We’ve Got Another One

The Guardian is batting, uh, maybe not 1.000, but the number is up there this week as they approach the subject of celebrity endorsements on books. Someone (a judge of the Man Booker Prize or something?) said such blurbs “blackmail the reader.” Do they?

What do you think when you see a celebrity quote or blurb on a book? I’m jaded and cynical, so I often think, “They probably didn’t even read it.” Or, “They’re probably just friends with the author and so were cornered into saying something nice about the book.”

The whole thing makes me feel a bit ill, really. A bunch of snobs rubbing shoulders and patting one another on the back. That’s how it comes across to me.

But what about you? Do you feel like you’re missing out if you don’t read the latest, hottest thing? Particularly if a celebrity has blurbed it? Do you trust a celebrity’s review or opinion more than anyone else’s? (And if so . . . WHY? I really want to know.)

I’ve worked with celebrities, so maybe I just don’t have it in me to be swayed by their opinions. I don’t know. I do know I’ve never picked up a book just because someone famous liked it. The blurb may get me to look at the book, but I always decide for myself whether to read it.

So let’s say your favorite actor or singer or writer “recommended” a book. You pick it up and start to read it, and you hate it. Do you, as the Man Booker judge suggests, feel stupid for not liking something a celebrity likes? Do you try to convince yourself to like it? Do you make yourself finish reading the book no matter what?

I just . . . I mean, does anyone really read the quotes to begin with? I usually only notice them after I’ve already bought the book because I, you know, read the back of the book or the dust jacket or whatever and thought it sounded good. Then I might notice the quotes and think, “Oh. Cool.” But most likely I think [see paragraph 2].

But I’m also not one of these celeb culture followers. So maybe for other people it’s different. Maybe some people only read books their favorite celebrities read. Or wouldn’t read at all if those famous faces didn’t encourage it.

I’m NOT judging. I’m just acknowledging that circumstances may be different. Just today I was explaining to a second grader that, yes, he had to learn to read well because life requires that skill. But I told him, “Look, reading for fun may not be your thing. And that’s okay. You have to learn to read, but you don’t have to spend your spare time doing it. It’s not for everyone.” Because, much as I love reading and writing, I’m aware that there are people in the world who don’t.

So, you know, maybe celebrity blurbs are a good thing. If they get people to read.

But I don’t know the statistics on that. I don’t have any data. Just like no one know whether these blurbs “blackmail” people either. It’s an opinion, but what is it based on? Some old guy’s irritation? Seriously, I don’t know, I’m just wondering.

Anyway, let me know if celebrity book blurbs sway your reading choices. They’ve never really impacted mine.