it against so are invariably positive about what they’ve patiently read through. Plus if you’ve spent some time reading something it’s more difficult to dismiss it as a dud because you don’t want to admit to yourself/others that you’ve wasted your time. Reading a bad book or a book that fails in some essential ways isn’t necessarily a waste of time (especially for writers) since it’s helpful to see what’s gone wrong. But casual readers seem more inclined to read for pure entertainment value and this is where it gets socially awkward. I mean, how many months will I have to hold on to a well-worn copy of Fifty Shades before sheepishly giving it back and politely saying I never got around to it?
Do any other serious readers out there have this dilemma when speaking with casual readers about books? Or am I being horrifically snobbish?