There’s a link floating around Facebook that takes you to a list of books you should be probably be embarrassed to admit to reading. I ticked off sixteen out of the hundred. My score would have been way higher if they’d listed every book by some of the authors, particularly John Grisham and Jackie Collins.
I’m not one to brag about having read anything, mostly because I read for pleasure and really hate the idea of judging anyone for what they do for pleasure. (Plucking the heads off kittens and equally disgusting and bizarre hobbies would be the exceptions here.)
There are a ton of “classics” I’ll never read because life is too short to be tortured by a book. And I’ll never be embarrassed for enjoying books I found truly entertaining, regardless of genre. When it comes to some titles on this list, though, I just have to shake my head and sigh.
Why would I hide the fact I’ve read The Firm? I loved that book! It was insidious and creepy and kicked off my love affair with John Grisham. Lucky by Jackie Collins is a book I’ll always remember reading. It wasn’t on the list, but ticking the boxes for her other listed titles reminded me of it, and I got that happy book memory feeling in my chest. (This is a scientific thing.)
I grinned as I ticked the box for The Celestine Prophecy, and looked for the boxes for the sequel and the workbook. I spent months trying to make myself vibrate to a higher plane, damn it!
They didn’t have any of the Nicholas Sparks books I’ve read listed. I’d seen the movies for The Notebook, A Walk to Remember and Nights in Rodanthe. I adored Nights in Rodanthe. I should read the book.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I thought The Da Vinci Code was the best book I’d ever read, at the time. I inhaled it. I’ve also forgotten most of it, which means I don’t really care why everyone else thought it was ridiculous. When I read it, the story grabbed me and kept me until the end. That’s all I ask for in a book.
Yes, I’ve read Erich von Däniken. For those of you who know me, are you really surprised? I still think he’s on to something too.
Flowers in the Attic? Who hasn’t read it? Seriously, who of my generation has not read that book and most of the sequels? (They got boring after a while.) And who didn’t read it in history class, propped up behind their history book?
I got an A on the report I wrote for Jonathan Livingston Seagull, thank you very much.
The only book on this list I regret reading is The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty by Anne Rice. It just wasn’t my cup of tea and I will admit that for a long time, it stood out as the kind of book I might have been embarrassed to admit to reading (even though I didn’t finish it) until I discovered quite a few people abandoned it around the same point I did.
But would I judge anyone who enjoyed it? Absolutely not! There is a reader for every book and no one reads any single book the same way. We all take our own journey when we read. We add our life experience to the pages, and interpret the story in a way that reflects our hopes and dreams. Sometimes that means we don’t enjoy a story the way we thought we would. Sometimes a book becomes an utterly transformative experience and we can’t understand why everyone else feels differently.
Reading is our thing, individually. Something we can happily do by ourselves.
As a writer of science fiction and romance (and an avid reader of both), I’m used to being belittled by others for my taste in fiction. Sometimes it bothers me, but increasingly it doesn’t, because I’m not someone who will be judged by what’s on my shelves—unless it’s horror at the sheer number of books I own. I choose to be proud of my library and I quite happily display my romance titles next to my science fiction titles next to my classics.
I am widely read. I am imaginative. I will never shame you for being the same.
So, lists like this bother me, as do the ones checking your literary “heritage.” Sure, it’s fun to feel as if you’ve read all the important stuff, or most of it, but at the end of the day, we should all read what we want to read. For fun. Because if you’re not enjoying it (or being graded on it), what’s the point?