[Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not of ScoopWhoop.]
How do you imagine the perfect weekend? Being curled-up on the bed with a good book? Welcome to the cliché, my friend. With Facebook becoming an integral part of our social personalities, it's only obvious for us to try and reflect our lives on the social media platform. Every day, you can see people updating their statuses about reading a certain book. Why, you ask? Because if you didn't update a status about something, did it really happen?
It's also because of the fact that we love showing off how we indulge in 'voracious' reading by status updates and sharing random, out-of-context quotes compilations.
There has been a sudden surge of a few Facebook pages/Twitter handles which provide amazing designs of certain quotes or words. A ton of people share these posts without even reading it. I'm pretty sure that some people will like the Facebook post about this article without even reading it. Because there's a huge problem with the reading culture in our country.
This event gives us perspective about the reading culture of India - a barrage of hipsters who pretend to have read a lot but in reality, they are what I'd like to call: Wikipedia specialists.
Pretend readers are the most active during March to June every year. We always get these 'fans of the book series' who 'love' Game of Thrones. While everyone is busy discussing the show at length, a few of these guys would try and pretend to have read the books so that we take their opinions seriously. Because for some reason, they think that having read the books makes their opinion more 'credible'. Just ask them a few questions about Volantis and you'd be able to spot these hipsters in the crowd.
One of the books that is most frequently purchased but seldom read is Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time. It seems like it should be interesting, but deals with physics at a level of complexity that is beyond what most of us are able easily process, even when we feel we should read it. You'd often come across people who like to pretend that they understood the concepts explained in the book, but hey, they have probably understood bits and pieces and are now believing that they've understood everything.
Please note that I'm not picking on the reading tastes of people. To each his or her own. This is about reading habits that have given birth to this new set of individuals who lie about having read a said book.
Why does this 'pretend-reading' culture run deep in society, you ask? Because it's human nature to pretend to be smarter to get the ultimate 'seal of approval' from peers.
Is there something in the human soul that makes us want to castigate ourselves for not having read the books we feel we should have? Absolutely. How else are we supposed to look cool in front of our friends/colleagues/juniors? You can't just go and tell your friends that you loved the second movie of the Harry Potter franchise. It just doesn't make you feel smart about yourself. You know what does? Saying that you loved the Chamber of Secrets, the book i.e. And if you want to one-up everyone, just rant about how the movies will never be better than the book.
It's not just the human desire to come off as intelligent that is to blame here. To be honest, the nosy literature dilettante who'd leave no stone unturned to look down upon those who consciously chose not to read a lot of books. Remember the whole debate of whether Dylan does or doesn't not deserve to win the Nobel Prize for Literature? A lot of puritans are yet to wrap their heads around the fact that literary canon has changed a lot. And definitely not for the worse.
When in doubt, mention anything by Friedrich Nietzsche. Just being able to spell the man’s name is a feat, but reading and being able to discuss his books is like winning the lottery for a certain group of hipsters. Drop his name and you’ll be sure to fit in.
Knowing a lot of niche words makes you intelligent but not knowing the right time and place to use them makes you an elitist asshole.
Saying that patience is needed to read 'good' books both demeans the books, and suggests that you’re not mentally able to read them… Here’s a novel thought: stop acting like a book is a mountain. Start acting like they’re a thing people read for fun, in their free time. Maybe then people would start reading.
Now a lot of literature dilettante will try and justify what their idea of good literature is. To be honest, that's subjective. While a lot of people might like a piece of art, there will be an equal number of guys who don't share that feeling. So if 'art' is subjective, how can merit be an issue? So what eventually becomes a 'good' book? When the lines are that blurred, any judgement becomes problematic.
If we keep pushing people away from reading, we'll keep getting more of these pretend readers. We need to normalise reading and not make it one of the important criteria to be a worthy member of society. It's okay if people want to read Chetan Bhagat or Murakami; atleast they're reading something. Only when we stop shaming individuals over their reading habits will we truly respect literature for what it is - a culmination of art and culture into the collective conscience of society.
A lot of people just read a book for the sake of it; while failing to completely understand what it means.
If reading 'good' literature made you smart, we would have well-read idiots plaguing social media right now. While you might think that just reading books is enough, not a lot of thought is given to completely understanding a said novel/book. During an ideation meeting in the office, I saw an idiot who walked in with a Murakami book. She kept reading it during an important meeting, oblivious to the fact that we were actually doing some important work. Why, you must think; because she wanted to send out a message that she was smarter than us mortals.
Ek macchhli poora talaab ko ganda karti hai. And because of a few pretend readers, I find it difficult to trust someone when he/she comes up to me and starts talking about a 'classic'.
I'm not saying that nobody reads. I'm just trying to say that everyone who claims to have read a certain book is not always being truthful. And the major reason behind that is the sort of cultural marxism that a lot of literature enthusiasts are actively participating in. Only when we treat reading as a hobby will we let people be okay with themselves. It's cool to have not read a book and it's cool to have read one. Why are we pushing people into lying? We can stop this and hopefully, we soon will.