A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
‘Guilty pleasures’ suggests something illicit – passing round Jilly Cooper romances under the desk at school. Yes, I was that generation. But I also, as a teenager, had a reputation to uphold – intellectual and bookish. I couldn’t be seen to read Jilly Cooper. I was obliged to cock a snook, and turn another page of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.
I did read her, of course, at home, in secret. Well, Riders and Polo were just pony books for grown ups and I loved pony books. Pony books were my friends. And despite being intellectual and bookish, I had never managed to get of rid of such childhood friends as the Chalet School, Swallows and Amazons and quite a lot of Enid Blyton. (I threw out The Famous Five, but not Malory Towers. Malory Towers is with me yet.)
The thing about guilty book pleasures – well, any pleasures, I suppose, is how subjective they are. A few years ago all my friends were confessing to reading Fifty Shades of Grey. I didn’t – not because I am such a snob these days (well, only a bit), but because I read two pages of the first one and found it – for me – unreadable. Just not my kind of book.
For me, the very best kind of book – I am rereading one now, Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life (rereading is one of my guilty pleasures) – is one I literally can’t put down, walk round the house reading, read while I’m hovering and cooking and have to leave downstairs when I go up to my study or nothing would ever get done. My favourite books tend to be well-written, at the accessible end of literary, with characters I care about. Sometimes, as with Life After Life, they do interesting and demanding things with structure and ask questions about the nature of literature and art. These are books I am conscious of as books, books that make me aspire to be a better writer myself, books that make me see life differently.
And sometimes I just want a good yarn.
I don’t feel guilty about anything I choose to read now. Doing a PhD which partly involved analysing girls’ school stories cured me of that. Also being 49 and really not giving a hoot what anyone thinks. Having said that, when I used to own quite a few Jilly Coopers, they never lived downstairs where visitors could see them. In one clear-out, they all went to the charity shop but then, one particularly stressful time I needed an old friend and Jilly – or rather her characters and delicious world – were exactly the old friends I needed. I downloaded Riders on my kindle and read in public places, looking, I expect, exactly as if I were reading something impressive and experimental. (Maybe I do give a slight hoot about what people think, after all.) I was going to stop there, except I remembered Rivals being really rather good, and then I needed to know what happened and so…
There is a folder on my kindle called Guilty Pleasures. You can guess what it contains.