Fifty Shades of Grey was a literary phenomenon like few others we've seen. It sold over 70 million copies worldwide, making author E.L. James and her publisher mountains and mountains of money.
A lot of folks decried this development; the book wasn't terribly well-written, and the salacious nature of the story led a number of the snobbier readers out there to proclaim the end of Western civilization.
"But D.J., how can you possibly say the book wasn't well-written when you haven't even read it?"
I...err...(mumbles)...kinda bought it...
"You bought Fifty Shades of freakin' GREY!?!"
Hey, come on, now! I had a very good reason. At the time, I was writing a trio of books that had some fairly graphic sex scenes (it's the Debt of Souls series, and I think I'm going to cut all of that stuff out before I release them). I tried to get through Fifty Shades as research, to see how a successful erotica writer would tackle those kinds of things, but it really just wasn't my thing--I stopped around the 25% mark.
But the very fact that I have to explain that I bought one of the most successful books of all time brings me to my point: though a lot of us like to imagine that we only read the latest Pynchon novel in between re-readings of Infinite Jest, the reality is that each of us tend to like certain kinds of stories, be they Mystery, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Erotica (OOOOOH!), etc.
In the past, a lot of times, our taste in books was open to ridicule; the cover was prominently on display for all to see if we'd read on a bus or plane, or worse still, if we were in school and dared to read a book during indoor recess.
Kids, especially, used to get all kinds of crap for being "nerds" or "weirdos" based on what they read. A young Ray Bradbury famously went home and destroyed all of the sci-fi comics and books he had in an attempt to fit in, then wept the next day when he realized that those stories were gone for good.
It's a heartbreaking tale, but one that carries a valuable lesson about not caring what other people think about you or what you're doing, a lesson that far too people grasp until far too late in their lives.
So, if you're brave enough to volunteer in the comments, I ask you: what kinds of guilty pleasures do you enjoy reading? Corny space operas? Erotica? Bodice-ripping romances? Epic fantasy? Something really out there?
I know of people who would snicker at and deride anyone who read any of these listed genres.
Why do these people care?
It's simply not worth it--even though Fifty Shades of Grey wasn't for me, I'm not going to tell people who enjoy it that they should be ashamed of reading it--different strokes for different folks and all.
I guess what I'm trying to do is to take the "guilt" out of "guilty pleasures" a bit. Fortunately, eBooks are happy to lend a helping hand; no reason anyone else needs to know what's on that screen in front of you, unless it's a picture book, in which case, you should probably use your discretion in the first place.
Or maybe the "guilt" is what makes reading these books so fun! Maybe it's the "forbidden" nature of these stories, the graphic violence, the salty language, the lurid sex, that causes word of them to spread like wildfire through the community, the outrage fanning the flames all the while.
I'm not sure either way--thoughts? Reactions? Leave them in the comments, if you dare...
Until next time, Happy Hunting!
D.J. Gelner is the Co-Founder and CEO of Hunt to Read. Check out his books on his Hunt to Read Profile. Contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.