Confession time: I read popular mass-market paperbacks. Murder mysteries are my favorites, but the occasional romance novel has been known to sneak in here and there. These are books by big-name authors, the ones who often end up as punchlines for people who talk about literature, like John Grisham, for instance. Now, I read my fair share of literary fiction, and I can tell the difference between quality and not-so-quality, but when it comes down to it, I don’t actually care. I like to read books, so I do.
I’ve been thinking lately about this — why some things are okay and other things supposedly aren’t — and I came to the conclusion that I’m tired of being embarrassed by the things I like. If I like them, even in a fleeting, braincandy sort of way, then I like them. Life is too short to be a snob about these things, I think (other forms of entertainment like music and film fall under this too). I have Wham! songs on my iPod and yes, I do watch American Idol. I recently picked up a James Patterson book called Honeymoon and laughed my way through it because it was both insanely predictable and ridiculously bad, but I sure had a good time reading it.
Anyway, back to the point. I suppose this all goes back to the classic “What is literature?” question (which has been discussed here). Sure, some books are good and some books are bad, but why are some books and writers not even considered to be worth enough to be taken seriously at all? What takes a book out of the realm of literary fiction and pushes it into the world of guilty pleasures (if it’s pleasurable at all)? I’m honestly curious. How do we end up defining these things?
So, in between all of the important, high-quality literature you consume to maintain your genius, do you ever read mass-market, blockbuster paperbacks? When you do, do you admit to other people that you’re reading them? What are some of your guilty pleasures? Confession is good for the soul, you know.