When it comes to reading or music, many of us have a book or band that we secretly like. Or maybe it’s not so much a secret but something we definitely wouldn’t voluntarily share with other people for fear of being judged or perhaps of losing our credibility or tarnishing our reputation. Sometimes what we secretly like isn’t generally held in high regard or is forbidden, and so it is best enjoyed clandestinely. Guilty pleasures offer us a weird sense of enjoyment that borders on the rebellious. In the case of books, there is almost a twisted pleasure in reading something that goes against popular opinion or people’s perception of us—and even against our own perception of what we think we shouldn’t like.
Here at the Pasadena Public Library we have rebel readers who are unafraid and unembarrassed to share their guilty pleasure books and music with the library community. We’re passionate about reading and in sharing our guilty pleasure reads we say read whatever that gives you pleasure without feeling shame or embarrassment. After all, all reading is good reading, and no one should feel guilty about that!
Chelsie ~ The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows by Olivia Waite
It’s not so much a guilty pleasure, but a lot of my coworkers know me as the horror person at the Hastings Branch Library, and while it’s true that I love a good spooky story, I’m also a big romance fan! There’s way more overlap in these two genres than people tend to think, both in the people who read them and the skills needed to craft a good story! Both kinds of stories rely on the writer’s ability to create and maintain tension in the narrative and tap into core human emotions like love and fear, both of which tend to be written off as unserious literary works (with rare exceptions like Austen and Poe), and both have a history of…let’s say highly stylized covers.
My favorite romance to date has to be Olivia Waite’s The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows! In it, the sharp-tongued and quick-witted Agatha Griffin runs a successful print shop, which, unfortunately, develops a bee infestation, leading her to a meeting with the merry and warmhearted lady beekeeper, Penelope Flood. As the two grow closer and their friendship turns to love, they must deal with the rising political unrest, on both a large and small scale, that threatens all they hold dear. What I love most about Waite’s books is their exploration of the ways in which her characters create, celebrate, and codify their relationships in a time when traditional avenues for such things were unavailable to much of society. If Bridgerton has piqued your interest in historical romances, might I recommend giving Olivia Waite’s Feminine Pursuits books a try? I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised!
Karla ~ Tiger’s Curse by Collen Houck
Also in e-book
My guilty pleasure read is Tiger’s Curse by Collen Houck. It’s only a guilty pleasure because it’s a young adult series that I had first read as a teen, but that I love to reread in adulthood. I think the concept of rereading something for pleasure, within itself, tends to become a secret or guilty pleasure. It’s also a guilty pleasure because if anyone asks me what it’s about, it’s a little odd to describe how it’s about a girl who works a summer at a circus feeding a tiger that falls in love with her and that causes him to break a curse that turned him into a tiger. Since the curse is only partially broken, he only has a couple hours as a human and he uses them to contact an old relative who has been searching the world for him and has (literally) magically been able to stay alive for about a hundred years through the use of a magical gem on a necklace. This then leads to action, adventure, another brother who is also cursed to be a tiger for the majority of his day, jealous goddesses, and lots of mythical creatures.
Sometimes this book is also a guilty pleasure because I haven’t taken the time to look into the cultural references to verify their accuracy or nuances. As a teen, I never looked into them and now it feels like so much time has passed that I have forgotten to even consider them up until writing this.
The world moves very fast and in the world of books, sometimes not having read the next popular books makes you feel a little behind on your reading. As an adult, reading an unpopular YA series is also a little bit embarrassing. I will, however, continue to reread this series every year. Sometimes I wish they had made the books into movies so that others could relate to me like they do with Twilight, Maze Runner, Divergent, or the Hunger Games.
Ashley ~ An Offer From a Gentleman by Julia Quinn
Also in e-book
About 10 years ago, I read the entire Bridgerton series by Julia Quinn—I was obsessed! I have always loved historical dramas (think Jane Austen) but these were a little different because they were much spicier than Pride and Prejudice. I loved the juxtaposition of a time period where everyone was supposed to follow strict, polite societal rules, and the spicy, romantic tension between the characters. It is now a very popular series on Netflix, so it feels a little less like a guilty pleasure nowadays because everyone loves it, but I liked it before it was a popular tv show. Here is a cover of one of my favorites in the series. This one is a Cinderella re-telling.
Tim ~ Live Wire: Long-Winded Short Stories by Kelly Ripa
Also in e-book
One of my guilty pleasures is listening to a celebrity memoir. I especially love listening to them if the celebrity reads their own words. And best of all is an author who knows when something is funny and doesn’t shy away from self-deprecating stories. A perfect example is Live Wire, a funny collection of personal essays told by talk-show host Kelly Ripa. This is humorous, often hysterical, and perfect for listening to in the car. It was the first book I listened to using the Library’s new Palace Project app. I loved it.
AnnMarie ~ Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Also in e-book
I don’t usually read romance, and I haven’t read much YA since I stopped working in Youth Services. So I was surprised by how much I enjoyed reading this book. I read it cover to cover during a particularly brutal traveling day flying across country on multiple connecting flights. It’s basically about the excitement and thrill of first love. Rowell manages to make the simplest thing—like the first time the star-crossed teenage lovers hold hands—into a life-altering, consciousness-elevating, world-shifting experience. And that’s what it’s like when you’re sixteen. The book is also about a teen who is coming of age while dealing with horrible abuse going on both at home and at school. So it’s important I note this is not a “gentle read”—there may be potential triggers. And it’s a book that breaks your heart again and again. But you’ll also want to do what Eleanor says she wants to do with a new song she’s heard: you’ll want to break this book into pieces “and love them all to death.”
Shauna ~ Flowing Rivers by Andy Gibb
Flowing Rivers was released in 1977 and was Andy’s debut album. Particularly an all-time favorite song, “I Just Want To Be Your Everything” was the first single released and was a ginormous hit. It turned Andy into a teen idol at the tender age of 17. Having been a kid when it came out, and one raised during the 70s on AM radio, I find lots of music from that decade very nostalgic. Whenever I hear the opening drums and strings to this song, I turn up the volume and settle in to sing and sway along. Flowing Rivers is a pretty solid debut album for any artist, and Andy of course offers the “bonus” link to another music pleasure, the work of his brothers, the Bee Gees. It’s good popular music with many hits, and all the Gibb brothers had phenomenal success. I think the “guilty” part of the pleasure I take is in loving music I discovered as a young girl that tends to be dismissed because it found its fandom in large part among young girls. As if I should have grown out of it and into more “sophisticated” tastes. But nothing takes away the little skip in your heartbeat when that song came up on the (AM) radio—and if you were like me, you had a cassette recorder primed to catch your favorites when they came up in the rotation—you had to be quick to press Play and Record in time to get most of the song—no modern kid has that problem. But the memories of youth and music and the serendipity of hearing your song come on at the moment when you are listening—that’s good stuff.
Israel ~ Bone by Jeff Smith.
Also in e-book
A series that I fell in love with for the scale of the story! An epic fantasy adventure with creepy creatures and a featureless hero. Bone reminds me of Link from the Legend of Zelda not for his blankness but for how courageous he is when outmatched. He never backs down and is never afraid even when he should be.
A guilty pleasure since it’s a children’s story at heart. The target audience is definitely young kids who struggle with the world being a scary place, as well as their place in it but I just love any story with an underdog. Bone has something for everyone of any age!
Eunice ~ The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher
Okay so my guilty pleasure of a book (or in my case it is the whole series of a set of novels)…The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. I’ve read several of them but have not finished the series yet. Book 1 is called Storm Front. The series is about a wizard named Harry Dresden. He is also Chicago’s private eye whose job is to deal with the nether world that is causing unsolved crimes in the city. He often has to deal with vampires, dark fairies, werewolves etc. He also struggles with modern technology and electricity because apparently his wizard powers conflict with our technology…in other words, technology doesn’t always work well around him. He is also very sassy and very humorous. These novels have high energy action. It’s a fun and mischievous series. He messes with things humans should not play with…like vampires and other evil beings. I may stay away from such things in real life but I will immerse myself in the strange world depicted in this series.
Brigida ~ Meg Langslow Mystery series by Donna Andrews
I am guilty of reading…cozy mysteries with punny names. What often catches my eye is the title, but what keeps me reading are the quirky characters and sense of community. Donna Andrews writes a series that follows Meg Langslow, local arts blacksmith, and amateur detective. Meg, along with her father, a medical examiner, her grandfather the local wildlife activist, and a large but loving family, often finds herself investigating crimes and murders. I like the interaction and distraction of the large family from Meg’s gamer brother, her nature and woo-woo loving cousin, and all the other family members who are ready to help put on a wedding, build a computer gaming business, stage a holiday fair or solve a crime. Some of the best of the series are Crouching Buzzard, Leaping Loon, We’ll Always Have Parrots, The Falcon Always Wings Twice, and Lord of the Wings.
I also find great cozies in our eBook collections. One new series I started reading is from Ann Claire, which begins with Dead and Gondola. This cozy mystery series takes place in a Colorado ski resort town, home to a family-owned bookstore, The Book Chalet. The bookstore is run by the Christie family, no relation to Agatha. In Dead and Gondola, there is a mysterious death of a mysterious stranger and the small ski community is in turmoil trying to solve the mystery while a road rockslide keeps everyone in town.
Young ~ Charlotte Temple by Susanna Rowson
Much of my leisurely reading is almost exclusively nonfiction. I like military history, particularly books about WWII, but I also enjoy books covering astronomy, medicine, philosophy, engineering, literary theory, life science, and the lives of other people. I especially like true crime and books about forensic science and all their macabre details that satiate a morbid curiosity. However, I do enjoy fiction, which includes historical fiction or those that have a high level of verisimilitude and logical plausibility. I also like reading poetry, particularly long narrative poems, such as John Milton’s Paradise Lost and Beowulf, and I occasionally read plays by Shakespeare—these reading interests I share without any hesitation because poetry and Shakespeare are universal, and besides people tend to think you’re learned and cultured if you read “literature.” However, I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I’m a sucker for the sentimental novel that originated in the 18th century and which was quite popular throughout the 19th century in America and Europe. Sometimes referred to as domestic fiction, it was popular with women readers and the stories are ones based on excessive emotions and elicit from readers their sympathy and pity. Charlotte Temple by Susanna Rowson is one such novel that I’d say is a guilty pleasure of mine. It’s about a young girl named Charlotte who is seduced by a British soldier named Montraville who promises to marry her and take her to America where they will start a new life. When they get there, however, he soon loses interest in Charlotte and eventually abandons her. Pregnant and destitute, she seeks out her friend Mademoiselle La Rue on a cold winter day for help. She thought she was a friend, but La Rue pretends to not know Charlotte and shuts the door on her. Her servant takes pity on the poor expectant mother and sneaks her inside the house where she gives birth to a daughter. Charlotte soon dies from her terrible ordeal.
This tragic story is very much a cautionary tale as much as it’s a seduction story—and I love it! It’s a quick read, and I’ve read it a couple of times already. I generally don’t seek out books like this that are full of sentimentality and sensibilities—in fact, I don’t know too many (and that’s the truth!)—but if someone makes a recommendation of a book in this genre, I might feign disinterest but later look it up in the library catalog.