Monday, February 21, 2011

Bubble-wrap Reading

I hereby confess: I like reading romance novels.

Before you freak out, let me clarify. I like reading Regency period romance novels--and only some of those. I stick to Regency for two reasons. First, they're generally clean. I've had to put down a couple, but the code of conduct expected of young ladies of society at the time lends itself to a safer read. Secondly, they're funny. The emphasis is usually on wit and an appreciation for the ridiculous.

These novels are what my father-in-law once described as "bubble-wrap literature" (he put Louis L'Amour under the same blanket). No one knows why popping bubble-wrap is so satisfying, but it draws us nonetheless. The same goes for reading these books. We know how it's going to end, usually from the first chapter on. The characters aren't people we're going to befriend and think about for weeks afterward. In fact, if we feel we know them at all, it's only because we've seen the same stock characters in other novels of the same genre. Chances are, reading one of these books will not change your life, and you probably won't have much desire to re-read it or recommend it to a friend (some of Georgette Heyer's books may be an exception).

Who cares? This is sheer escapism.

When I say that my father-in-law calls it bubble-wrap, don't think he's being derogatory. He has 3 shelves full of Regency books himself (his wife's are in the other room). And he's one of the most learned men I know (I count 14 bookcases in the house, most of them floor-to-ceiling, and he's read almost everything on them, from Dickens to Hugh B. Brown to Robin McKinley).

So why do I get embarrassed to admit that I read them?

I've recently created an account on I want to keep track of all the books I read so I can look back at the end of the year and have a great sense of numerical achievement. Despite this, I've left off probably eight or nine books in the last two months. Why? Because they're fluff. Or, to stick with my metaphor, bubbles.

I'm too embarrassed to post that I read a Regency romance novel, even if it was handed to me by my PhD father-in-law? Yes. But not anymore.

I'm writing this post as a confession, because letting the secret into cyberspace here will allow me to defiantly add those books to my list. (It doesn't have to make sense, just accept that that's how my brain works.)

And you know what? I like happy endings, and reading about balls and earls, tete-a-tetes and repartees (forgive my inability to place the proper accent marks), and all sorts of other ridiculousness. Also, the books are generally small, easy to hold, and easy to focus on when I'm feeding my daughter or when I'm too tired to actually think.

But just in case my literary friends are starting to worry about me--especially after my previous posts about wanting to stretch my brain--I have another announcement. I finished Steinbeck's Cannery Row. And loved it. So there.


  1. I like that you put Louis L'Amour under the blanket with romance books. Scandalous!

  2. Haha!! I'll confess as well. I just started rereading my "bubble-wrap" literature: Mary Higgins Clark mystery novels. Those are my escape. But I only read them once every few years.

  3. Thats funny.. because I keep a record of the books I read on Shelfari and I fail to categorize the same type of books! I don't know why we fail to admit that we read them.. props to you for admitting it! I'm not at that point yet

  4. Betsy swears by Georgette Hyer novels and I think has read every one there is, so you aren't the only sophisticated English major who likes happy endings. Maybe I'll have to try her out myself. :)


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