I want to talk guilty pleasures, but I realized that I don’t feel guilty about anything that I read. The only time I feel guilty about books is when I waste time with a crappy book when I could be spending time with something awesome. But, there are books that other people try to make me feel guilty about loving. So, right here, right now, I’m going to out myself as a lover of books that others judge me for. I love Romance novels, which anyone who read my last column probably knows. I love Graphic Novels and straight-up comic books. I love Science Fiction and Fantasy and Horror and Chick Lit and over-the-top comic romps and Mystery and Crime and Thriller and Spy fiction. I read those books you find at the checkout stand at the grocery store and I love them. But, let’s get down to some specifics–the books and/or authors that I will vehemently defend for one reason or another.
The first book on my list is Zoo by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge. This was the first Patterson novel I had read in ages. There was something about the plot–animals taking revenge on humans–that sounded like exactly the kind of absorbing, entertaining read that I truly enjoy as a palate-cleanser between heavier fare. And it didn’t disappoint. My first thought on finishing was that it needed to be made into a TV mini-series and I apparently wasn’t the only one who thought so–it’s going to be a 13-episode summer series on CBS next year. (If they do not use the chimp in the red hat on all the advertising, they’re missing a prime opportunity.) No, it’s not high literature and the science is more than a little iffy, but for sheer entertainment value it can’t be beat.
I’m also a huge Nora Roberts fan. And her most recent hardcover, The Collector, is all about Fabergé Eggs. I lived in New Orleans for a couple of years and their art museum had a collection of Fabergé pieces, including Eggs, on display in its permanent collection. I had always thought them lovely, but seeing objects from the Fabergé workshops up close made me really appreciate the exquisite craftsmanship that went into each piece. The same is true of a Nora Roberts novel. The same tools and techniques are employed each time, but each piece is unique and beautiful in its own way. Not every work is going to appeal to every taste, but the overall quality is consistently high.
When I want comfort-food reading–the literary equivalent of macaroni and cheese–I turn to Jill Mansell. She writes what may best be called “chick lit”. But, unlike the American version of such, which seems to revolve around a fresh-out-of-college young woman working some “glamourous” job in New York and searching for both Mr. Right and the perfect pair of shoes. British chick lit such as Ms. Mansell produces has heroines with whom I could actually imagine having a glass of wine. They’re usually slightly older and their lives are a bit of a mess and quite often they’re moving from the city to a small town or the countryside. Inevitably, our heroine will be be in a situation in which she is wearing something mortifying, usually involving one or more of the following: a dressing gown, wellies, un-sexy knickers. My first Mansell was Rumor Has It, so it will always have a special place in my heart, but my favorite is probably Millie’s Fling, though I’d be hard-pressed to say why that is, exactly. Truth be told, I love all of her books and when you just need something that is going to make you laugh and cry and sigh deeply in contentment, look no further than Jill Mansell.
While Graphic Novels and Graphic Memoir have become more prevalent on bookstore shelves and while I can appreciate the works of Joe Sacco and Alison Bechdel and Marjane Satrapi and Craig Thompson, I freely admit to preferring the works of one Mr. Joss Whedon. Give me the further adventures of Buffy and Willow and Xander or the crew of the Serenity or even Angel and Faith and I’ll spend hours in a happy cloud of beautiful nostalgia. I have an entire shelf devoted to comics set in the Whedonverse. (I’m ashamed to admit, however, that I’ve fallen behind. On the plus side, that leaves me with a lot of reading to look forward to.)
I could go on for days and weeks and months about the books I read just for the sheer pleasure of the experience, but I’ll just mention one more. Someone whose opinion I trust (Hi, David!) recommended David Gibbins to me several years ago. Make no mistake, these are manly adventure novels with a protagonist who is an obvious stand-in for the author. However, there are a couple of things that differentiate these novels from the Manly Adventure Novel crowd: our hero does not sleep with a new woman in every novel and the plots, while rather silly (as these things so often are), are based in the author’s own experiences as an underwater archaeologist. If you’ve read all the Clive Cussler and Dan Brown and even Lee Child novels on the shelves, I recommend you give David Gibbins a try. (I started with The Lost Tomb, but Atlantis is technically the first in the series.)
Thus endeth my confession. For now. So, what are your not-so-guilty pleasures? Which books or authors would you defend, even though you don’t really feel you should have to? Let’s bring them all out into the light and be proud of what we read for no other reason than that it gives us joy.
Billie Bloebaum will read almost anything and has been known to give the stink-eye (and a lecture) to anyone who judges an author or genre without reading it, so check carefully to make sure she’s not lurking in the corner when you start bad-mouthing La Nora.