Reading for (Guilty) Pleasure and Book Club Dreams

While I was on vacation what already seems like years ago, but was actually only 4 weeks ago, I happily devoured 4 fiction books. I got started on a detective series (the Hieronymous Bosch series, by Michael Connelly) and this became my beach (and nighttime) reading for the week. Oh yeah, and I finally got around to reading Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, which I thought was kinda meh – seemed to me to be “yer typical bodice-ripper”, albeit with a time travel twist – a genre I have not dipped into since my early 20s.

I had almost completely given up reading for pleasure when I was pursuing my MBA studies (and everything else that was happening at the same time) and now a year later it still feels weird/guilt-inducing to be doing it. I try not to let this stop me but it’s something I struggle with yet. (The mandatory reading I do every night to shut down my brain and get into sleep mode is exempted from these feelings of guilt.)

Part of this is being cognizant that my pleasure reading could veer from being a harmless indulgence to an addictive escape from my reality.

I feel my reality is pretty great right now so this is not so much a worry as a niggle in the back of my brain. Like if drinking alcohol moved from being a social/relaxing thing to a required, nightly solo ritual (something else the back of my mind monitors for me). I wouldn’t be the first widow to become a secret or not-so secret lush. So I ask myself what my motivation is when I reach into the cupboard for a wine glass. So far, so good…not to worry, dear Blog!

Anywho, I do hear my inner nag voice nagging at me for reading for pleasure.

Especially when the book(s) are not…um…”heavy”, in my opinion. A heavy or weighty book to me is not meant literally, especially now that most of the books I read are digital editions. No, by that I mean it’s a book that stays with you. One that you are still thinking about days later. One with characters so fully fleshed that you feel you know them as friends. One that describes the human condition. One that resonates with you. One that changes you and how you see the world somehow, however subtly. One that finds you talking to yourself in the author’s “voice” afterwards (or is that just me?).

I don’t feel (as) guilty having consumed one of these books. Examples of those books for me would be: The Diviners, by Margaret Laurence and Winter’s Tale, (don’t discount it because of the terrible movie) by Mark Helprin. Books that I must reread every so many years.

During last year’s vacation in Barbados, I burned through 6 books in 7 days. Still reeling from my mother’s death only a few weeks before, I was definitely escaping from reality into fiction! But I gave myself a pass on that, due to the circumstances. I quickly read all of the books I had brought with me plus my daughter’s books. Then I was forced to peruse the hotel’s bookcase for my next read. Among the novels written in German (!?) and the thin drug-store paperbacks, I found I am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes. Not a genre I would have sought out normally (suspense/spy novel), but it was HUGE and I thought it looked interesting.

OMG, I loved it! I consumed it in a little over a day. This book reintroduced me to reading just for the sheer pleasure of the story – something I had forgotten about. Something I want to get back to and without guilt, if I could only shut down my inner nag voice…

In direct juxtaposition of these feelings, for a couple of years now I have had this vision rolling around in my head of starting a book club. WTF. I know, right? I guess I want to “legitimize” my reading in this way. Makes it seem important and mind-expanding vs. a “waste of time” (my inner voice nag’s words, not mine!).

In my fantasy book club dream, I see a diverse group of women….ok, and maybe a gay man or two…gathering once a month or every 6 weeks for fabulous, sparkling conversation and nibblies. We only disagree respectfully, politely and constructively; we always all show up; we have all read the book; we have the most concise, witty and illuminating comments about that month’s pick. Everyone goes home feeling great about themselves and what they learned from each other and we can’t wait until we meet again!

Yeah. About that…OK, OK!  I get that it’s a total fantasy.

But what if I (we) started a virtual book club? Who’s with me on this one? Give it some thought. And let me know what books resonated with you please. I am always looking for a great next read, inner voice nag be damned!

Rock (and read) on,

The WB

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  • I could go for joining an online book club! I am part of a “real life” book club, and I love to escape into fiction or, sometimes, nonfiction!

    • Great! As I mentioned to Susan we could start one easily (I think) by creating a group on GoodReads, in their Community section. Are you a member already? It’s free to join.

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