A guilty pleasure is something one enjoys and considers pleasurable despite feeling guilt for enjoying it. Often, the "guilt" involved is simply fear of others discovering one's lowbrow or otherwise embarrassing tastes, rather than actual moral guilt. Fashion, music, and food (especially unhealthier foods high in sugar and/or fat) can be examples of guilty pleasuresA true Readers' Advisor must resist this notion of some books being "better" than others because our entire profession revolves around the fact that reading anything has intrinsic value. RAs are non-judgmental. We need to treat the reader who only wants James Patterson titles the same as the one who only reads Tolstoy. They are equal patrons simply because they want to read something that they will enjoy. Our goal is to match readers with THEIR next good read, not OUR next good read. I have an entire lecture prepared on just this topic, but I will stop here for now.
However, all this being said, even the most serious reader needs an escape. So how do WE define "guilty pleasure." They key here is that it is a completely subjective definition. What I find a guilty pleasure may be a regular read, or even work, for someone else. We need to understand this distinction before even beginning the "guilty pleasure" discussion.
For example, I read a lot of horror books, but I would not call them "guilty pleasures" because this is part of my work. I am paid to read and write about horror books. Although I enjoy them immensely, there is nothing "guilty" about my reading them-- it is my job. On the other hand, I watch True Blood, each and every week on HBO for the pure guilty pleasure of it. For me, the show is pure fun, no brain cells needed, and that has a lot to do with why I like it so much.
For books, I will read a funny, cozy mystery or a best-selling suspense title as my guilty pleasure. But sometimes, you get a surprise with these books. Last year I read the first two Stieg Larsson titles in his Millennium trilogy. I thought they would be a guilty pleasure, and they were, but they were also two of my favorite books I read last year.
In music, I just love Justin Timberlake as my guilty pleasure. Yes, my favorite bands are more complex (Wilco and Richard Thompson) but I will stop and listen to anything by Justin Timberlake and I am not ashamed to admit it.
NPR has authors own up to what they read as a guilty pleasure and why in this regular series.
Everyone, no matter how high brow they think they are, needs a guilty pleasure. We all need to escape the seriousness of real life once in awhile and let go. So, today's Monday Discussion question is: What are your guilty pleasures? You can give me books, movies, music, tv...anything.
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