I could end this column after that sentence because, to me, guilty pleasures in reading don’t make sense. A book is either a good read or a bad read which is, of course, subjective.
Having been running the Read All About It books podcast since the start of 2020, that has been confirmed with guests’ choices of a book they’d recommend to anyone or a book they couldn’t be paid to read again. One reader’s choice in the first category is another’s selection in the latter category. That is one of the wonders of books, and other art forms as well. It is all a matter of opinion and personal taste.
The idea that you would read any book, either by a particular author or in a specific genre, and label it ‘a guilty pleasure’ is bizarre.
A guilty pleasure, as I said to my wife recently, is running out into the garden after a fresh fall of snow, wearing only a pair of boxer shorts, and creating snow angels in order to experience the refreshing chill of the white blanket on the ground!
To quote the great Homer (Simpson)… did I say that out loud?
The phrase ‘guilty pleasure’, in a cultural context, is often used in reference to liking something that has mass appeal, and equating the idea that popularity relates to quality – the more popular, the poorer its quality.
Let me quote the wonderful Marian Keyes, who recently posted these Tweets.
‘Once again, a PLEA. Can we, for the LOVE OF GOD dispense with the phrase Guilty Pleasure?!?
If I like something, I like it! Who do I need to explain myself to? So long as I’m not doing damage to another person – or indeed bayshte of the field – where’s the problem?
‘We are not a shower of Tittering Basics who are ruled by The List of Suitably Wholesale Shows and Books Thought Up By Some FauxBrow Hyacinth Bucket!
We are not infantalised gobshites without the courage of our convictions! If we like it, we like it! No need for guilt!’
I was delighted that Marian tweeted on this subject, given that I had been thinking about guilty pleasures in relation to her books.
I recently read my first Marian Keyes novel – Rachel’s Holiday – and I really enjoyed it. This might be what others would describe as ‘a guilty pleasure’, given that they might not see me as the right demographic for one of her novels. These are probably the same people who would dismissively label Marian Keyes’ books as ‘chick lit’. That is an awful term and those people are for the watching.
Several guests on the Read All About It podcast, as well as friends I’ve chatted to, spoke glowingly of Marian’s books, and so I wanted to read one for myself. It’s impossible to make a judgement on anything – books, films, TV programmes or music – without first checking it out. It’s like the actions of a small child who turns their nose up at something on their plate, even though they’ve never tasted it.
For example, I do not like the music of Queen.
‘But have you listened to their music, Paul?’
‘Yes, I have, and I don’t care for it.’
‘Not even Bohemian Rhapsody? Surely you must accept that song is a classic.’
‘I think it is overblown and over-rated, a mish-mash of noise which makes me feel like my ears are going to start bleeding.’
‘Those are strong words, Paul, but you’re entitled to your opinion. After all, at least you listened to the music before deciding it is absolute rubbish.’
So I am going to read another Marian Keyes novel, and another one after that, and I won’t feel at all guilty about it.
I will listen to McFly and care not a jot what anyone might say. I think they write great pop songs.
I will watch First Dates with joy, shouting at the TV screen like I’m auditioning for Gogglebox.
And when it snows again…