Thanks to my English degrees, teaching experience, and career as an editor, it should be no surprise that I’m a big ol’ book geek. A room in our house is dedicated to books, yet even that isn’t nearly room enough (I’m by no means the only book geek living under this roof!). My daughter is named after a Shakespearean character.
However, my bookishness has changed over the years, in response to two big things I wish I’d done differently.
1. Like many soon-to-be literature majors, I started out kind of snobby (yeah, this goes back at least as far as high school). I only wanted to read “good” books—those considered classics, or on one of those “100 Books Everyone Ought to Read” lists, etc. I turned my nose up at what I considered to be trash. It was only about 15 years or so ago that I learned how much fun I was missing. The sad thing is that I’ve forever missed my opportunity to really enjoy a lot of stuff. For instance, I’ve tried to go back and catch up on a lot of the fantasy series that apparently everyone I know read back when they were 14, but I’m no longer an angsty teen. I can see why people like them, but I’m too much of a grownup not to want to smack some sense into some of those characters. (I contradict myself somewhat on this later. Stay tuned!)
2. When I was in college, my homework was pretty much “more reading every day than any human can reasonably do.” Like any self-respecting English major, I learned to fake my way through class discussion, essays, and even major papers without actually finishing the book. However, I also decided that I wasn’t allowed to read for pleasure until I’d finished reading what was required. But since I could never finish all my required reading, I never got to read for pleasure. I got out of the habit of reading for fun, which had been one of my greatest joys all through my childhood. And when people stopped assigning reading to me, I pretty much stopped reading. I don’t remember exactly when I started again, but I’ve been reading voraciously ever since, trying to make up for that dead zone I can never get back. Now I make sure I take some time to read every day, even if it’s just 10 minutes before bed.
So now I’m reading all kinds of fun stuff. I do enjoy the big epic books, but I intersperse them with light, fun, fast-paced, usually romantic and/or exciting stuff. I have a high tolerance for silly plots as long as there are characters I can identify with and want to hang out with. Reading is my downtime, where I escape all the other things I probably really ought to be doing and I go somewhere where no one expects anything of me. I read a lot of fantasy and supernatural stuff, and I love a good “historical” romance (“historical” in quotes because I’m nowhere near enough of a history geek to quibble with inaccuracies unless they’re glaringly awful). I can now appreciate the appeal of a well-written romance—the predictability is almost comforting. There’s no question of where the story is headed, so you can relax and just enjoy whatever route the author takes to get there.
Major confession that may make people lose respect for me: I even liked the Twilight books. I read them (and then went to see all the movies) with my best friend from childhood—the one who has known me since I was 4 and who has gone through every single crush and identity crisis with me. And while I’m not even going to try to argue that they’re well-written literature or that the plots make sense (‘cause, man, some parts are rough to get through), I can still identify all too well with Bella’s self-destructive obsession and her knowledge that she just can’t be what the people around her expect her to be. I just think the target audience is more accurately people who have survived high school and college and are now looking back, not people currently going through it (I think you shouldn’t be allowed to read them until you’ve had your heart majorly broken at least once). Because I could identity so completely with this kind of angst, it was pretty easy for me to deal with Bella’s angst—wanting to smack her was pretty much also wanting to smack younger, stupider me. And when the last two movies come out, I’ll be there with my friend—husbands and kids left at home—and we’ll giggle like the school girls we were together and celebrate the fact that we survived and grew into fairly well-adjusted women.
What are your guilty reading pleasures? I’d love to hear what gloriously ridiculous books you’ve enjoyed—I’ll add them to my reading list!