Suggested by JM:
I was looking through books yesterday at the shops and saw all the Twilight books, which I know basically nothing about. What I do know is that I’m beginning to feel like I’m the *only* person who knows nothing about them.
Despite being almost broke and trying to save money, I almost bought the expensive book (Australian book prices are often completely nutty) just because I felt the need to be ‘up’ on what everyone else was reading.
Have you ever felt pressured to read something because ‘everyone else’ was reading it? Have you ever given in and read the book(s) in question or do you resist? If you are a reviewer, etc, do you feel it’s your duty to keep up on current trends?
Maybe I'm a snob. Probably. But I have the reverse reaction - if everyone else is reading it, I'm sure I will never like it. There are a few people's opinions that I trust and when they say - you have to read this - then I do. So when I saw everyone and I mean everyone was reading Audrey Nifnegger's The Time Traveller's Wife - those little girls legs with the knee socks and Mary Jane's were on every lap on the subway - I thought why bother? It can't be good - it's popular. But when, about two years, later, an avid reading friend couldn't believe I hadn't read it (because - hadn't everyone?) and had gone on and on about how great it was, then I picked it up. I don't care if everyone else does it, has it, or has read it (I haven't owned a television since 1988), that doesn't make it good. In fact, if something is too popular it's likely mediocre because appealing to common taste brings everything down to what is most average and safe. This is probably some kind of defense mechanism left over from being "different" from the mainstream through my whole childhood, but now I feel it makes me much less susceptible to commonly held opinion, more resistant to hype or advertising. It makes me encounter each experience critically and listen closely to decide whether it's a thing I want, an opinion that represents me, a book I would enjoy reading, a product I really need to buy. What does pressure me into reading a book, and this is usually with "great" books - i.e. Remembrance of Things Past, Ulysses... is greed. Greed for knowledge. When select critical readers I know (like Sheila) have read something and have found value in it - basically I think a great book gives you a new way to see the world - then I get greedy for that information. I am a greedy pig for knowledge. And not all these readers have taste that I think of as a perfect match for mine. I'd say Sheila and I have a great many things in common, but we have some real differences too and our life experiences are in no way spitting images of each other. But that is precisely why I value her suggestions. I would never have read Ryszard Kapuscinski, for example, if it weren't for her! I have to keep up with certain minds but not with the Joneses.