Should I be afraid?
Two weeks ago, I asked to hear about your guilty reading pleasures. Many of you wrote to confess loving a good murder mystery.
(Except for reader Sharon Carlson, God bless her, who said her guilty pleasure was the Star Tribune. “It takes forever and a day to get it all read,” she said, and I assume that’s a good thing.)
But back to murder. Norma Williams likes the real deal: “Some more sophisticated than others, but I like ’em all. Gary Gilmore (‘The Executioner’s Song’), Ted Bundy (‘The Stranger Beside Me’), Jeffrey MacDonald (‘Fatal Vision’).”
Pamela Espeland likes them when they’re fictitious and set in Italy. “Donna Leon mysteries set in modern-day Venice,” she wrote, adding, “Also, without fail, the daily comics.” Hear, hear.
Anonymous — aka Janet Graber of Burnsville — went a different direction. “Surreptitiously sneaking copies of People magazine at the beauty shop to catch up on gossip,” she said.
Anne Hope wondered why her friends aren’t shy about loving silly TV shows like “The Bachelor,” but she feels awkward loving Elin Hilderbrand’s “lowbrow” novels.
“While reading her books, I quickly feel like I am living alongside her characters in Nantucket,” she writes.
“I am fully a part of her stories. When each book ends, I long for more details, I miss my new friends, I feel hung over.”
Ron Fideldy of Plymouth thinks true guilt arises only upon rereading, because there is not much to learn the second time around.
Still, he rereads “The Monk,” a 1796 “Gothic potboiler” that he discovered in college.
The book “chronicles the descent of an unblemished man of the cloth to total damnation by way of incest, fratricide and matricide. I’ve read it four times over the last 40 years, and each time I can’t put it down.
“It is a pleasure, and I am guilty.”
Kathleen Hoffer of Minneapolis measures guilt not by book, but by time: “The Saturdays when I never change out of my pajamas, don’t do the laundry or the dishes, and eat popcorn for dinner. Because I’m reading. First in bed, then on the couch, perhaps later in the bathtub, then again in bed.”
I think she’s on to something here. It is the time, isn’t it? The number of books we will read in our lifetime is finite. One thousand? Two thousand?
The first time this occurred to me, it filled me with anxiety. There’s a limit! I shouldn’t squander it!
I haven’t read “Moby-Dick.” I haven’t read everything by Charles Dickens, or anything by Proust (in French or English), I haven’t read most books. I’ve got to get going!
The Pew Research Center says the typical American reads five books a year. But we are not typical, are we? Maybe you read 100 books in 2013. And a hundred more in 2014.
Don’t do the math. The number of books you will read in your life is still depressingly small.
This mustn’t dissuade you, or make you think that you should read only highbrow books. (As reader Espeland noted, “whenever I resolve to read only ‘serious’ books, I end up reading less.”)
With that in mind, I resolve to put away my guilt. I resolve that I will read some books to improve my mind, some because it is my job.
And some will be purely for fun.
Laurie Hertzel is the Star Tribune’s senior editor for books. On Twitter @StribBooks.