Books are the new snobbery, according to a survey today. Social competitiveness about which titles we read has become one of the new mass forces of the era and only middle-aged people are relatively free of it.
Driven partly by pressure from incessant literary prize shortlists, more than one in three consumers in London and the south-east admit having bought a book "solely to look intelligent", the YouGov survey says.
It finds one in every eight young people confessing to choosing a book "simply to be seen with the latest shortlisted title". This herd instinct dwindles to affect only one in 20 over-50 year-olds.
As a rule, middle-aged romance writers don't bother trying to impress the impressionable with their reading lists, which frees us to read the books we like rather than the ones we "should" like. We're also free to laugh at the books the rest of you slap onto the counter at Barnes and Noble when you think somebody might be looking.
So. Who's gutsy enough to admit having bought a book to make yourself look cool? Maybe you did it just last week or maybe it was way back in your college days, but tell us, tell us. Have you ever tried to interest girls (or guys) by carrying around a slim volume of verse that you never actually read? Did you try to look smarter by leaving Hawking's A Brief History of Time on your coffee table when you had friends over?
Don't worry; it's not like your confession is going to be splashed all over the internet. This blog doesn't have nearly as large a readership as I like to pretend. But if you're still worried, feel free to post anonymously.