This season on Glee they did a whole episode on “guilty pleasures;” Wham, Phil Collins, Barry Manilow, the Spice Girls…ABBA. All I could think was, “I’m supposed to be embarrassed about liking these songs???? I love all these songs…because they’re AWESOME.” Then, two weeks ago, Entertainment Weekly had an article on guilty pleasures, and again, I found myself thinking, “Really? Seriously? Some of this stuff is just straight up great.” That’s when I realized that I have absolutely no shame about things I like…either that, or I have terrible taste. As usual, the truth is probably somewhere in between. With that being said, here are some books and authors I unashamedly love, but that other people might term “guilty” pleasures. Me, I say “read away!” ’cause at least you’re reading and not just sitting around picking your nose…
(Most of the books/authors making appearances are from the romance genre…what can I say? I’m a sucker for a swoony guy and a love story. AND romance is a highly maligned genre on the whole–I could do a whole post on why people like to hate on a genre that is written almost solely for women…but I won’t. For the time being.)
1. Laurell K. Hamilton–The Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series (but only through Obsidian Butterfly) and the Merry Gentry Faery series. I was into vampires and fairies WAY before Twilight or True Blood. I even wrote a paper freshman year of college (circa 1998) about the evolving depictions of vampires in literature/film…it was called “Sympathy for the Devil.” That’s right, I titled a paper for a Victorian literature class after a Rolling Stones’ song. Good times.
2. Jacqueline Carey–The Kushiel’s Chosen trilogy and subsequent companion series. These books have some crazy kinky 50 Shades of Grey stuff going on in them, but the plot and world-building is so phenomenal. And Jocelyn, the male protagonist in the first 3 books, is just amazing. The first book starts really, really slowly because Carey does so much world-building, and the plotting is very intricate and complex, but the payoff is so great. Also, they have maps and an enormous list of the characters at the beginning of each book. I LOVE MAPS AND CHARACTER LISTS.
3. Diana Gabaldon–The Outlander series. A ton of people I know adore these books (almost as much as I do), but I still get some funny looks when I’m all, “You should read this! There’s time travel and hot guys in kilts and Bonnie Prince Charlie and war…it’s amazing!” Also, they’re sometimes shelved under Romance, and a lot of people don’t want to venture into that section of the bookstore/library. This series is incredibly well-researched and has the best male love interest of all time–JAMIE FRASER.
4. A Knight in Shining Armor, Jude Deveraux–This is another time-travel romance, but it’s way fluffier than Gabaldon’s books. It is, however, one of the first romances I ever read and is a fun reverse take on A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.
5. Anne Rice–Told you I was into vampires…and I don’t like mine to sparkle. I like ’em scary and with existential crises. I also think her witch books (The Witching Hour, Lasher, and Taltos) are pretty great.
6. Dan Brown–I read ’em. I ate that sh*t up. So did just about everyone else I knew, but now it’s not cool to admit it. I already told you I have no shame.
7. The Dark Hunter series by Sherrilyn Kenyon. Swoon.
8. Jodi Picoult–I frequently go through phases with my reading, and I have a tendency to binge read authors. I’ll read one book, enjoy it, and then I’ll read as many of their other books as I can. That happened to me with Picoult–I read Plain Truth (about the Amish), thought it was good, then read almost all of her others. She’s pretty much a formula writer, but when she ventures away from the formula (like in The Tenth Circle) I think she’s a lot better. Good beach reads.
9. “Chick Lit”–I really hate that term, but since this is a guilty pleasures list, I think it fits pretty well. Think Meg Cabot’s adult fiction, Sophie Kinsella, Anna Maxted…anything with a fun cover, humor, and a screwed up female protagonist. I particularly like Maxted’s books, primarily because they’re set in England. Shallow, I know, but there it is.
10. Katie McAlister–McAlister writes paranormal romance…and has a series where all the male love interests are DRAGONS. How can you not love that? Plus, her books are hilarious.
11. Julia Quinn–I love her Regency romances with the Bridgerton family. Yes, they are totally silly, but the female protagonists are all super smart, and she’s great at describing clothes.
So now I hear people saying, “Lauren, do you only read romance novels with hot guys?” Obviously, the answer is NO…but I have a weak spot for romance because it was the first genre fiction I fell in love with once I graduated from the “Juvenile Fiction” section at the Round Rock Public Library. There wasn’t a lot of YA back then, and it was all shelved with children’s lit, so I read things like The Outsiders, Stotan!, and Night Kites way earlier than I should have. After that, all through high school and college, I read romance for fun while I read the canon for my classes. I think it’s because I’m a super character-driven reader, and since most romance novels have similar plots, the nuance really lies in the characterization. I don’t really read any mystery fiction (except Laurie R. King’s Kate Martinelli books and Cara Black’s Aimée Léduc series), so that’s why you don’t see any Patricia Cornwell or Sue Grafton on this list. I don’t read any horror like Dean Koontz or Steven King, either, because I have a seriously over-active imagination and most horror makes me incredibly anxious. But if that’s your bag, I say more power to you! I just wanted to make the point that no one should be embarrassed about their reading choices–you’re probably in really good company. Happy reading!
PS. If you haven’t read Gabaldon or Carey, you should give them a try. Honestly. And don’t be ashamed of it 🙂