Books are like food. We all have different tastes, different appetites. Some books are like eating a fancy five course French dinner where you can’t even understand the menu but you enjoy every perfectly-cooked morsel. Others are like lamb chops and mashed potato. Familiar, cosy, filling.
I have a particular taste I crave. An itch I like to scratch. Prawn cocktail crisp books. Prawn cocktail crisps are not cool. They are not nutritious. They’re not very good for you, and they don’t even fill you up. But I still like love them. Prawn cocktail crisp books mainly consist of the books I felt guilty about reading even as a teenager.
Sweet Valley High, Sweet Dreams, Point Horror. They all scratch the itch. Yes, I was a nineties teenager. I don’t even think they are that bad (though I may be in denial). I know they’re not literature. I think I’ve worked out the formula for my perfect prawn cocktail crisp book:
- The book is set somewhere very different from my own semi-rural British teenage years. America is good. California is better.
- A plot like a lazy TV show – everything gets magically wrapped up by the end of the episode, no matter how many appalling things occurred.
- Things happen. And regularly. This is not “To the Lighthouse” time. I did read that – it’s a Baked Alaska sort of book.
- The heroine is ridiculously absorbed in her own life problems, but even if she got murdered I wouldn’t be that upset. I’m not heartless, I cry my heart out reading Jane Eyre but I like a break from feeling sometimes.
- There are some face-palmingly awful moments I can enjoy in an ironic way. They are probably also massively politically incorrect. Like that Sweet Valley High novel where an anorexic cheerleader has to organise the creation of the world’s largest ice cream sundae. (Now I feel grubby inside.)
- The knowledge there are a million more books like this if I want them.
I think it boils down to my brain loving the medium of reading but wanting something so easy to read it just washes over me. They also require no emotional effort, I’m not genuinely anxious, scared, upset, or moved in any way. This is the ultimate escapism, the opposite of mindfulness. Mindless. But delicious.
Sometimes I wonder if it’s a developmental stage I’m stuck in. You’d think I’d grow out of it. I’m a big girl now, I could read Dickens. I have read Dickens. Okay, not all of them, but a few. They were good. I want to read more. But there’s this one Sweet Valley book I wanna read first…
Come on – spill. What’s your guilty pleasure bookwise?