Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Oh The Shame

I recently joined a new book club. The group had already been established by several of my co-workers and I managed to get invited. Which was no easy feat, let me tell you. Apparently there was serious discussion about whether or not I should be let in! How exclusive.

The reason I was asked to join the club is because the group had decided to have, what they called, a 'bodice ripper' month. Of course, when I think 'bodice ripper', I think Melissa Sarno, don't you? Considering that I've only read 2 romance novels in my entire life and I didn't read the first one until a few months ago when the lovely and talented Sarah MacLean became my friend...I find this ironic. But somehow, false word had gotten out that I read romance and, so, I was asked for my opinion about what the group should read, which led to an invitation to join.

So, I became a member and I was put in charge of selecting a juicy 'bodice ripper' to read. And of course, I suggested the lovely and talented Sarah MacLean's "Nine Rules To Break When Romancing a Rake" because, as I've said, it's one of the only romance novels I've ever read. Another girl suggested a novel by Christy Reece, which became the third romance novel I'd ever read and I enjoyed it very much.

We had our first meeting and we all had a grand old time discussing the romance genre and all the ways you can refer to the male member and the female 'sex' and very mature topics like that. :-P

In any case, after saying the word vajayjay far too many times, we artfully transitioned into other topics, such as chick lit. I was surprised to hear that so many people were ashamed to read chick lit. It also came out that they were embarrassed to read romance on the subway. It wasn't that they had a low opinion of these genres (in fact, just the opposite). It was just that they didn't consider it real 'literature'.

I felt pretty proud, because I'm not ashamed to read anything. I'll read Tolstoy one day and "The Devil Wears Prada" the next. I proudly display bodice rippers on the subway, opening up the jacket covers, on purpose, to reveal the long legs and wanton chests and see my fellow passengers reactions. By the way, I noticed the word 'wanton' is a widely used term in the 3 romances I read. I like it.

But this wasn't always the case. In fact, I thought pretty highly of myself back in high school and college. I could not be found reading Grisham or Patterson. No, no, no. Dostoevsky for me. James Joyce, pretty please. And, I certainly could not admit that I enjoyed "The DaVinci Code". What self respecting English academic type would? In fact, I'm a little embarrassed to admit it now.

Of course, I want to know, why? Why are people embarrassed to admit liking certain books that aren't considered great works of literature? Or, just the opposite, why are we ashamed to say that maybe Moby Dick didn't quite turn us on? Maybe our reading tastes reflect something about us we don't want to reveal. What does it say to the world when we crack open the latest Danielle Steele? What does it say when we sit on a park bench reading Hemmingway?

So, it's time to have a little fun and bare all (bodice rip, if you will).

I offer you the chance to get rid of the shame! Because, I believe there is no shame in reading a book, no matter what it is.

1. Name a book you are ashamed you like.

2. Name a book you are ashamed you don't like.

I'll go first.

1. The Da Vinci Code
2. Pride and Prejudice


  1. 1. twilight- altho, i'm not really embarrassed to read anything. i'm like you. i'll read it all.

    2. i can't remember, but when a smart literary friend suggest a book, i get it and don't like it, i feel bad. but i can't think of one single title right now.

  2. I can't think of a book I was embarrassed to read. No wait, I did hate it when I was reading a book and then Oprah named it as her book club choice. That annoyed me.

    Moby Dick actually is a book I did not like and I also don't like A S Byatt's books. Don't like it when a writer likes to throw around big words to prove their large vocabulary.

  3. Echoing Kerri - I will read anything and was brought up on Noddy and The famous Five, plus comics ... and you know what ... i think that I can better appreciate a book and rate its worth, to me, simply because of the wide variety of reading I have done .... Noddy to Virgina Woolf via Thackeray, Milton and Chaucer - not forgetting, free with washing powder, Mills and Boons .....

  4. This is a great, great post. :)

    Book I'm ashamed to say I liked- I loved Angels and Demons. It kept me turning the pages. (I was actually disappointed with The Da Vinci Code simply because it didn't live up to Angels and Demons for me.)

    Book I'm ashamed I didn't like- War of the Worlds. Gulliver's Travels. Heart of Darkness. Hated them all. I always feel like I'm less intelligent when I dislike a classic. I hate that!

    Book that I'm embarrassed to admit that I read, but that I don't regret because my dh and I still jokingly quote from- How to Make Love Like a Porn Star (A Cautionary Tale)- Jenna Jameson (and a co-author). It's trainwreckish. Seriously.

  5. 1. I don't think I'm ashamed of anything I like to read. I'm sure some people look at me funny when I'm in a waiting room with a handful of picture books that I'm studying....

    2.The House of Seven Gables (Hawthorne) I may have the title a bit off. I tried to read it I don't know how many times...Maybe when I'm more mature???

  6. That book club sounds fun.

    1. Not really ashamed of anything I like. . . No maybe a bit since I always preface saying how much I enjoyed the Twilight series with some qualifier or other.

    2. Can't even remember the title but it was one of John Irving's novels. Didn't like it enough to even finish it and A Prayer for Owen Meany is my favorite book, so it surprised me.

  7. Pride and Prejudice? For shame indeed! J

    1. I'm pretty embarrassed that I breathlessly read all the Twilight books in the span of a week. And liked them.

    2. I’m kind of sad that I don’t really like Hemingway. I just can’t get into his books.

    What and interesting discussion at your book club. Jane Austen has an section about novels in Northanger Abbey. She talks about how the reading of novels was seen as “womanly” and therefore something to be ashamed of reading. She talks about women writers who never have their characters read popular novels (because they’re afraid the audience will think less of them). I guess we have the same prejudices about romance and women’s fiction. You’re not “serious” if you don’t read Hemingway and Shakespeare. Never mind that a person may have read and enjoyed both James Joyce and Jennifer Weiner!