I have been thinking about the question, ‘What is your reading guilty pleasure?’ And I am not sure I have one, mostly because I know some of the things I read are not great and I know that some may be considered by others to be pure and utter trash, but if I enjoy reading them why should I feel guilty about it?
Throughout semester time I read a LOT of ‘proper’ Literature (with a capital L see? Let’s not even get started on proper literature versus not!!), sometimes 4 or 5 hardcore novels a week. And that is without all the critical reading and theory to go with each one, which can easily be another few hundred pages per book. I sit and analyse single words, single sentences, Hemingway and Shakespeare, read up on critical theories, discuss the minutiae of grammar and lexical choices, until my head feels as though it may just explode! So maybe, when I get home, or have some down time, I want to read something, easy, or silly, or just plain fun, and I definitely do not feel guilty about it.
When I was a teenager it was silly rom com novels, Talking to Addison, is one which particularly sticks in my memory, not because it was particularly special, it was just one of the first, and I read it repeatedly at that point, a dreamy teenager with no clue about love.
Now, it tends to be silly crime novels. Over the summer I sped my way through multiple.
First of all I re-read The Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch, the urban fantasy, magical crime procedural, but I have written about those and my love for them before. Plus, they aren’t silly, they’re wonderful! How could the wizarding branch of the met ever be silly?!
So onto something new. I seem to have spent the summer reading rip-offs, retellings and odes to Sherlock Holmes. The first was M.R.C Kasasian’s The Gower Street Detective series – centred around Sidney Grice a detective (who does grotesque things with his glass eye!) and his progeny/ward as they solve crimes.
Set in Victorian London, March (the ward) the daughter and former assistant of an army doctor, Grice an awkward, socially inept but highly clever detective, a ‘bumbling’ police sergeant, they’re all here in one guise or another.
They are certainly not what many would consider ‘proper’ Literature, but I enjoyed them, they are silly and fun and they wear their influence on their sleeve. At one point March even meets a Dr. Conan Doyle, an aspiring writer, who tells her that her mentor would make a wonderful character in a novel.
‘What sort of story?’ I asked…
‘I am not sure,’ he said… ‘but your guardian is an interesting subject.’
‘I think he has probably been written about enough by now,’ I said…
‘Thank you for your help, Dr Conan Doyle’
Silly? Yes. Fun? Yes. Guilty Pleasure? Definitely not!
The next discovery, again very Holmes influenced (perhaps more subtly though) were the Aloysius Pendergast series by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. I was overjoyed to discover them, as I was burning through novels in no time, and there are 15 in the series, I am currently reading my 7th/8th I believe (I’ve momentarily lost count!).
I love these books, again they are rather silly, giant cave dwelling man child, mole men, even a fabulous pastiche of Count Fosco from Wilkie Collins The Woman in White, but they are well told, and I love the characters. Again, they wear their influence on their sleeve, Agent Pendergast, of the (modern day) FBI, a super intellect, who uses a mind crossing to access long passed memories, and has a brother called Diogenes, all point to Doyle’s work.
The stories vary in quality, some I love, some I read to stick with chronological order, but again, fun, silly, crime novels but a little wacky and out there with regard to the crimes themselves, there is always a somewhat ‘logical’ explanation to it, if you’re willing to suspend a bit of disbelief!
Guilty Pleasure? Still no!
Anyway, back to my point, why should they be guilty pleasures? I love trashy, silly, crime novels, I do not pretend they are the next Joyce, or Dickens, but I love them and I do not feel guilty about that!
What are your not so guilty pleasures when it comes to books? Or your guilty ones? Go on…I’ll never tell!