If bookstores listed nutritional information on books in the same way food companies do, we might see certain books with labels touting 40 grams of adverb-laden romance or “exceeds recommended daily dose of wonky sentence structure.” Just as we continue to consume salty and sugary snacks because they taste good, we also consume books that aren’t necessarily nutritional for our brains. And that’s okay. We all need a guilty pleasure now again, especially during the holiday-heavy time of year that is December. In this month’s Essential Reading, we’re eating the literary icing on the cake and highlighting some of our favorite guilty pleasures. Some of my go-to choices for when I don’t want to think too hard or am in need of a laugh, include the celebrity memoir or a book from the humor section. I was happy to find a book that fit both of my guilty pleasure criteria when I read Jenny Lawson’s Furiously Happy. In Lawson’s follow-up book to the best-selling Let's Pretend This Never Happened, she tackles topics including depression and self-harm via cutting, but manages to balance these stories with chapters such as “What I Say to My Shrink Vs. What I Mean” wherein she describes making waterbeds for her cats, Ferris Mewler and Hunter S. Thomcat. The book ranges from recalled dialogue with her husband, Victor, lists such as in the chapter “Things My Father Taught Me,” and taxidermy anecdotes. This laugh-out-loud memoir is full of honesty, but Lawson isn’t afraid to poke fun at herself. She uses wit and humor to balance her anxiety in both her writing and personal life. If you’re in need of a good laugh, pick up this book. The cover alone is enough to make even the most serious person crack a smile.
Columnist Kate Ristau wasn’t ashamed of her pick. She shares, “November was full of surprises, and made me want to find a good book! Luckily, I had a copy of LeeAnn McLennan’s young adult novel, Root. It’s the second book in her Dormant Trilogy, and it’s all about superheroes. It was exactly the kind of pleasure I needed—without the guilt. McLennan’s series is action-packed, with characters who seem to jump (or fly) off the page. The second book deepened the characters and expanded the universe. She left me on the edge of my seat, wondering what will happen next and wanting to know more. My only frustration: now I have to wait for the final book in the trilogy.”
Senior Editor and Profiles Editor Christina Consolino was happy to share her guilty pleasure. She writes, “Several years ago, I picked up Sloppy Firsts, the first of five novels in Megan McCafferty’s Jessica Darling series. The books focus on 16-year-old Jessica Darling, who must navigate her way through high school—and life—after her best friend, Hope, moves away from their hometown of Pineville, New Jersey. Jessica feels lost and alone in a world without Hope. McCafferty’s ability to play with words shines in these novels. Additional characters include: a self-absorbed older sister, Bethany, and her fiancé, Grant (aka G-Money), a band of acquaintances Jessica and Hope have labeled the ‘Clueless Crew,’ and an unexpected love interest—the school stoner—Marcus Flutie. The series follows Jessica and these other characters from their junior and senior years in high school (as chronicled in Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings) through the college years (Charmed Thirds), and into their 20-something lives (Fourth Comings and Perfect Fifths). McCafferty brilliantly captures the highs and lows of high school, college, and life beyond in Jessica’s often diary-like ramblings. Strewn with mundane anecdotes that sparkle thanks to McCafferty’s attention to detail, Jessica’s accurate and sometimes stereotypical portrayal of the groups we’ve all known or been a part of—the nerds, the jocks, the drug users, the popular crowd, and so on—bring readers back to those awkward and angst-ridden years in life. From the first to the last installment, we watch Jessica, Marcus, and the rest of the gang stumble through life’s messes and come out mostly unharmed on the other side. While I have no desire to revisit those years of my own life, I’m more than happy to relive and revel in the humor and wit that I can now recognize as an adult. Plus, I’m a sucker for an enchanting love story, and at its heart, the Jessica Darling series is just that.”
Colleen Kearney Rich, Fiction Editor, sank her teeth into not one, but 13 books. She states, “I have read all 13 books in Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse Set. I started them after discovering the HBO series True Blood. They are different from the show in many ways, and I liked them better than the series. I adore Sookie with her word-a-day calendar and her vampire in-law problems. And after reading the set, I believe that just about anything can happen in Louisiana. Despite the murder, mayhem, and undead, there is a humor to the series that I really enjoy. Plus, they are quick reads.”