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Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

What are you thoughts on judging what others read or on how others judge you based on what you read?

Asked by Simone_De_Beauvoir (38932points) June 29th, 2009

I am an avid reader, always have been, I’ve read many different kinds of books…people, I have noticed, do pay attention to what books I read and it makes them think they have a better understanding of me…I’ve been wondering if you’ve ever felt judged for what you’re reading or if if you’ve ever judge another based on what they’re reading…I know that when I sometimes see someone deeply into a beaten up, read over and oover Bible, I wonder what new insights could one possibly be getting out…then again I read Harry Potter over and over and I know people think it’s so strange to see an adult do that…of course then there are books that when one sees me reading them, they are intrigued (like if a man sees me reading my ‘history of masculinity’ book, it always feels like he gets haughtier, to prove that this doesn’t bother him)...I’m thinking of a getting a Kindle, I find it interesting that that way people will have no way of knowing what I’m reading and whether or not that would bother them…we often look over the shoulder of what others are reading anyway, but we do judge books by their covers and people by the covers of the books they read..

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32 Answers

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

People read what interests them. People read things that I prefer not to read but I’m not going to judge them for it butba persons reading choices is oftten indicative of what is important to them.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

duplicate post removed

whatthefluther's avatar

If I have an opportunity to review your library, I’m fairly certain I will try to guess what your interests are but wouldn’t necessarily form an opinion of your character. Unless, of course, those areas of interest cause concern, such as you having a lot of conspiracy books, or UFO/ET books, or self help how-to-make-a-homemade-bomb books. Then I might think you are wacky.

Les's avatar

I think you can tell a lot about a person based on what she reads, but I think it can get muddled. I tend not to read a lot of the same types of books. My favorites are Jane Eyre, the Hitchhikers Guide trilogy, Animal Farm and Elegant Universe. There’s really no pattern there. I hated 1984, never got into Pride and Prejudice and pretty much can’t stand any other Sci-Fi. I think everyone makes some kind of judgement about a person based on what that person is reading, but I don’t think it will always be right on.

trailsillustrated's avatar

its a window into who they are. i always look at peoples bookshelves. the wierdest is when they have no books.

wundayatta's avatar

I don’t know what I make of it. Some people are heavy on poetry, others on fiction, science fiction, non-fiction. The only one that really gives me an idea is when there are a lot of self-help books on the shelves.

The variety of books makes a difference. The difficulty of the texts—academic vs popular; Joyce and Pynchon vs Steele and King, tells me a bit about their aspirations, and general knowledge of culture (intellectual vs popular), if not their actual knowledge. I mean, who knows if they’ve read all the books.

In any case, I don’t think it’s judging a person, unless you place normative standards on what people should be reading. I just do it from interest. Although, I have to say, if someone doesn’t have any bookshelves, I have serious doubts as to how interesting I will find them. Then again, such people have been rare in my life.

casheroo's avatar

I try not to judge on what a person reads, but I will admit to making snap judgements when I know they like a book that I really disliked (I just wonder what they found so interesting, it usually makes me want to read it again)
I read a variety of books, I started out with a lot of James Patterson, as a very young age, and Mary Higgins Clark (Some would judge me for that, I was only 12 and read all her books that I could get my hands on. I had a teacher who would lend me her books, and she and I just had a great connection.) I used to love criminal thrillers, but really got into science fiction when I was entering college. I also went through a historical fiction phase. Once I start a series I can’t stop.

I think people take what books you like, and attribute it to your every day likes..when they really have nothing to do with the other. Reading for me is pure entertainment. It passes the time, and intrigues me. I don’t like reading to learn, unless I’m in school. Not sure what that says about me.
I do know I find the books my husband reads to be boring, a lot to do with life in kitchens. He loves Anthony Bourdain, and he also loves zombie books. I love zombie movies, but not books. It’s just our different preferences.

Jeruba's avatar

People do seem to be endlessly curious about what others are reading—in the waiting room, on the airplane, alone at lunch. I don’t think the curiosity is so much about the book itself as about who’s reading it. And of course when it comes to strangers, we’re also forming impressions of them based on other superficial evidence—mainly appearance. So I don’t know how much we can really tell when we glimpse a book cover, but for some reason we look anyway, just as we look in lighted windows as we drive past. We are perpetually curious about the lives of others. I think that’s the answer to your question. I think we attempt to read each other out of the same impulse that prompts us to read fiction. And a book in the hand can probably tell us more than a beverage or a handbag or a hairstyle.

I draw conclusions on the basis of reading patterns but not on a single data point. If someone tells me “Oh, I eat up everything Danielle Steel writes,” I will form a different impression from when I hear “I keep up with the latest by Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins” or “I’m a big admirer of Andrea Barrett’s work.”

Anyone who reads widely is going to be seen from time to time carrying an outlier. Which is more characteristic of me, a tome by Neal Stephenson, a light, bright murder mystery, a mainstream best-seller, a scholarly account of a piece of detective work in the history of an Old Master, or a volume exploring a single line of ancient Zen wisdom? Any single title might lead to a wrong conclusion, but together they’d lead to a right one.

I don’t honestly care what strangers think of what I read, and I never carry something for the impression it will make.

aliisyourfriend's avatar

I’ll pick up anything that happens to strike my fancy at the time, so I end up reading a wide variety of fiction and non-fiction. I’m more likely to make judgements on a person if I find out that they don’t like to read or don’t have any books in their house. I don’t really care what anyone else reads except for people with tastes I trust—but that’s just so I can get recommendations.

Bri_L's avatar

I find it to be just another fascinating part of the person and if they are open to it I love to learn why they choose what they did. If appropriate, that is to say it won’t ruin it for me if I want to read it, I like to ask questions about what they read. To me it is almost like getting a review.

I expect people judge me. I have no problem with that.

Great question!

Facade's avatar

I wouldn’t say I “judge” them, but it’s telling of the person’s interests. I think what a person reads tell a lot about them.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

Addendum:
I have to admit, I am curious as to why people read tabloid magazines or similarly expliotative periodicals.

Facade's avatar

@The_Compassionate_Heretic because it’s interesting to me

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

@Facade @Simone_De_Beauvoir That’s fair enough.
I used to read World Weekly News for the laughs at the checkstand. Now that it’s gone, there’s a void where Bat Boy and Nostradamus’ predictions of apocalypse used to be.

Facade's avatar

Jon and Kate can fill the void :P

FZglass's avatar

It’s like what Rob says in High Fidelity, ”I agreed that what really matters is what you like, not what you are like… Books, records, films – these things matter. Call me shallow but it’s the fuckin’ truth
You can’t help but judge people for what movie they are renting, or what book they picked up at the store. The same way we all judge people by what they wear or how they look.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

Silliness. I’ve known people who read a great deal and keep books around and those you’d never know are big readers because they pass their books around. There are also people I’ve encountered who’ve never been big readers but their capacity for absorbing and remembering what they do is incredible, like walking libraries. If anyone’s ever judged me by what I read or don’t read then I haven’t been made aware.

Bluefreedom's avatar

I suppose I’ve been fortunate (or not) that I haven’t had anyone ever judge me on the books that I read and subjects that interest me. Even if they did and their views were unfavorable (in their mind anyway), it would have no impact whatsoever on what I’ve always liked and read.

I personally wouldn’t judge someone else on what they’ve read or are reading because I don’t have the right to do that and I find it completely unnecessary. I admire people who read anything and everything because reading is a very fun, educational, and stimulating activity.

benjaminlevi's avatar

People don’t judge me on what I read, just the fact that I read at all.

“Why are you reading!? It’s summer.” -my coworkers

YARNLADY's avatar

I don’t judge people on what they read, but I am willing to answer questions that ask me to judge a book that I have read.

phoenyx's avatar

I judge people by what they read all of the time, and I’m sure other people judge me by what I read. However, it isn’t to figure out how stupid someone is; it is degree of common interest. There are a lot of books out there and I don’t have a lot of time to read, so I want to figure out books that will be interesting to me. The best indicator I’ve found is to find people who are interested in the same types of books as I am, see what else they’ve read, and investigate those books.

(I find goodreads.com helpful.)

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@phoenyx
yes, i love that website, long time member

Bri_L's avatar

@phoenyx – your my super hero I was trying to remember that site!!!

Clair's avatar

I’m not judgmental, although some choices can be strange in my eyes. I think it’s a great thing that they’re reading at all.

Ruthi's avatar

I make it a point not to judge people by what they read, but I do try to guess what their personality is by the books they read. I think it’s something that I do just for the heck of seeing whether my guesses are good =)

I’d have to admit that I don’t have a typical pattern in the stuff I read either. Anything other than science fiction is fine…never could abide that genre, try as I might!

f4a's avatar

whats even worse, when people judge you when they hear you or see you talking about what books you’ve read. (even if you were just telling because you want to share something)I think those people are shallow, and they are usually the same person who do not read books. Its as if though they get insulted for not reading. I like people who share what they’ve read.

wundayatta's avatar

People feel judged about a lot of things even when neither criticism nor braggadocio is intended.

tiffyandthewall's avatar

as much as i try not to judge people by things like that, it’s hard not to. after all, what we read, to at least some extent, often says something about us. so naturally, what we read should be a factor in the judgment we receive from others.
but this whole twilight phenomenon has even the greatest people reading what, in my opinion, is a shit book. so i personally am in the process of learning how to not automatically think ‘minus 50 awesome points’ whenever someone who is otherwise someone i like speaks in the favor of that book.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@tiffyandthewall lol i am having the same issue

kerryyylynn's avatar

Someones choice in books can reveal both everything and nothing about them. I read works by authors from Stephen King and Dean Koontz to J K Rowling and Shakespeare.

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