Book Shaming: Why People Think it’s Okay to Judge the Reader Instead of the Book
By Morgan Achtermeier
Whoever said that what you enjoy reading doesn’t count as literature in society today?
When it comes to the written word now a days, we have quite an array of topics that are being brought into the spotlight, and even more genres that continue to break down barriers. However, there is one thing that never really gets discussed, and that would be Book Shaming. Book reviewers and bloggers tend to experience book shaming on a higher level than those that read for pleasure. For myself I am a lover of Contemporary Romance of both Young Adult and Adult works. Once someone knows I’m a book blogger, the first thing I get asked is what type of genre I enjoy reading the most and when I answer, there’s a little dim in their eyes, and it often comes with a look of disgust…
News flash! There’s nothing wrong with reading ANY genre you enjoy even if it’s not a popular one.
Book Shaming is nothing new. For years people have judged book covers, and have now moved on to judging the reader reading the book instead of the book itself. If you follow Author and Booktuber Sasha Alsberg, she had posted recently about Reader Shaming and how a lot of people get shamed for the type of book they read for various reasons. She also explains that it shouldn’t matter what you enjoy reading, as long as you enjoy it in some way or another.
I have had my fair share of Book Shaming, and there have been a few different scenarios that have caused such shaming to occur. Even strangers that you meet for the very first time, or a friend who doesn’t understand the concept of sitting around for hours on end to read a book, the book shaming doesn’t stop.
Judging the Covers…
So you go to a book store, find the section you’re interested in and there happens to be other people around, because let’s face it, people like to go out! You see the spine of a book that looks interesting, and as soon as you pull it out, there’s a shirtless man on the cover. The person beside you glances over ever so slightly, and you can feel their eyes burning into the back of your skull, as they are now judging you for picking up the book… even if you don’t plan to actually buy it. BAM! *Bookshaming*
There’s been times where I would be traveling on public transit, so engrossed into the drama that’s occurring, I don’t always know that people are staring until I can feel eyes on me, and that’s when I see a man sitting across from me staring at the cover, which is when we lock eyes, and although I shouldn’t feel ashamed, my face of course is giving me away…
When it comes to the covers of books, it may give you a little hint into what the book is about; after all that’s why we have covers, because they are the vision behind the words. However, it’s all just for sales. You could have a book that looks visually ugly, but is a masterpiece inside and you’d never know unless you were reading it. Sure, I judge covers sometimes, because whatever strikes my attention first will be what I pick up, but then there’s always the gems that are hidden, and they end up being the best one out of the bunch… even if there’s a shirtless man on the front.
Judging the Age…
Why do people think that once you’ve passed an age range, it’s no longer acceptable to read those novels anymore? I frequently walk over to the Teen section of my local bookstore, even though I’m in my mid-twenties and there are a bunch of teenagers hanging out in the area.
I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve heard teenagers or parents talking to their kids asking questions about the books that I can answer in a second, but instead stay silent. Who really wants to know what an adult thinks of a teenage book, right? Certainly not teenagers… Then one of the staff members always finds their way to me and ask if I need help looking for anything for anyone. I mentally think “Nope, just looking for books for myself, but thanks for thinking I’m too old for this section.”
Judging the Genre…
There is a reason we have different genres. Does the entire world like drinking black coffee? No! So why would everyone like to read the same genre of books? I read romance, while my mother reads murder/mystery, but every Saturday you’ll find us sitting on the couch together, reading our books for a few hours with our coffee (made to our preferences might I add).
There is absolutely nothing wrong with a book that breaks barriers, for example the LGBTQ+ community. There are a wide variety of this genre coming out into the world and yet they all speak similarly about characters who face all sorts of obstacles. Of course, judging the characters in the book and the person wanting to read it isn’t entirely fair because of its contents. Reading books outside of your comfort zone are really helpful to grow as a person and reader. I find that any book I’ve read, there is always something I can relate to, or understand in it.
It really shouldn’t matter who is reading the book or what it’s about, as long as they are enjoying it. It could be anything from a textbook about the human anatomy, to an erotica. As long as the reader is enjoying what they are reading, then that’s all that matters and it shouldn’t be anyone’s opinion to tell them that they shouldn’t or can’t read such books for certain reasons…
Book shaming really has to stop. When did it become a public service announcement that it was okay to judge the books and the readers who pick them up or receive them for review? I personally read a ton a books by independent authors and about ninety-five percent of the time, it has a shirtless man on the cover or a couple looking pretty intense. Does it deter me wanting to read? Hell no! In fact I will read any book at least once, no matter the cover. Of course the nicer the cover, the more appealing it is to me, but that’s not always the case! There have been quite a few times where the book cover looks absolutely gorgeous or epic, and I just couldn’t enjoy it, or really connect.
So put your pitchforks away folks, and leave readers and bloggers alone, because at the end of the day, the only person who can judge the book is the one that has read it.
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About the Author
Morgan (The Graduated Bookworm Blogger) is an avid bookstagrammer and blogger of every kind born and raised in a small town outside of Toronto, Ontario Canada. While she spends her days as a teacher, she enjoys curling up with a book and a hot drink at night, taking about the same amount of pictures of her dog as she does for bookstagram. She one day hopes that her own novels will be out in the world for people to read, but in the meantime, she will be hoarding her mugs and books into her tiny office space, writing for people to enjoy!