Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Unapologetic Buys

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 I don't care if that forever brands me as an outdated eighties chick; I was a chick back in the eighties.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.


  1. Lyn -

    When I first discovered historical romance novels, it was with a Julie Garwood medieval -- The Prize. Right after I finished it, I went out and bought all her previous books and read them in a week.

    To this day, they've been my guiltiest book buy...


  2. Disney movies. While I may questions the company tactics, I'm totally enamored with the old Donald Duck shorts, can sing every song from Beauty and the Beast, and loved Little Mermaid 3 (Sally Field's voice was awesome-she should have been approached sooner).

    "Trashy" books. Not your mother's bodice rippers anymore, but incredibly hot romances. While I find the covers completely atrocious on most (Berkley Sensation and Heat not included) I love them. They take me out of world and for a few hours make me believe that love conquers all.

    Scottish/Irish history books. I buy at least 3 news ones a year, and they're great research.

    Pop music. While I may disagree with the personal lives of most of the music industry, I love the music. Everything from Boyz II Men to N*Sync and even the walking pr nightmare that is Britney Spears. (Plus its the only music that can make me actually want to get up and clean my house, and that's power baby!)

    Anything Tim Burton. Nightmare Before Christmas got me hooked on his movies, and are favorites.

    Harry Potter books. I've read them, and reread them. And given them away to friends, family, and schools. But anytime I see a copy at a thrift store I pick it up and find someone to hook.

    Shamrocks & other Irish knick knacks. If its got an Irish image on it, I probably own it. I've got stacks of fabric (for my someday dream of actually sitting down to quilt), knick knacks, wall plaques, tshirts, journals, posters, etc, etc.

    State Keychains. I've been collecting these since I was 4, and have several from most of the states and a few countries. :)

    Old Enesco owl figurines. Very retro images that remind me of my grandmother's house that I buy on whims, but completely treasure.

  3. Fantasy Fantasy Fantasy, Science Fiction and the occasional Tom Clancy. I also like YA on occasion and Timothy Zahn's kids series is quite good too.

    People always ask me what I'm reading and as soon as I say Fantasy they get that glazed look in their eye that makes me want to laugh, and shake them saying "have you no imagination?"

  4. Recent unapologetic buys: first two seasons of BLEACH on DVD. Jack Canfield's How to Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be. And Midnighters 3 by Scott Westerfeld. Plus Harlequin Presents. I love them and they make me happy. Er, and Shannon Stacy has a new book out, so I had to have it.

  5. I read old pulp for pleasure: from Edgar Rice Burroughs, through Leigh Bracket, to Lin Carter. I also like modern over-the-top fiction with titles and cover graphics that could come off a heavy metal album, e.g. Simon R Green's "Deathstalker" series.

    I used to buy these with a sense of guilty pleasure and self indulgence. Then I passed into the defiant stage - "So, can you point me to something with as much escapist entertainment per page? I thought not."

    Now I don't care what people think. I'm 40. This is who I am, and what I like reading.

  6. My unapologetic buys include the first season of WKRP in Cincinnati--I love that show, James Taylor's latest CD--I know that dates me, and pre-made pizza crusts. Okay, I feel a bit guilty over the pizza crusts because I could, in theory, make them myself for a lot less, but I know I won't.

  7. Anonymous7:36 AM

    probably specific catgegory romance - old Nora Roberts from Sillouhette and Jayne Castle/ Jayne Anne Krentz. I waited impatiently for the newest dustbunny story.

  8. Anonymous8:46 AM

    Horses. From Beanie Baby horses to the real, four legged kind, I love horses. Horse books, figurines, stuffed animals, horses from different cultures, I love them. I now own three (Duke, Cal-boy and Murphy) and my friends always complain if I didn't have horses, I'd be able to afford to go out more. I say if I didn't have horses, I'd probably have children! My horses cost me less per month than what my cousin spends a week on childcare for her two kids. I think I'm making out pretty good in the deal. Oh, and of course, my horses have all the latest and coolest tack to go with them. I own 6 saddles, but I only have one butt! I own 19 bridles with bits attached! Yes, it's my guilty pleasure buying things for my "kids", but I can't imagine not having them. The happiness I get from riding and even cleaning stalls is worth every penny I spend.
    P.S. I have a lot of books too!

  9. "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"
    Oh, I LIKE that. Right on!

  10. Unapologetic Buy - thats easy anything I purchase from the book store...I have my preferences - paranormal, urban fantasy and futuristic romance with the occassional contemporay. I will even buy what I affectionally call mainstream tear jerkers - i.e. PS I love you - type of book.

    I am also obessive over perfume. I enjoy it and use it everyday - when I walk into the department store I can't help but by some especially if they come in cool bottles and have equally cool names... like Alien by T. Mugler -- how can you not want to buy it.

  11. The last time I felt guilty about my reading habits was in high school when I would hide my mom's thick historical romances under my bed while I read them, or covered them with fabric book covers so I could take them to school without the teachers complaining.

    Once I started borrowing those same kinds of books from a friend, I quit hiding them (from my mom at least...I still covered the naked chests and heaving bosoms at school). I decided long ago not to feel guilty about reading anything. Well, sometimes I feel guilty that I'm reading instead of writing.

    I read everything and anything, at least occasionally. Even (shudder) political commentary. I mix "literary fiction", romance, sci fi, nonfiction, etc, shamelessly. Unapologetic indeed.

    And I absolutely second your opinions about Isabel Allende. She's just as wordy in Spanish, btw, so that's not the translator's fault (though she lives in the US...don't know which language she writes in these days). But somehow, that style works for her. Ines de Alma Mia is one of the few titles of hers I haven't read yet...and I think it's on my Amazon wish list (hard to find the Spanish versions at the local bookstore)...I sense a shopping spree coming on.

  12. I have tons. Some of the highlights:

    I LOVE Nora Roberts' trilogies. I have to wait until all three are out before I buy them though because I pretty much go through all three books in about 48 hours.

    I own all seven seasons of MacGyver. I still maintain he was my first love and TV has been hard pressed to come up with a modern character half as sexy as Mac in his hightops and mullet.

    Young adult fantasy novels: Harry Potter, Libba Brey's Great and Terrible Beauty series, the Eragon trilogy. For some reason the young adult fantasies are far more riveting that many of the adult ones I read. Maybe they just remind me of the stuff I read as a kid?

    Oh, and I've read Watership Down at least 20 times in my life. And I plan to read it 50 more.

  13. Bodice rippers. Remember those? I know they're no longer considered PC and, therefore, no one should admit to enjoying them. Yet, some of the most memorable romances I've ever read could only be described as bodice rippers.

    I also enjoy science fiction and fantasy when no one else around me does. If only they knew what they were missing!

  14. Anonymous11:18 AM

    As they say, one person's trash is another person's treasure.

    With my sci-fi reading friends, my unapologetic buys are fantasy and romance.
    With my chicklit friends, my unapologetic buys are literary and sci-fi.
    With my literary friends, my unapolgetic buys are romance, sci-fi and fanstay.

    At least we can all agree we like to read, even if we argue over what to read.

  15. Rereading things is my unapologetic pleasure. If I love a book I'll read it up to a dozen times in a year (or more). Science fiction and fantasy with the occasional light mystery thrown in. Non-fiction of all sorts. Knitting books, and yarn, and fiber.

    In music I unabashedly love the sappy music I can sing to. Billy Joel, Styx, Journey - all those lovely melodic eighties bands. I like pretty more than interesting (in music), and if I can't sing it or at least hum it, I'm not interested.

  16. I don't apologize for reading anything. Why? I'm not watching television.

    My unapologetic read is blogs. I love reading other people's blogs. Sometimes I think I should turn off the computer and read more books, but I do that a lot too, so what's the harm?

  17. This isn't really what you asked, but I had to say that I really like Prince, too. :)

    I went to see him 6 times during his 21 Nights in London, and I'm not even a major fan. I went with my boyfriend who is a HUGE fan, so he paid. *shrug* Well, I wasn't going to turn it down!

    He went to a total of 16 of the gigs, plus some aftershows... O.o

  18. Anonymous2:39 PM

    I have many unapologetic buys that used to be guilty pleasures. Most recently I read a slew of Rachel Gibson novels...out of order.

    But right now my addiction is the Ghost Chronicles podcasts--available through itunes and Ghost Village Radio. None of the others seem to have the same level of adventurism mixed with humor and investigation.

  19. Before I discovered the internet I didn't know some of the books I was reading and enjoying were considered total dreck. lol I personally find my unapologetic books to be very entertaining and comforting. People used to think I was beyond weird for reading and loving vampire books and look where the trend went with those. : )

    If the YA series you referred to is the one I just read then my take was that the first 2 were too YA for me but the 3rd one picked up some speed. I really enjoyed the last one (book 4) although it took a bashing on the internet. It was called a train wreck---at least a train wreck has movement and isn't boring.

  20. I love this post. Sometimes I want to read trashy vampire romances or young adult fantasy or manga because it entertains me, and I always feel compelled to call it a guilty pleasure when someone sees it next to my Big, Important Books on my bookcase. Your attitude towards this (and other things, like mentioning you never subscribed to PW, which some agents/authors would call blasphemy) is refreshing.

  21. For me, it's movies. I occasionally unapologically purchase unusual books, but usually, it's movies. Like just this last weekend, I unapologetically purchased the A Nightmare on Elm Street box set. Seven movies and a bonus disc for $40. Did I need it? Nope. Could I really afford it in the grand scheme of things? Nada.

    Did I really really want it? Abso-friggin-lutely. So I bought it. Maybe that's why they call it a guilty pleasure, though I loathe that term, too. Because you don't need it at all, but you still feel obliged to buy it.

  22. Right On! No guilt for what you love! There's just entirely too much garbage going on in the world to not to go for the gusto where ever you can find it. :0)

  23. sigh. X-men comics and anime.

    I love my X-men. Didn't think much of the movies, but the comics... they tackle social issues of today and they're not just for kids.

    As you can imagine, I get strange looks from people when I buy them but I don't care. They're mine.

  24. As a young girl of 13 my first book was the very steamy Rich Man Poor Man...sigh. Now, some 30 years later my unapologetic romance book buys have helped me through a VERY stressful masters program and life in general. Some of these are the Darkyn books, Judith McNaught books, and Susan Elizabeth Phillips books to name a few. Also, well-directed action packed Xmen movies, the Kill Bill movies, Tombstone, and Godfather movies have also helped. I am very proud to be an unapologetic buyer!

  25. I love this post too. It's so wallowing in books. Bliss.

  26. 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?

    I love easy questions. To question number one, I shouldn't so I don't. Question number two could be facetiously answered, "Because they're big doody heads who feel guilty themselves about everything."

    I agree that "unapologetic buys" is a better phrase than "guilty pleasures". However, it still acknowledges that there are other buys for which I might apologize.

    Not anymore. I work hard for the money I earn. I'm not debt-ridden. I didn't spend the money needed for dogfood on some extravagant handbag.

    If I want it and I can afford it, I buy it without the least amount of guilt. *g*

  27. Anonymous2:47 PM

    Agreed 100%. I think "guilty pleasure" and "summer read" belong on the same feeble, useless bench. At the root of each phrase is the concept that there exists some supreme cosmic arbiter of taste whose opinion we should give a shit about. NOT.

    Read (and write) what you enjoy.

    P.S. "Quilting Arts" rocks. Love their calendars!

  28. Terri, if I remember correctly, a comment you made about Julie Garwood (or possibly a giveaway you won) made me read "The Prize."

    Charlene, if anyone ever gives you grief about reading Harlequin Presents, send them to me -- I've been reading them for thirty-four years. I can even remember the title of the first one I read: Man of Fire by Margaret Rome (am I really that old? Seems I am.)

    Darlene, I use pre-made pre-baked pizza crusts too (Bomboli? Stromboli? Some name brand like that.) I'd love to have enough time to make homemade, but there never is. Plus the kids like the personal-size to make their own pizzas.

    Kristi, I picked up my hardcover edition of Inés of My Soul out of the 2 for $10 remainder bin at our local Walgreens drug store. I don't know if you have a Walgreens where you are, but if you can't find the Spanish edition and don't mind reading the translation, that's a possibility.

    Beki, you were right on the money with the YA series. I read the first three, and started the fourth, but I had to set it aside to work and never got back to it. I want to finish it, though; it didn't seem like much of a train wreck to me (although admittedly I only read 50 pages of track.)

    Kristin, I'm proud to say that I've never bought a single issue of PW. I have had a couple given to me by scandalized colleagues who couldn't believe I didn't subscribe and wanted to impress on me how important a rag it is, or so I'd read whatever review they gave me. I think it's probably important to people who like to read hatchet jobs or who admire the superficial side of the industry, but I don't see what purpose it serves for the working writer.

    Mary, you rock. :)

  29. Has to be Georgette Heyer Regency romances. Trash, but I love them!

    Apart from that...I do spend an inordinate amount of money on "books that looked interesting at the time". Including a history of the British wild pony. A book of Olde Worlde cures for diseases (how to deal with tooth worms! I need to know that!). And books about polar exploration that I read curled up nice and warm in bed. You can't beat that!

  30. Anonymous9:23 PM

    I don't tend to be at all embarrassed about any books I read. Even the most so called "trashy" romances. However, there are some things:

    The 70s tv show Wonder Woman with Lynda carter on DVD. I love the theme song. LOVE it.

    Outrageously, impractical expensive shoes. I totally save for months.

    I also have to agree with all things Prince. I own everything he's done. The man is a musical genius. Whenever anyone doubts me and think he is nothing but an 80s pop princeling, I refer them to youtube to watch footage of his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (same year as George Harrison). At the end of the show all of the inductees jam on stage to Harrison's While my Guitar gently weeps. Prince basically steals the show and I believe he was an utter revelation to many. I still remember Bohdi Harrison's expression of awe/glee on his face through the whole set.


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