At work the other day, one of my co-workers revealed that she was overtired because she was up late reading a book in her Kindle. In hushed tones and after much prying she confessed that the Twilight saga was to blame for her nocturnal lifestyle. She then went on to say how she felt less than intelligent because she liked escaping to that world of romance and suspense. I find that often because of the fact that I am a book blogger and have an English background, people think that I am judging their book selections, that they somehow reflect their intellectual abilities.
I don't view people's taste in books as a way of determining whether or not they are smart. People choose what they read with different goals in mind, and so it is difficult from the outside to judge other people's preferences. I will confess that while I was in university the was a long period where most of the books that I read for fun were romance novels. Interspersed with Dickens, Joyce and Atwood, I liked nothing more than to cuddle up with the usual cast of heroes and heroines as they cultivated their improbable romances. The stress of school, living at home with my mother and my lacklustre love life all meant that escapism was my primary motive for reading. I kid you not, my favourite book was Viking! by Connie Mason, a tale of a viking who enslaves a woman only to find that she captures his heart.
When things are going well for me personally, I tend to choose to read books with darker subject matter, because I can spend large swaths of time immersed in gritty reality and still maintain an optimistic approach. Escapism and realism are not types of literature that require ranking, because both have their benefits to the psyche. After having gone through my collection this past weekend, I can look back on my time with Viking! fondly, and will probably find myself pulling another romance out and take another journey. I may not ever go through the library discard cart with the fervour of a dumpster diver in search of the perfect historical story, complete with chiseled hero on the cover. The smuttier the better.
At least I know that I am not alone in my need for guilty-pleasure reading. Though my mother finds solace in those Chick Lit books which cater to the women-over forty demographic, and my boyfriend loses himself in post-apocalyptic stories, they are the same need for escapism. So I don't judge my co-worker for her Twilight-related insomnia, because next week it could be me yawning.