There’s something I want to get off my chest. A dirty little secret of sorts. Well, not so much dirty as plain old mean. Here it is: I’m kind of a book snob. When a person recommends a book to me, I cannot help but judge that person (to a degree) based on the kind of book it is. Anyone who strictly reads mystery novels, or romance/erotica novels, or teen paranormal romances, or whatever the new fad happens to be (in the vein of Twilight, 50 Shades of Grey, The Hunger Games, etc.), I form an otherwise uninformed opinion about the tastes of that person. Which is wrong and biased and not particularly nice, I know. Not that I decide I don’t like that person as a human being and never would I say that I’m better than another, it’s just, I sort of conclude right then and there that we have very different tastes and mine are better. What?
Of course, that doesn’t always hold true. And that’s not to say that books like Twilight or 50 Shades or any number of formulaic mystery/romance/paranormal novels don’t have their place. ALL books have their place. Reading material is like music or television or film in that the way it is received by any given person is somewhat dependent on the mood that that person happens to be in at the time it is consumed. Whatever we’re going through or experiencing at that moment helps to shape the way we perceive things around us, including the entertainment we seek.
And don’t think I’m dissing books like Twilight or The Hunger Games just because they’re popular. I’ve read both of those series and many other books that I’d consider less than edifying. But I’ve always chosen literary fiction over genre fiction and I must shamefully admit that others who’d rather spend their time reading the next Grisham thriller or the latest in the Scarpetta series have always seemed to me to have a very limited literary palette.
Now that I’ve exposed my portentous attitude toward readers, allow me to attempt, hopefully with some degree of humility, to redeem myself. I have recently discovered that I quite enjoy a series of books that came highly recommended to me by a couple of colleagues. It took several months for me to finally give in and read the first in the series, mainly because these books are not anything I would have EVER thought I’d enjoy. And I was wrong. Yes, folks, I am four books into the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich and I’m not embarrassed to admit it. (Well, maybe a little embarrassed.)
Are they fluff? Yes, they are. Are they teaching me anything about the world around me or elevating my humanity in any possible way? No, absolutely not. But they are damn funny and enjoyable and I’m sure I’m going to finish the series. All 16 or 18 or however many of them there are. (Though, perhaps not straight through. That’s a hell of a commitment, yo.) Evanovich may not have the poetic grace of Ian McEwan or the heartrending honesty of Sherman Alexie but she knows how to string a reader along. And her novels are light, easy reads that make an afternoon pass by quite delightfully. I certainly won’t stop reading the dark and heavy tales that have made me the insatiable reader I am today, but I’d like to think that at least now I’ll be less likely to condemn others for their literary choices.
One can only hope.