Have you ever judged someone on their book taste in books? Let’s be frank, we all judge others by the things they do and the things they like. There is no getting around it. Even if you say, I don’t judge others, that statement is judging the idea of using information given to better understand another human being and pass judgement (which is really just an assessment).
Judging isn’t inherently bad. It’s just an assessment of information given in any situation. We all judge situations, and then adjust our behaviors accordingly. It is in human nature to do so with other humans, once as a means of physical survival (assessing danger/safety) and then as social survival. To decry judging as some evil is shortsighted.
Assessing someone’s reading habits tells us quite a bit about their personality: likes and dislikes, a window into their fantasies and dreams, the things they value, and the traits they revere. For instance, I have found that a certain segment of men, especially in their youth, love A Clockwork Orange. It’s a cavalcade of toxic masculinity, the traditional violent behaviors of men that have been quelled by society, allowed to break free and wreak havoc, but then is reined back in by rules and torture via conditioning and prison.
What does this tell me about these individuals? It might be uncomfortable for some of us to realize that this shows a desire to act out these violent and bizarre behaviors as part of some power fantasy (toxic masculinity), which is deeply valued by this segment of the population. One might have to peel back a many layers before these men would dare to do anything so vile as rape and murder, while others would only need the guarantee of not being caught. There are disturbing studies about this very thing. Even more disturbing is the dismissal of those studies and the reality of them (which many men and women can attest to knowing those kinds of guys).
This is not to say that one keeps such fantasy for a lifetime. It may just be a construct of the social mind of certain young males. For instance, there was a period when many romance novelists wrote about rape fantasy. It’s as if these two kinds of novels were working in tandem to create the power fantasy for males and making willing does for the hunt. Who has a rape fantasy? Certainly not anyone who has been through any kind of sexual harassment or assault, or knows someone who has. At one time, I used to read a lot of romance. I was an older teen, and they were accessible, and covered many genres, while providing an exploration of sexuality. Rape fantasy romance, also called bodice rippers, were uncomfortable reading. It was difficult to come to terms with a woman falling in love with her rapist. It sold the bull shit line that we should just lie back and enjoy it. That our rapist was flattering us. Such perversion of reality, but it sold a lot of books to women. That’s probably more disturbing than knowing there are monsters out there who want to go on a rape and murder spree.
There are reading habits that show positive traits, too. In reality, it’s all a sliding scale. One might read a lot of philosophy, and then cater to conservative politics, via the idea that the only correct morality is preservation of the self, not the group through cooperation (such as Ayn Rand). And, these individuals sound intelligent and have great educations, so it makes little sense, until you realize you’re witnessing sociopathology–maybe just too much narcissism. On the other hand, there are those who read a lot of philosophy and sit on high judging others negatively (unfairly assessing the information they’ve gained about someone to feel superior), which is another kind of narcissism. And there are those who read a lot of philosophy and don’t know what to do with that kind of thinking, feeling trapped between discernment and superiority.
I’ve been part of a science fiction book fan group on social media, and I find that it is overwhelmed by men. Additionally, the group is split into three factions, along political lines: right, centrist, and left. In my estimation, this reflects the lessons of science fiction: abuse of technology for selfish reasons, balance, and utopia. Of course, each group feels they’re right about the way they see things. Certainly, I find that amusing, because I feel right about the way I see things. Being right or wrong, I don’t know, in all honesty, who is until the whole thing plays out. But, in assessing all the information I have, I lean toward what I think is right. That’s what we all do, in essence.
This group has given quite a pause for thinking about reading habits and what they say about others. For instance, a Star Trek focused group has a lot of toxic males with their sycophantic females. I can hardly say if anyone from the LGBTQ group is there, because being open is unwelcome. I gauged the group as largely conservative, which blows my mind. Star Trek is about progress and growth of human endeavors, including social behavior. That means respect, inclusion, and acceptance. It does not adhere to religiosity. Yet, here they are. Would you have even guessed that a fan of Star Trek and science fiction would hold such ideology? It took me off guard, and I try not to involve myself with them much.
Could it be that they value the progress and inclusion, but in order to fit in with the group they’re surrounded by, they bely all of that in practiced conservative rhetoric? Are they just trolls? I have no idea. I do know that what you read says a lot about you as a person. What you have to say about those readings says even more. Do they reconcile? That’s something to really give an assessment to, but that would be a whole book!
If you loved this article, subscribe to the blog to get more. Donate by buying a book.