We shouldn’t care about what other people think of what we read but in the past I’ll admit that I would feel embarrassed going into a bookshop and buying a young adult book.Or feel judged if I admitted to reading a chick-lit story. But then I read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin who spent a year trying out different resolutions which would help her, as the name suggests, to be happier and to better appreciate the things that made her happy. The beauty of it was that the things she did weren’t epic tasks that required packing up her things and travelling the world to parts unknown but were simple, everyday things that any of us could do. Things like being honest about what you enjoy reading – for her this was admitting that she was a huge Harry Potter fan and not worrying about more highbrow friends judging her for it.
After reading that I really thought ‘F*** it! I’m going to read these books and I don’t care what anyone thinks!’ I like to think I grew as a person and as a reader as a result. I was able to buy young adult books without blinking and when reading chick-lit on the train to work I no longer felt the need to loudly point out to the people around me that I had a complete Shakespeare collection at home, or had just finished the latest Man Booker Prizewinner.
And yet despite all that, yesterday I found myself at the self-scanner checkouts in the supermarket furtively shoving a Christmas chick-lit book so saccharine it made my teeth hurt to even look at the cover, into my bag while casting glances all around me in case someone I knew happened to be there and saw me buying it. I drove home with it completely hidden under a pile of groceries and me buried under a cloud of shame, and for the rest of the day it lay on my coffee table judging me for buying it. Why? Why do I apparently care so much about what other people would think if they saw me reading it because let’s face it, a lot of the people we’ve seen reading in public this year have been reading the likes of 50 Shades of Grey so they’re hardly in a position to judge! The answer is, I don’t have the faintest idea why.
I have absolutely no qualms, for example, saying that I read books like The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris by Jenny Colgan or The Time of My Life by Cecilia Ahern and both of those would unquestionably fall into the cheesy chick-lit category. I will also freely admit to the fact that whenever the predictable dark, mysterious and brooding hero appears in a story, whether he’s of the paranormal variety or dystopian, it makes me very happy. I would have no problem at all reading any of these books in public and wouldn’t care in the slightest what people thought of them. There does however appear to be a line, a very arbitrary and fine line, that I’m not willing to cross. At least in public. There may be a secret stash of books hidden somewhere that I will only read in the privacy of my own home with the blinds closed and will deny to my dying breath that I’ve ever even heard of them.
Those are the sort of books which are perhaps a bit too close to the Mills and Boon type genre than a more general romantic comedy or they may feature half-naked werewolf/vampire/angel types smoldering out from the front cover in their very best Fabio impersonation with scantily clad women hanging off them. They may even feature lines so unbelievably cheesy that I couldn’t reproduce them here or I would never be able hold my head up in the blogging world again. Although I may have already confessed too much to be able to do that!
Doesn’t matter how much time passes or how old I get, I don’t think I’ll ever get to the point where I wouldn’t care if people saw me reading one of those. Even now, I’m having to try and resist pointing out to you all that I very, very, very rarely read these types of books, that I only bought this latest one after an extremely bad week when I was in a lot of pain and was drugged up to the eyeballs on painkillers, and that I am now about to start re-reading the magical and beautifully written Night Circus before moving on to A Christmas Carol.
What about you? Do you have any embarrassing reading secrets or is it just me and you all now think I’m incredibly sad?
Do you care what people think of your reading tastes?
Any guilty pleasures?