The other day a friend started talking to me about “guilty” reads. We were emailing back and forth about what we’ve currently buried our noses in, what we’ve dropped halfway through, and what we have waiting on our figurative nightstands. At one point, she admitted she was reading a book that wasn’t particularly well-written but whose story so moved her, she couldn’t put it down. She said this wasn’t the first book she felt guilty “indulging in” like this.
I went silent for awhile, which probably should have tipped her off that I was carefully containing a rant – I didn’t want her to misconstrue its direction, which was not at her, but at the injustice of this mentality. I didn’t even know how to begin to address it, I only knew it was something I wanted to poke at with a stick until my little scene turned into a reenactment of Lord of the Flies.
Uncharacteristically, I withheld the crazier parts of my rant, merely calmly telling my friend that I don’t believe in “guilty” pleasures (which is why I always include it in quotes). And to prove it to her, I promised I would publish a list of every book and/or magazine I’ve read or purchased in the past month, with the exception of online content, and she could decide for herself which ones I should consider “guilty” and which ones I could cop to with no shame. (Also, I’ve labeled each book so there is no question what genre each belongs to, and because I can’t help myself.)
Books I’ve read:
- Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff (fiction; reviewed here)
- The Painted Drum by Louise Erdrich (fiction)
- Good Eggs: A Memoir by Phoebe Potts (memoir; nonfiction; reviewed here)
- A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick (fiction; reviewed here)
- The Very Best Recipes for Healthy by Martha Rose Shulman (cookbook; nonfiction)
- The Radleys by Matt Haig (fiction; reviewed here)
- Sunset Park by Paul Auster (fiction; reviewed here)
- The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender (fiction; review forthcoming)
- Women Food and God by Geneen Roth (self-help; nonfiction)
Books I’ve bought and haven’t read yet:
- Dance of Anger: A Woman’s Guide to Changing the Pattern of Intimate Relationships by Harriet Lerner (self-help; nonfiction; e-book)
- Indian Nations of Wisconsin: Histories of Endurance and Renewal by Patty Loew (history; nonfiction)
- You Know When the Men are Gone by Siobhan O’Fallen (fiction; short stories)
- Rain When You Want Rain by Betsy Johnson-Miller (poetry)
- Reality Check: The Irreverent Guide to Outsmarting, Outmanaging, and Outmarketing Your Competition by Guy Kawasaki (business; nonfiction)
- The Lover’s Dictionary by David Leviathan (fiction)
- The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brene Brown (self-help; nonfiction)
- Beowulf: A New Verse Translation by Seamus Heaney (classic; poetry)
- No Planets Strike by Josh Bell (poetry)
Magazine I’ve read at least half of:
- Poets & Writers
- National Geographic
- Edible Madison
- Edible Iowa River Valley
- Psychology Today
- Wisconsin Trails
- Wisconsin Natural Resources Magazine
- Cook’s Illustrated
So, you tell me: anything up there you think I should be ashamed of?
I’ll tell you right now, guilt is waste of life, and “guilty” reads is a preposterous idea. There is no such thing.
Read what you love and only what you love. Leave the rest, and enjoy yourself.