I’m on a crusade. “Crusade” might be over-selling it. Let’s just say it falls somewhere on the spectrum between “pet peeve” and “life’s calling”.
I don’t like guilty pleasures. Actually, I don’t like the idea of “guilty pleasures.” Precisely, I don’t like labeling things as “a guilty pleasure.”
At the store, I frequently have customers preemptively dismiss their soon-to-be purchase with a half-shrug, an apologetic grin and the explanation that their book selection is a “guilty pleasure.” OK?
This interaction speaks to possible two dynamics. One: the person genuinely feels guilty about reading whatever his or her “guilty pleasure” is. If you enjoy it—if it brings you pleasure—(required caveat: and it’s not breaking laws or hurting others) why feel guilty?
Do you feel like you should be reading the classics or something else? I’d certainly recommend trying new things in literature and non-fiction. Variety and possibility are the calling cards of books—there’s no limit to what you can learn about and how many fictional worlds on which you can vacation your brain. There’s no race and no one is keeping score. Read what you’re in the mood for. You can get to the other stuff later.
The second possible dynamic in the need to proclaim something as a “guilty pleasure” is that you feel that someone–a friend, a fellow customer or bookseller–is judging you for your selection. I know with certainty that we Booksellers don’t want you to feel guilty about anything you’ve selected. We’re not a staff of literary snobs. Not by far. There are scores of really good books—sci-fi, romance, horror, western—that are of zero interest to me. They’re not my thing. That’s fine. We’ve all got our things.
I’m loathe to speak for others, but as Booksellers we’re not here to shame you into taking your medicine or judging you for eating that third cupcake. We love cupcakes. We really just want to help you get what you want and help you find what you’ll love when you don’t know what you want.
So come into Booksellers and pick out your pleasure. Leave the guilt at home.