We all have our guilty pleasures, and if you’ve grown up surrounded by books, chances are you’ve been mocked for your choice of literature. Sometimes that starts young, when you’re encouraged to read at a higher level to develop your skills, rather than read the books you’re interested in and find enjoyable. Sometimes it starts at school when you’re forced to read classic novels by long dead men, rather than modern fiction based around characters and situations you can relate to. I’ve spoken to many people who wanted to read and write fantasy in school and were told these weren’t “proper” books. And I’ve spoken to many adults who are told that the romance genre is a waste of time, or that young adult books have no worth.
A part of this smells of sexism, because it’s often books aimed at a female audience which are deemed “lesser” such as romance novels. That in itself is nonsense because no book genre is automatically superior. You can find fantastic and terrible writing in genre and literary books. There are captivating and emotional stories found in all genres. And many non-literary books become award winning best sellers.
Books don’t need to be full of colourful and poetic prose to mean something. They don’t need to be difficult to read in order to have worth. Most of the time, all a book needs to do is reach someone in the right way to matter. Of course, opinions of books are wildly subjective!
It’s maddening how much gatekeeping there is around reading and books. It seems like every week on Twitter, someone asks “do audiobooks count as reading?”
It’s worse when gatekeeping comes from other authors and readers because surely we should know better.
So here I am to announce that there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure.
There is a certain merit in encouraging readers to read widely; reading can help expand your vocabulary and your horizons. And I would absolutely encourage readers to try new things; read diversely, read books by authors from different cultures, different genders, different sexualities, because reading widely doesn’t just expand your mind but also your soul.
But ultimately, life is too short to care about what other people read, or to worry that other people are judging your bookshelves.
Read what you want. Read what you enjoy. Read what sets your heart aflame. Read whatever intrigues you. Doesn’t matter what genre, doesn’t matter if it’s popular or underrated. Doesn’t matter if it’s an audiobook, ebook, or comic. These are all books. Ignore anyone who says otherwise.
Be ruthless with your TBR pile. DNF that book you don’t care for and search for the book you’ll fall in love with. Even if it’s mermaid erotica. I’m not going to judge you at all!
Don’t feel guilty for picking up a lighthearted fun book rather than a “serious” one.
Don’t be ashamed of what you read.
Be sad for the people who don’t read at all.