A Reader’s Confession

The Read or Rid Thing is about more than just addressing my compulsive book-buying. It’s about accepting who I am and who I am not and letting go of some idealized, intellectualized image.

Damn, that seems like a lot of pressure for some books on a shelf. But I spent my adult life curating my bookshelves to look like what I imagine I am supposed to like and, by extension, who I am supposed to be. And if I could go back and organize my books by the order in which I bought them, strata would emerge showing exactly who and what I was hoping to be at different points in my life. (It would actually be an interesting experiment but I could never organize my books at random like that. Adam and I would both go crazy.) But until I started the Read or Rid Thing, a lot of those books on the shelves wouldn’t have reflect actual enjoyment. And I decided that was a bummer and I would rather own books I love than books representing some facet of who I think (or thought) I should be.

So the past two years, I’ve culled a lot of books from the shelves and tried to be more selective about what I add. I want to look at my bookshelves and smile at the memories, without worrying so much about what the books “say about me.”

It’s time to just get this out into the universe and admit it: I like vapid romance novels. We’re talking the really brainless ones, total genre fiction, beyond chick-lit well into the modern bodice-ripper territory. Why do I like these terrible, clichéd books? I enjoy the fact that I don’t have to use my brain much to be entertained, the one-dimensional characters who don’t make me feel too deeply (see: not using my brain), the easily predicted twists, and of course, the happily ever afters. I can finish a book in just a few hours and I figure it engages my brain more than television.

I’ve been reading these types of books in secret for a long time – borrowing from my mom’s stash, covertly buying them on my kindle, getting them from the library, and very rarely buying a physical copy of my own. I never put them on my bookshelves where anyone could see them. I’ve never admitted to reading them except to a few friends and my husband.

There’s still a big part of me that’s embarrassed to admit this little reading habit of mine (and I haven’t even admitted the most embarrassing author that I read), but I’m doing it anyway because I needed a topic for a blog post. And because Adam all but dared me to. I can’t say that I’m going to start packing my shelves with the Nora Roberts books (not the most embarrassing author either) I devour in one sitting – because I still don’t like spending money on them very often – but I am at least adding them as books I’ve read to my GoodReads profile. And also, I’m saying fuck it to expectations of what I should read or who I should be because life is short and I can like what I want and love something just for the simple pleasure of it.

Speaking of books, do you have any recommendations for me?

3 thoughts on “A Reader’s Confession

  1. Jennifer, Book rec: I am into memoirs. One of my favorites is Rick Bragg’s _All Over but the Shoutin_. He also writes an essay every month that is published on the back page of _Southern Living_.
    I sure enjoy your blog! But then, I have enjoyed your writing for many years!! Keep it up.


  2. I guarantee I have plenty for you to choose from. I’ve always appreciated mindless reads… escape the mundane. I have several “favorite” authors, but prolly my most fave doesn’t write anymore. She’s LaVyrle Spencer. And I have all of them!
    And yes, I do like “good” books too!


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