Read Snobbery: The American Version by Joseph Epstein Online


A national bestseller, Snobbery examines the discriminating qualities in all of us. With dishy detail, Joseph Epstein skewers all manner of elitism in contemporary America. He offers his arch observations of the new footholds of snobbery: food, fashion, high-achieving children, schools, politics, being with-it, name-dropping, and much more. Clever, incisive, and immenselyA national bestseller, Snobbery examines the discriminating qualities in all of us. With dishy detail, Joseph Epstein skewers all manner of elitism in contemporary America. He offers his arch observations of the new footholds of snobbery: food, fashion, high-achieving children, schools, politics, being with-it, name-dropping, and much more. Clever, incisive, and immensely entertaining, Snobberyexplores the shallows and depths of status and taste -- with enviable results....

Title : Snobbery: The American Version
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780618340736
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 288 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Snobbery: The American Version Reviews

  • Mary Fons
    2019-06-07 08:14

    Mr. Epstein! This was a fantastic book. I'm a snob. If you've got a GoodReads profile, there's a real good chance you're a snob, too. We're all snobs about something: food, culture, music, fashion, lifestyle, etc. "Snobbery" breaks down the why and how behind American snobbery and provides a funny, intelligent read.What amazed me most was the history of snobbery that Epstein lays out. It had never occurred to me that the U.S. used to have a high Society (with a capital "S") and that times were actually much simpler then. People knew where they stood, socially/culturally speaking. Sure, some people transcended their caste, but most didn't and it was sort of okay. There were fewer snobs in the world because there were fewer people with money and those people cared a hell of a lot about bloodlines. Everyone else just sort of went along, businesses as usual.When the 1960s happened, the next generation of Society bailed on their parents and got all anti-establishment. This dealt a major blow to Society. The upper-middle class grew in the 1980s. High Society pretty much disintegrated and that *created* a bazillion snobs.This is because with no clear "you're in and I'm out" system, everyone's trying to create one, individual by individual. It goes something like: "I'm better than Susan, but Susan's better than Jill. No one's as great as Janet, but Shirley comes close. We're all better than the people in the next neighborhood over, but wouldn't it be great to be invited to the parties thrown by that couple downtown?"Snobs breed snobs breed snobs because we're all trying to find a foothold, trying to find our identity and self-worth. Amazing! I encourage anyone with an interest in social sciences to read this book. If you're concerned with your snobbery, that's a good reason to read it, too, though I'm afraid there isn't much you can do to change it...

  • Bob
    2019-05-26 10:07

    Every decade or two someone takes on the class system of the putatively classless American society, which is generally entertaining reading and good for building up a minor bibliography of (mostly pop) sociology. The formative text for me of this sort is Paul Fussell's "Class: A Guide Through the American Status System" from 1983, which led me to Thorstein Veblen and Vance Packard and the like.Epstein footnotes both the last two, but dismisses Fussell as an Anglophile snob in one paragraph that doesn't even allude to his rather similar book, leading one to wonder (as both were life-long academics in the literary world), if Fussell patronized or snubbed the decade-younger Epstein at some conference. While Fussell dates himself a bit with generic caricatures of the hierarchy of Army wives in a way that is almost reminiscent of Reader's Digest, Epstein names names and does so gleefully: though Gore Vidal (still alive when this came out) could certainly hold his own, Phyllis Rose might have wondered why she was singled out for a special jab (or perhaps she knows full well). On the one hand I appreciate Epstein's stance that no one who writes on status and social class can very honestly claim to be entirely above or outside it, in the course of admitting his own prejudices his enthusiasm for expensive cars and name-dropping gets a bit tedious. There is also the fuddy-duddy factor - claiming to be thoroughly familiar with Madonna's image without having troubled to hear note of her music, or his apparent belief that American cuisine peaked with shrimp cocktail, steak and iceberg lettuce. Finally it becomes clear after a bit (I didn't do much background before starting the book, a stoop find) that he is a conservative of the sort that refers to "Victims' Studies" college majors, so my enthusiasm waned sharply as we went along.

  • Aubrey
    2019-06-14 05:19

    A very cute read, Epstein talks about the curiosity he finds in that though democracy, by its very nature touts itself as anti-snobbery, seems at the same time, by its very nature, to breed it. By taking away the social solidarity of class, getting rid of any true aristocracy, and even by eliminating the society columns, Americans are left with the need to find some way of distinguishing themselves from their fellow countrymen.We do this by becoming snobs: Job-snobbery, school snobbery, intellectual snobbery, political, celebrity, food & wine, overall "good taste".... and the list goes on.A very fun book, though I think it would do better as a collection of essays instead.

  • Lize
    2019-05-19 04:55

    Read in 2002. Incredibly pompous, ponderous and pedantic (Epstein was clearly the right choice to expound on this particular topic), but I did learn a thing or two. The Snobbery Test: Are you taking pleasure in a thing or activity for itself, or is the pleasure because most people are excluded from it? The Elitist wants the best, the Snob also wants to make sure other people know he has the best.

  • Danielle
    2019-06-06 11:01

    Thoroughly enjoyed this! Joseph Epstein is incredibly intelligent and funny, and I really learned a lot reading this book, especially about 18th-20th century writers. Intellectual is one of the forms of snobbery that Epstein frequently discusses, seeing how as an educated person he has the most personal experience with that form; plus, as correctly he states, "novelists are our keenest sociologists" (65). I really appreciate that this book doesn't have a mushy, "let's all love ourselves and each other" message. He makes the point at the beginning and the end of the book that being good-hearted and genuine is what matters, but other than that the book contains his observations and research in regard to snobbery, and an entertaining analysis of the psychology behind snobbery and how snobber functions in American society today. Epstein is honest and thought-provoking.Yet with all of its wonderful qualities I had to push myself to get through the book. It just seems so long, and some chapters seem unnecessary, namely 'The Art of With-It-ry', which I skipped. Part One is great; it sets about defining snobbery (and close relatives like taste), and the basic motives and thought process of snobs. Part Two applies those basic principles to today's (as of 2002) American life and society. Most of it is great as well, but after a while it feels like Epstein keeps banging us over the head with the same main points, Just in the different settings of food, celebrity, child-rearing and Anglo/Franco-philia. It was just like, "OKAY, I get it! Snobs are insecure and want to feel that they're above everyone else. Now let's move on." Fortunately I wasn't made to feel that way often, but it made the reading process a bit daunting in the second half, which is why I've only given 3 stars. Though Snobbery: The American Version wasn't as fun to read as I had hoped, it was still a great read and made me laugh and think. So I'm not disappointed at all.

  • Kevin
    2019-05-27 11:03

    Witty, erudite, effortlessly constructed and studded with 5-dollar words I don't know but would like to learn. Epstein is the new half-brother to my favorite family of writers, sitting at Thankgiving between Anne Fadiman and Joan Didion, across the table from Bill Bryson and Phillip Lopate. These are my heroes, men and women who take often pedestrian subjects and light them with bottle rockets from the inside. I hope to have a literary legacy like theirs someday. And as I practice, I read books like these to imagine what I could aim for in the meantime. Will grab another Epstein right soon. I'm thinking In a Cardboard Belt

  • TK
    2019-06-12 10:18

    I never quite finished this. It came highly recommended by someone whose opinion I normally trust about books, but I had the strange experience of both feeling superior as I read about American snobs ("thank God I'm not one of them,") but also vagelu inferior ("why aren't I one of them?"). This I suppose is the whole thorn of snobbery; frankly, I don't know why I should spend more time than basolutely necesary with snobs. So thus, I never finished the book.

  • Jafar
    2019-06-05 08:17

    A few interesting cultural and sociological bits and pieces about different kinds of snobbery in America, but in the end I’m not sure what Epstein was trying to say. The book itself smells of snobbery with all that name-dropping. Major turn-off when an author writes too much about himself in a book that is not meant to be an autobiography.

  • Gregory
    2019-06-17 07:16

    Given my circumstances, reverse snobbery is pretty much the only kind available to me, and I've been living with it, and off of it, for years.

  • Kyle Johnson
    2019-05-23 08:07

    Perhaps those most snobbish of all are the purveyors of snobbery in modern society. Joseph Epstein knows this, which is why he continually exploits the contradiction (of his own making) that exists in each chapter: 'I don't care where my son goes to college, but I know the rankings and I'll judge someone with an inferior college's bumper sticker on his/her car' (for example). Although much of the writing seems frivolous & overwritten (chapter-length 'first world problems'), I did find the midsection of the book to be its most redeeming, relevant, and compelling factor--chapters 5-18ish. Nonetheless, the whole thing is a mixture of research, cultural/historical awareness, and personal essay, that I found somewhat confusing at first--when he would quote authors or historical information, I wanted some form of citation. When he would share anecdotes from his own life, I would want more interrogation and reflection of his own perceptions. With how semi-confessional & cosmopolitan Epstein is throughout the book, I found it odd, as well, that there was no mention or reflection of 9/11/01. It's as if he finished the book beforehand & didn't want to consider the ramifications of that historical bombshell.

  • Ryan
    2019-06-08 10:53

    I picked this up hoping for I know not what - enlightenment, understanding, a broader perspective. In that sense, it delivered. The author actually goes to enviable lengths to portray his own snobbery, the origins of it and its own evolution, before he gets into tearing into the snobbery of others.It was an enjoyable book, if you like social commentary, which is essentially all this is. There are relatively few concrete numbers, owing at least in part to the nature of snobbery itself being a somewhat subjective pursuit. There was a fairly consistent attempt on the part of the author to hammer on the main point of snobbery being snobbery as opposed to simply being a matter of personal taste - if I remember, that difference is primarily that snobbery is an affectation that one puts on in the hope that it will impress those above one's station, while simultaneously distancing oneself from those in the class below one's own. Taste is simply an acquisition of personality, brought about by more or less informed decision-making.Yeah. Boring, but it is culpable, and so it provides a somewhat tenable basis for attacking and defining the various species of snob in the world today, which is where the book gets really rolling - well, relatively speaking. It's still pretty dry, even in the throes of mild disapproval and the accompanying sarcasm. There is an undeniable old white guy feel to the language, but it is descriptive and it is used precisely, as opposed to being obliterated with an overabundance of generality. Books focused on social phenomena seem very prone to suffering from vagueness. I can say that this book very rarely does, if ever. At several points in the book I found I recognized the types of snob being described. If nothing else, it gave me a sense of not being completely devoid of reason for finding certain elements of society - such as those whom this author terms "virtucrats" - a bit too sure of their own immunity to snobbishness, when, in practice, it's a vital method of self-identification.Which is, I suppose, one pointed summation of the book: When the author ceased to find any real satisfaction in courting favor from those whom he respected, it seemed he usually wound up finding it (although I admit that might be simply misinformation fed by my brain to itself in the hope of a satisfying resolution to the problem of being a famous author only when one doesn't give a shit about being a famous author, which frankly seems too pat to be true). In any case, even then, though, that approval carried (usually) not much weight for him.It seems too bad to reduce this book to some kind of abstract memoir, since that was in no way what it was intended or constructed to be, but the personal story is the lynchpin of the book's existence. Without that experience as a grounding, fundamental inquiry, there wouldn't have been a book. Even with as hard to pin down a subject as this one really is, I believe Mr. Epstein made a cogent and consistently reliable evaluation of an inherently subjective social condition. If you like this kind of stuff, then you will like this stuff.I was glad I read it, but also glad to move on to some fiction afterward. See if it floats your boat if you're curious, though, by all means.

  • JQAdams
    2019-06-07 03:57

    Someone in my presence referred to this book as the best nonfiction book published since 2000. While it was unclear from context whether this meant "most important" or "most enjoyable," I thought I should read the book, even though I'd previously never heard of it.It's a strange little book. Epstein starts off by cataloging his many dimensions of snobbishness, defined expansively to encompass most of the ways people judge each other as inferior to themselves: as far as could be told, his definition meant that people who hold themselves to be better than, say, murderers, would be considered snobby. He's not explicit about that, though the seeming grab-bag of things he does talk about suggest few bounds to his topic. Then, after having conceded his own many snobberies, he proceeds to discuss in subsequent chapters about how snobs fundamentally lack self-awareness and are incapable of thinking deeply about snobbery. This seems to undermine the idea that Epstein would be qualified to write a book about snobbery, but he is serenely unruffled. "Serenely unruffled" actually describes the blasé attitude towards logical argument throughout the book. Much of the discussion is just a random assertion of beliefs, often with no attempt to back them up with any broader logic. Apparently "homosexuals have no sense of futurity" because they don't have children; vegetarians are inherently snobby because their self-denial makes others feel bad about themselves, even when the vegetarians themselves don't judge; and the name "Scott" is pretentious and snobby because 90% of those who use it are, consciously or otherwise, trying to evoke F. Scott Fitzgerald, which...what? Even if that was true when the name's popularity surged in the 1970s, I'm pretty sure it was long since outdated by the time Epstein was writing. I suppose it's not surprising that a writer who often repeats his "witty" quips from conversation is self-satisfied enough to not feel he needs to justify any of his beliefs. Or that he finds his own snobbinesses forgivable, even endearing, while sometimes being vituperative about others' that seem comparably petty. But that overbearingly personal nature of the book makes it fairly unsatisfying despite its occasionally interesting talk about divisions in society.

  • Elaine Meszaros
    2019-06-03 03:53

    Snobbery often entails taking a petty, superficial, or irrelevant distinction and, so to say, running with it.Epstein's study of snobbery should be considered a guilty pleasure, replete with snarky little personal stories. His main premise is snobbery is a strangely unique phenomenon created by Americans. Our democracy gives us countless outlets to compare and judge our fellow humans. In past societies there were certainly social stratas filled with their nouveau and bourgeoisie. But the changes of a parlor maid becoming a Duchess or miller an academic were slim to nil. There were less areas to be snobby about since there wasn't much social mobility.The American melting pot stirs us all together and gives us so many options and groups to feel superior to. In addition to the usual, and oft-mocked snobs, like clothes-horses and Society, there are many modern types of snobs. There are academic snobs, sure that the only people who matter have gone to a handful of (arguably) great schools. There are the intellectual snobs who place a premium on "correct" information - knowing the newest painter, names of esoteric wines and avant garde writers. Job snobs look down anyone lower than them on the (correct) ladder of success. They seethe with envy over those higher up.Of course, there are are the anti-snobs who consider themselves superior and oh-so separate from those judgmental barbarians. I found myself particularly amused at this subsection. In essence, Epstein is re-presenting Stuff White People Like, but in more academic tones. I recommend reading both and having a good laugh at "those" people. You know, the ones WE would never mix with.

  • Sean Goh
    2019-06-10 08:58

    After reading this book I'm now more conscious of class-consciousness. With the rise of egalitarianism, class lines are more blurred, social mobility is up, and thus jockeying for social status becomes more pronounced.For one class to envy another, they have to be close enough to be compared.Snobbery will die on the day when none of us need reassurance of his or her worth.The crux of good manners is in behaving the same way to all.Moral snobs (virtucrats) strive to convince you that their positions are the morally superior ones. Snobbery takes hold where substance is lacking, where appearances are reality.At schools like Harvard, the main event is being accepted.Good students are a bit like good dogs, they fetch upon request.Status is in the eye of the beholder, not the holder. One cannot confer status on oneself.Money will not miss the slightest opportunity to demonstrate its stupidity.One way to a snob-free zone is to judge people solely on the work they produce.Taste is one of the main ways of defining social class. The snob's main error is putting good taste before a good heart.Behind all acts of snobbery is a false or irreverent valuation.The test for snobbery: Is the thing desired worthy on its own and not for extrinsic (usually social) reasons? Put alternatively: If no one else knew I owned this, would I still buy it?

  • Mary Lou
    2019-06-06 12:11

    Some interesting observations, if a little pretentious itself.

  • Amanda Reat
    2019-05-23 06:56

    So far, less humorous and informative than I expected but a decent summer read. A candid and somewhat comical look into what it means to be a snob, who qualifies and how. Epstein points out that snobs A) are trying to own, attain, look, act, drink, eat, etc in the way that society has deemed "high class" or "high status". I especially liked that he explains that these things may not actually be the best, the most high class, the most quality items, characteristics, attitudes, education, etc that they are merely what society associates with high class. Perhaps this point resonated with me because I struggle with an inferiority complex myself regarding the school I go to...womp womp.I wanted to take a lesson or two on how to not be a snob. Sadly, I realized that I am indeed a snob in a few aspects. One thing that I have become aware of though is that snobs are innately trying to move further up the social chain (usually towards someone of a higher status) while at the same time furthering themselves from the bottom social dweller (this by putting them down).More to come as I finish.

  • Jackie
    2019-05-25 10:17

    I saw this book in a bin at a used bookstore this week and pounced -- it's great. Epstein attempts to dissect post-WASP snobbery (and by default, what social class means in America) in this engaging read. Without clear-cut WASPy rules to lead the way, how do we determine what American snobbery even means anymore? There's no easy answer, but Epstein admirably takes on the challenge and guides us through first its history and then its many forms with conversational ease, from middle class anxiety and connected Ivy Leaguers to the hierarchies of social clubs and materialism. The gratuitous digs can be excessive (enough with the state school jabs!), but at least he owns up to his own snobbery and does a fair amount of soul-searching about its origins. Oh, and he can be quite funny, in a dry and ironic sort of way. He's not always totally focused, and he gets repetitive near the end, but it's still a thoughtful and worthwhile examination of a compelling topic. I highly recommend this book.

  • Hope
    2019-06-14 04:56

    If you've seen the tv show Frasier, there is an episode where Frasier and his brother Niles compete for the one slot left available at Seattle's Empire Club (they thought there would be two places, but someone was acquitted of insider trading). There's a mix up with their names and Frasier mistakenly gets Niles' invite because the club dislikes people in the "entertainment industry" and, after some hemming and hawing, goes to rectify the mistake. Ultimately, both are ejected from the club, but not before Niles swoons over a stuffed leather armchair: "It's as soft as a baby's bottom!" This is all a long of way of saying that Joseph Epstein is the neoconservative-leaning snob in the opposite armchair of the Empire Club, namedropping Dick Cheney, good raincoats, and which universities are worth mentioning. It's half an analysis and half a manifesto of snobbery. He's proud when his son--who went to Stanford, he tells us many times--declares, "if I have to go to Michigan, I'll die."

  • Scott Boyce
    2019-06-04 12:04

    I really enjoyed this one. Snobbery plays a large role in my life, and always has. I've always found people really interesting, and how they relate to one another. I found a lot of truth in this book. "reverse snobbery" really hit me, and describes me perfectly from ages 16-17. Snobbery is me from age 22-25. Now, I'm just trying to be me. Here's the quote that REALLY hit me: "Time to see the world, as the philosophers put it, as in iteself it really is, which snobbery even in small doses, makes it all but impossible to do."

  • Susan
    2019-06-01 10:14

    As someone who has been guilty of snobbery (many, many times), I enjoyed reading it from an objective point of view, proving the futility of snobbery. It's a no-win game! There is always someone smarter, richer, more talented, younger, but yet the snob is determined to eek out little victories over a lifetime. Aren't we all snobbish about something? It's human nature. I know I will laugh at myself when I catch myself acting snobbish in the future :-)

  • Katrina
    2019-06-05 08:17

    The sociologist in me loved this book. The author steps back and looks at parts of society that are largely intangible, yet obviously real. Only an astute observer could write about a topic so abstract as snobbery, in a way that makes you examine yourself and your own prejudices. Although this author is not a Christian, he highlights the sin in all of us (our natural tendency to want to be BETTER than others, in the most subtle but real ways.) You have to read this book!

  • Michael
    2019-05-21 10:57

    I was hoping this was going to be funny or ironic. So I was with it for the first few chapters, got a little lost or bored in the middle, but the last 1/3 ended well for me. He really pokes at some people in this world, but I feel like nobody cares what this guy says. I read a review of it years ago and I'm sifting through all these books I bought years ago. I was hoping for more but got what I got out of it.

  • Paul
    2019-05-25 05:56

    When I picked up this book I expected a "fizzy" piece of writing, a tongue in cheek treatment of a subject which I could not imagine being taken too "seriously." I was wrong!This book is deep, a brilliant piece of anthropology. It.probes the human soul with a gentle but merciless finger. Guaranteed to make you wince.

  • William
    2019-05-30 07:08

    A great book about class in America: A bit dated, but helped me better understand what was going on when I worked in New England for five years. You've gotta love chapters with named like: "O WASP, where is thy Sting-a ling" "A son at Tufts, a Daughter at Taffeta" "Intellectual Snobbery, or The Happy Few" "Fags and Yids" - close to my heart!

  • Whitney
    2019-05-21 05:05

    There were parts of this book I related to and thought were totally relevant. There were other parts that were written solely for an upper-middle to upper-class readership - one Epstein (snobbishly) probably assumes is his only readership. As a result, the book skips over the snobbishness of middle America (religious, jingoism, etc) that I think is the more accurate "American Version."

  • Annabelle
    2019-06-05 10:18

    I see all my acquaintances, friends, family and of course myself in here! Let's face it, be it over wine, music, culture or career--there's a snob in all of us. This here snob wishes to be able to own this on Kindle, and be allowed the luxury of outlining the phrases I most happen to agree with.

  • Nanaz
    2019-05-19 06:09

    Well-written book discussing the idea of being a snob in society. The author explains how the term can be applied to everyone. He looks at the idea of being a snob amongst social classes and the illusion of the Ivy League. He looks at money as a influential factor in families and amongst friendships.

  • Jack
    2019-05-30 10:06

    In a series of essays on various aspects of American culture, JE articulates what we may, or may not, have been sensing all along: that how and why Americans live with and treat each other defines a nuanced and particular "snobbery," a system jerry-rigged to maintain one's integrity and sense of self in an otherwise too-accommodating democracy.

  • Carly
    2019-06-04 09:14

    Excellent - the author hits every point on snobbery and gives a thorough rundown, causes, effects and justifications for the thoughts. He does not shy away from pointing out traits that he lies in fault of as well, a true testament to someone trying to teach something. Funny, well written and informative.What I Learned: Don't let people make you feel little.

  • Cara
    2019-06-09 11:14

    This was a somewhat funny and interesting read. I was never really hooked on it and read it between a number of other books. It does make some interesting comments on snobbery and American culture, and a lot of funny anecdotes and stories. The second half was not as fun in my opinion as the first and as such my pace really slowed in finishing it.