February 10, 2013

Love of Reading: Books You're Embarrassed to Admit You Love

I met Alyce at the Tucson Festival of Books last year, and I'm so excited that she's agreed to be part of this year's Love of Reading Week!

When Jessica asked me if I would be willing to write about an author that I love even though I'm embarrassed to admit it, the first author that came to mind is Diana Gabaldon. I have to say that I do tell a lot of people that I love her writing, specifically the Outlander books, but I always include a bit of a warning about the content for my more conservative friends.

You see, in the past I recommended the books without even thinking about the content, and then had one of my friends broach the subject in a roundabout way, saying "You know, I tried to read Outlander, but... um... there were some scenes? And that one near the end - it was awful!" I could see their opinion of me and my reading tastes changing before my eyes. Those thoughts of, "You really like reading about that kind of stuff?"

So now whenever I recommend the series I gush about how wonderful the time travel and historical fiction are, not to mention the grand romance between Claire and Jamie; but then I also let people know that there is graphic sexual content. For these books that sort of content is something that I skim over when I read it, especially since I have read the books so many times. The Outlander series is really an exception for me because I am not a romance reader. I appreciate Diana Gabaldon's writing skills though, in that she can incorporate these elements that would normally turn me off from a book, but because of the time travel and historical fiction I am riveted - not just once, but multiple times of reading through these enormous books.

Alyce and Diana Gabaldon at the TFOB.

The only time that the scenes have become a distraction was in the last book of the series, An Echo in the Bone, where I am sad to say that I just couldn't appreciate the matter-of-fact and seemingly unnecessary descriptions of the aging main characters' anatomy.

Then there is her other series of books dedicated to the storyline of Lord John, a supporting character in the Outlander books. I have read a couple of the books in the Lord John series, and have to say that I find them less interesting because they strike me as dry mysteries. The fact that he is a gay man is worked into the plot as a matter of fact and takes a backseat to his role in solving mysteries.

So, while I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Diana Gabaldon's books to many of my friends, I'm more hesitant when it comes to others - like the pastor's wife who lives down the block from me.

As a postscript, after I had already decided that I was going to write about Diana Gabaldon, I was unexpectedly captivated by the re-airing of the Twilight movies on cable last week. What started out as me making fun of the melodramatic dialogue ended with me checking out the fourth movie from the library as part of a Twilight marathon. And that led to something I never ever thought would happen. I'm currently listening to the fourth book on my mp3 player. For many years I have insisted not only that vampire books were not for me, but also that I would never read the Twilight books. This is why you should never say "never." I blame it on stress and a need for an easy mental escape.

So I guess I can now add Stephenie Meyer to my list of authors whose books I am at least mildly embarrassed to admit I read. In the case of Stephenie Meyer it is more a matter of the amount of crow which I will be eating in the presence of certain relatives who loved Twilight, and whom I teased unmercifully (let's hope they don't see this post).

What books are you embarrassed to love?