Sometimes my bookstore buys and reading habits must seem rather odd to other people. I may be all over the place one month and obsessing over a single topic or genre the next. I'm a restless reader and I like to try new things, but I'm also a loyalist who collects several authors and will reread old favorites when I'm in the mood for another visit. In July I was pouring over old, old books on x-ray refraction and related crystal physics; this month I'm glomming on the fall of the Roman Empire. Tonight I took a break to read an old Mills & Boon romance.
For years I've seen the phrase guilty pleasure tossed around by readers who feel they must apologize for some aspect of their reading habits. The older I get, the less I like that phrase. If a book -- any book -- gives you pleasure, and takes you away from the turmoil of life for a couple of hours, why should you feel guilty about it? Why would anyone with any amount of empathy make you feel guilty about it? With the way the world is right now, trust me, reading what you truly enjoy is a wonderful, necessary thing.
I think we need a new phrase. Instead of using guilty pleasure let's call these purchases our unapologetic buys.
For example: I have always liked Prince (or, if you prefer the artist's symbol, O(+>.) I've enjoyed his music, the way he dances, dresses, sings and acts. He is a genuine, original, interesting musician, and he's beautiful to look at, and I just like him. I don't care if that forever brands me as an outdated eighties chick; I was a chick back in the eighties. I'm definitely buying his new book/CD 21 Nights, and I'm not apologizing for it.
I can't stand surrealism or high-end arty lit, but I habitually read Isabel Allende. What can I say, she had me at the girl with green hair (The House of the Spirits.) Actually I'm quite fond of Ms. Allende; she may be wordy, and unfamiliar with the concept of the paragraph break, but she certainly has style (or her English translator does.) She's probably good for me, too. After I finish reading Inés of My Soul, I'll probably start on a category romance. And I don't care about the contrasts between the two works. I will enjoy them both equally.
I always try to buy some books for me as well as the kids at the annual Scholastic book fairs because they donate part of the proceeds to the schools' media center. I usually buy gift books for friends' kids, bookmarks, or cookbooks. This year I picked up Taste of Home ~ The Busy Family Cookbook for myself, and it's got some pretty good meal ideas, grouped by main ingredient and time it takes to make them (all 30 minutes or less ala Rachel Ray.) I've had to adjust some of the recipes to get them more on the low-fat low-cholesterol side, but these are good, basic home style dishes, the kind like mom used to make. I know I'll get more out of this cookbook than I would out of the latest hot new YA fiction because I'm not a fan of YA. The kids got a stack of YA for themselves, however, so absolutely no guilt there.
I purchased a copy of Robyn Young's "epic adventure of the Knights Templar" only because of the title: Brethren. Given the title and the subject matter, I thought it was funny. Sometimes I buy books for no other reason than that. Sue me.
I hardly ever buy Publishing rags anymore; I'll pick up The Writer or Poets & Writers now and then if they look like they've put out a good/relevant issue, but that's about it. I've never subscribed to Publishers Weekly, which is just too overpriced for me. I have better things to do with my money, like buy more interesting-to-me magazines, such as Veranda, Architectural Digest, and Quilters Newsletter. I subscribe to all three for less than what PW costs. And because I've been buying copies every month off the newsstand or getting them from a very generous friend, I finally broke down and also subscribed to both Cloth Paper Scissors and Quilting Arts. Not a smidgen of guilt, either.
As readers, we don't have to get someone's stamp of approval on what we like to read. In a sense that's only one level away from book-burning. Reading preferences are like religions; no one can say theirs is right and yours and everyone else's are wrong (but they will.) You can have someone else make your choices for you, or you can tell them to buzz off and think and choose for yourself. Which will make you happier? Guess.
What are some of your unapologetic buys? Let us know in comments.