What are some of your favorite literary guilty pleasures?


6 Answers

Melinda Moore Profile
Melinda Moore , Avid reader, English Lit and Creative Writing graduate, novelist, answered

I read anything, and everything, to the point where, if there's nothing else to read in the room, I'll even read the back of a cereal packet.

However, when I studied for my degree in English literature, I was required to read almost everything that had been written in English from the 13th Century to the 20th Century, which involved a pretty broad spread of the classics, as you can imagine, as well as incorporating mediaeval English, too!

Luckily, I loved most of what I was required to read - though I wouldn't ever want to read Paradise Lost again.

I also really like a lot of more recent literary fiction, too - which is probably lucky, as there's a terrible snobbery in academia about what merits reading and what doesn't, as well as amongst some writers - so I would struggle during conversations with them if I didn't enjoy reading short story collections and literary novels.

However, this snobbery seems to have led to a belief that literary fiction is the only type of fiction that should ever be read by intelligent people, and that all other genres of writing should be treated as if they were somehow shameful, guilty pleasures.

Literary fiction is itself a genre, though, so I'm not sure I agree with this rather snobbish distinction - and I don't much care about it, either. I just read whatever I happen to feel like reading at the time, regardless of its genre.

For example, if I feel like reading Edith Wharton (who I love), then I do - but, equally, if I feel like reading a crime novel by Henning Mankell, than I do that instead. I don't feel guilty about reading either of them.

Like Kim, I also love re-reading children's books and recently re-read one of my all-time favourites, "When Marnie Was There" by Joan G. Robinson.

I think the more broadly you read, the better, actually - especially if, like me, you also write.

I know lots of would-be writers who only read a very narrow range of authors, and who then try to write exactly like them, which never really works. I believe that it's only by reading as widely as possible that you can develop a truly original voice as a writer, which is what publishers are looking for.

I also don't believe in criticising a book until I've read it, so - for example - I don't criticise "Fifty Shades of Grey" because I haven't read it (yet!)

I suppose the closest I have come to feeling that a book really was a guilty pleasure, was when I decided to read Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code", much to the horror of some of my writer friends.

They were even more appalled when I admitted, afterwards, that I hadn't been able to put the book down until I'd finished it.

Yes, the writing was pretty poor, and the characterisation was absolutely terrible, but I really didn't care while I was reading it. The plotting was so good, that it just kept me turning the pages, late into the night - which is not something you can say about most literary novels, which sometimes seem to lack anything even resembling a plot.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is that, in a world where fewer and fewer people read, and where illiteracy is on the rise, any book that can encourage people to read, and to enjoy doing so, should be encouraged, and not seen as something to feel guilty about!

Lily Bradic Profile
Lily Bradic , English Literature and Creative Writing student, answered

I don't think I really have any literary guilty pleasures — I'm not embarrassed to like any of the books that I do.

I'm doing a degree in English Literature with Creative Writing, and sometimes, for the first class of the semester, the tutor will ask everybody about the last book they read.

I'm ninety-nine percent sure that at least half the people lied, and just named the most impressive book they'd read (or could name, even).

The last book I'd read happened to be The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. I'm not embarrassed to admit that I read children's classics now and then — I think some of them are fascinating!

I also thoroughly enjoyed Bridget Jones' s Diary by Helen Fielding. Considering the stuff I usually read, this is probably the closest I've got to a literary guilty pleasure. It's very funny, though, so I'm not ashamed to like it!

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Andrea Heatherington
Yes, Bridget Jones Diary was a great "bathtub read". I turned into a wrinkly water logged prune while reading that book in the tub. That and The Witch Of Cologne by Tobsha Learner, a fantastically naughty read. Oops, that's kind of TMI!
Lily Bradic
Lily Bradic commented
Ha! I try not to read in the bath – too worried about dropping the book/Kindle. Bridget Jones might be popular fiction, but it's still very funny. Got a few genuine laughs out of that!
Andrea Heatherington
Oh I have dropped plenty of books in the tub, I am left with a bookshelf full of water damaged novels! Hardcover books w/out the cover and the spine held together with packing tape. And I refuse to part with them, they're so precious to me. I am the type to just look at a book and besides remembering the story I recall MY story. The story of my life in that small window of time I spent enjoying that book.
By the way, I am happy you got a chuckle out of my slapstickish exploits reading in the tub. And it was genuinely hilarious at times! Thanks Lily!
Kim Snowling Profile
Kim Snowling answered

I will be honest, I am not a big reader and what I do read is usually crime based.  However, I am finding that as I am getting older I want to read more. I am even thinking of reading some Jane Austen!

But like everyone I do have a guilty pleasure. 

I just love The Twits by Roald Dahl.  I know it is a children's book but I just love it.

My Mum and Dad introduced me to this amazing author when I was a little girl and it has been a love affair ever since.  Particularly The Twits. I find it makes me laugh every time I read it. I have complete enjoyment from the first page to the last. 

To my delight, now that I have children, I can read it without hiding and I am introducing it to my son - well, he is a boy and loves anything gross.  I know he will love it as much as me.

For any of you who do not know the story of The Twits, the basic outline is -

Mr and Mrs Twit seem to be an ideal couple.  They are as disgusting and they love to play tricks on each other.  Mrs Twit gives Mr Twit a mug of drink with her glass eye in it, he retaliates by putting a frog in her bed.  So she serves him a nice plate of worm spaghetti, and so on, the action quickly escalates and ultimately they both meet with a well-deserved ghastly surprise, cunningly hatched by the Muggle-Wump  monkeys and the Roly-Poly bird.

It has got to be one of Roald Dahl's nastiest characters yet the funniest book he has ever written.

I am sure that any child will love this book, and so will you!!

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Melinda Moore
Melinda Moore commented
My kids absolutely loved The Twits - along with everything else by Roald Dahl. My son even tried to convince me that I was shrinking, as a result of reading the book...
Andrea Heatherington
Hey Kim, I notices you like Crime novels. May I suggest Henning Mankell, a great author that Mel mentioned in her answer to this question. It's excellent storytelling, and you can also check out the series on Swedish TV.
Kim Snowling
Kim Snowling commented
Thanks a lot, I will give them a go!
sarah wheeler Profile
sarah wheeler answered

I've always had huge reading lists because of my studies and so don't get a lot of time to read for myself, however when I do get the occasional chance, I love to read fashion books. Biographies are my very favourite and I have recently enjoyed Coco Chanel: The life and the Legend. Others worth noting are definitely the Bridget Jones and Hotel Babylon Books And for a gritty story you can really get your teeth into, I love Dorothy Koomson books (her book 'The Ice Cream Girls' was recently turned into a TV drama in the UK)

Cristea George Cristian Profile
Cristea George Cristian , Non-fiction Reader, answered

I'm a non-fiction reader so here's the list that keeps me busy.

  • Appalachian Trials

  • Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder

  • Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets

  • The Black Swan: Second Edition: The Impact of the Highly Improbable: With a new section: "On Robustness and Fragility"

  • Assholes Finish First - Tucker Max 

  • I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell - Tucker Max 

  • Biomimicry - Innovation Inspired by Nature

  • Biomimicry in Architecture

  • Embedded Sustainability: 

    The Next Big Competitive Advantage

  • Minnie Rose Lovgreen's Recipe for Raising Chickens

  • Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

  • On Writing Well, 30th Anniversary Edition: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction

  • Confessions of a Radical Industrialist - Doing Business by Respecting the Earth

  • Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose

  • Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life 

  • Way of the Peaceful Warrior: A Book That Changes Lives

  • Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

  • Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life

  • Getting Real - 37 Siganals

  • Rework - 37 Signals

  • How to Break a Terrorist:

    The U.S. Interrogators Who Used Brains, Not Brutality, to Take Down the Deadliest Man in Iraq

  • How to Make Millions with Your Ideas

  • The Magic of Thinking Big

  • The Laundrymen: Inside the World's Third Largest Business

  • Leaving Microsoft to Change the World

  • Less Is More: An Anthology of Ancient & Modern Voices Raised in Praise of Simplicity

  • The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less

  • The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

  • The 80-20 Principle - The Secret to Success by Achieving More with Less

  • Letters from a Stoic - Seneca

  • Secrets of Power Negotiating, 

    15th Anniversary Edition: Inside Secrets from a Master Negotiator

  • Six Months Off - How to Plan, Negotiate, and Take the Break

  • Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big

  • Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman

  • The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing

  • The Intelligent Investor: The Definitive Book on Value Investing

  • The autobibliography of Benjamin Franklin

  • The Entrepreneurial Imperative

  • The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists

  • The Human Experiment - Two Years and Twenty Minutes Inside Biosphere 2

  • The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America's Wealthy

  • The Monk and the Riddle - The Education of a Silicon Valley Entrepreneur

  • The Power of Less: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential

  • The Smartest Investment Book You'll Ever Read

  • The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success

  • This business has legs: 

    How I Used Infomercial Marketing to Create the$100,000,000 ThighMaster Craze

  • What I Learned Losing a Million Dollars

  • Why Smart People Make Big Money Mistakes And How To Correct Them

  • Zorba the Greek

  • Walden - Henry David Thoreau

  • Vagabonding - Rolf Potts

  • The E-Myth Revisited - Michael Gerber

  • Becoming a Supple Leopard: The Ultimate Guide to Resolving Pain, Preventing Injury, and Optimizing Athletic Performance

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