As a verified book lover, I have a lot of people come to me with bookish confessions. I love hearing people admit they love certain books they hated as a kid, or they’ve grown to love graphic novels more than they ever thought. But my least favorite part of these confessions is when someone refers to a book they genuinely enjoyed, devoured, or can’t stop talking about as a “guilty pleasure read.”

You immediately know the kind of books I’m talking about, right? Romance novels, rom-coms, cozy mysteries, et cetera. For some reason, and I think I know the reason, people feel the need to feel “guilty” about reading anything written since 1990 that didn’t win a Pulitzer or don’t weight ten pounds. People feel guilty when they laugh during a book, or cry over a character’s death, or blush from something sexy written on the page. Why is that, though? Can we not just appreciate reading for pleasure for the pleasure it brings and give up the phrase “guilty pleasure reads.”

People don’t read enough these days. We have so many other things to do in a culture that prides itself on business. Even though more books are being published than ever before, people still sometimes want to stare at a TV screen or their phone or talk to their friends or go for a run. Those are all valid things, but when people choose to read, they’re making a conscious decision to devote themselves to those words. We should value that, no matter our view on the “worth” of these words. News flash: the books that sell best aren’t the “weighty” ones, the literary fiction set over the course of a day in the life of a sad old white man or a books that take so long to read you forgot how it even began. The best sellers are the books people fall into and can’t crawl out of. Romances that make them weep with emotion. Thrillers that keep them on the edge of their seat. Cheesy love stories that make them smile and take away their pain for a few hours. Why should they feel guilty about these reads? Because they haven’t won a Pulitzer Prize? There are a million literary prizes out there, for best murder mysteries and best poem and best play and best historical fiction, so why not put you faith in those prizes just as much?

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Furthermore, if you condemn these “guilty pleasure” reads for not offering a learning opportunity, you’re just being willfully ignorant. Historical fiction, even those filled with bawdy romances, are amazing insights into history. I’ve picked up tons of great little trivia facts buried in romantic comedies I found for $1 at the thrift store. I’ve been inspired to read other books by the references characters make to them in books some people call “guilty pleasure reads” but I stopped feeling guilty for reading those books a long time ago.

We don’t get to live forever. We are free people who can read what we please, that’s the beauty of the country we live in, and you should read whatever you want to read no matter what society tells you you “should be reading.” Less than two hundred years ago women were called crazy for wanting to read those “silly novels” and they were talking about Jane Austen and the like. Now, we admire people who read Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte. We should honor them by continuing to be literate women who unabashedly read, no matter our reading preferences.

Aryssa D
FFL Cabinet Member