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What’s Your Favorite Junk?

June 8, 2014
The word “junk” has many meanings, but this picture of “junk” won’t get me fired from my own blog. (image via Wikimedia)

The word “junk” has many meanings, but this picture of “junk” won’t get me fired from my own blog. (image via Wikimedia)

Summer is a great time for junk, whether it’s junk food, junk television, or my favorite, junk literature. Some people use a fancy term for book junk and call it a “guilty pleasure.” I’m not fond of the term “guilty pleasure.” I don’t feel guilty while reading junk.

In fact, I treasure my junk. Without junk, I probably wouldn’t read at all. If all books were high-brow literature, I would have gotten frustrated early on and quit reading. I grew up on literary junk, and now I read all kinds of low-brow literature.  I like sword & sorcery junk, spy junk, historical junk, crime junk, science fiction junk, just about anything except romance.

The great thing about literary junk is that it’s easy to read, and when it’s summer, and it’s hot, and I’m traveling (just a little bit), I need something easy to read. I need something that I don’t have to think about.

My favorite low-brow novel of all-time is The Godfather by Mario Puzo. The first two Godfather movies are revered as a couple of the finest films ever made, but the novel is just an easy read.  I can pick it up anywhere anytime and flip to almost any page and start reading. Even though The Godfather is one of my favorites, I haven’t finished anything else written by Mario Puzo, so he can’t be my favorite junk author, and it’s been a while since I’ve read The Godfather.

I usually read a couple Bernard Cornwell books every year (The Archer’s Tale and The Warlord Chronicles are my favorites, even though I’m usually anti-trilogy, but I originally read these before I became anti-trilogy). Each book has the same formula, but they’re entertaining, and I never have to think too much. But a few days ago, I started reading a couple of Cornwell’s recent novels, and I wasn’t interested. I put each book down after a few pages. I didn’t throw them across the room or anything dramatic like that, but I stopped reading them. I don’t know if it was the quality of the writing, or if I’ve read too many of his books.

I usually have a three-book limit per author, but Bernard Cornwell was my exception (because every rule needs an exception). Bernard Cornwell is a hack, but he’s not a James Patterson/Janet Evanovich kind of hack. At least he writes all of his own books, and he usually doesn’t publish more than one (or two) books a year. Still, the same formula (even a really good one) gets old, and I need to find some new sure-thing authors.

I need some new junk.

Since there’s a lot of low-brow stuff out there, I have to have standards. I won’t read a novel that isn’t self-contained. I don’t have time to read a long series, even if I don’t have to think hard to do it. I also won’t read anything by James Patterson. If he (and his coauthors) are writing 9-13 books a year, they can’t be any good, and junk has to be good.

Literary junk has to be easy.  I should be able to read it when I’m outside in the shade or if I’m at an airport or in a hotel room. It has to be so easy to read that I can be vigilant of my surroundings and concentrate at the same time. I have to be able to keep track of the book while keeping track of the strangers around me so I don’t get conked on the head. I have to maintain my attention on the book while maintaining eye contact with weirdos who are checking out my family while I’m reading. Usually I don’t try to multi-task while reading, but I can do two things at one while reading junk.

Unfortunately, my junk no longer works for me, so I need to find some new low-brow authors. This is forcing me to ask for advice (and I rarely ask for advice, even when I’m lost). What authors do you read when you’re in the mood for an easy read?  If you don’t like book junk, then what kind of junk do you like?  Food?  Television?  Music? Movies?

In other words, what’s your favorite junk?

36 Comments
  1. I wouldn’t necessarily say that The Godfather is low-brow junk. Sure, it’s an easy read, but Puzo manages to create a wide cast of fully developed characters and a killer story. I’d say there’s low-brow and high-brow, but also genre fiction that falls in-between that can be quick to read, while at the same time being an impressive work of literature.

  2. I like mystery novels, especially those set in foreign countries. If one of the detectives happens to be an English earl, all the better. Then I get a twofer (British aristocracy/hot accent guilty pleasure plus mystery novel guilty pleasure.)

  3. Zombies, time-travel, any apocalypse, action, or Sir Terry Pratchett. But…I might read a book a day…so almost any kind of junk will do. Gotta have my fix of fiction.

  4. Sarah Dunant’s Blood and Beauty has just hooked me on historical junk..or Sarah Waters’ The Little Stranger for a good scare..and then I have an unhealthy addiction to TV shows with unrealistically perfect characters, currently Suits.

    • I saw ads for Suits when we were watching Burn Notice (there’s some TV junk) last summer, but now Burn Notice is done, so we need to find a new series.

  5. TV junk….unquestionably:)

  6. Sigh, I do love a good romance (aka light smut). Some of them, I have even recommended to my hubby. Although come to think of it, I don’t think he has ever taken my advice.

  7. I agree with your position and consider it quite productive. I’ll reblog this, if you don’t mind. June is Productivity Month on My Blog – The Glue … and I have to say, this really hits home with me. I don’t call it junk, I call it mindless reading. Things that are so easy to anticipate the next move that you don’t have to re-read constantly. So – relative to productivity, if you don’t take time for downtime, mindlessness, and junk … you just won’t be that productive.

    Therefore, I suggest Calvin and Hobbs – cartoons are my go-to, but as for books, I suggest mystery writer Harold Adams, His character “Carl Wilcox” is an ex-con in 1920’s America … who falls into solving crimes and wooing the ladies. It’s a shame Mr. Adams passed away but he left a lot of good reading!

  8. Reblogged this on Trilogy Solutions and Support and commented:
    I agree with DYSFUNCTIONAL LITERACY’S position and consider it quite productive. June is Productivity Month on My Blog – The Glue … and I have to say, this really hits home with me. I don’t call it junk, I call it mindless reading. Things that are so easy to anticipate the next move that you don’t have to re-read constantly. So – relative to productivity, if you don’t take time for downtime, mindlessness, and junk … you just won’t be that productive.

    Therefore, I suggest Calvin and Hobbs – cartoons are my go-to, but as for books, I suggest mystery writer Harold Adams. His character “Carl Wilcox” is an ex-con in 1920’s America … who falls into solving crimes and wooing the ladies. It’s a shame Mr. Adams passed away but he left a lot of good reading!

  9. Veronica permalink

    Chick-lit is my junk. They’re fast reads that don’t require much thinking. I wouldn’t recommend them to men though. You can try YA dystopia novels…
    For TV, I’m a Friends re-run junkie. My husband hates it!

  10. I’m an equal opportunity junkie. TV, books, movies, and food are all on my list. Relic by Preston and Child is one I read in the summer. Monster loose in a museum. Fun stuff.

  11. Grace permalink

    Junk food and chick lit. To temper the guilt, I plan to eat a nectarine and read some non-fiction. Today I borrowed The Priority List: A Teacher’s Final Quest to Discover Life’s Greatest Lessons.

  12. Pratchett, absolutely!
    His Discworld books are many, but they’re not really the following-up series you have to read all after each other. You can just start any of his books, although I’d start with the first one. I think this is a great reading order: http://i.imgur.com/56qMlHR.jpg

    • Holy wow, that was a lot of novels, though not quite in James Patterson’s league. I’d like to see what a James Patterson chart would look like.

      • No way as good as that, I’m sure 😉 The fun thing is, that Pratchett wrote a lot, but remained a good writer for it. I’m not sure if that goes for James xD

  13. These days I’ve been reading a lot of YA as my light reading. It’s not junk per se, but it’s somewhat fluffy at times.

  14. darrianmduck permalink

    My “junk” is YA literature. Usually, I go for dystopias (Divergent, Matched, etc.) but since I wrote my senior thesis on them, I am now sick of them! So I switched to more fluffy stuff (John Green, the like). I had a YA fiction class in my final semester of college and I still have the list of books we read if you want easy reads with some depth behind them!

    • Mind sharing? I’m in current need of some light reading this summer and I’ve already read all my books

      • darrianmduck permalink

        Not at all!

        -Divergent
        -Marcelo in the Real World
        -Monster
        -Seraphina
        -The Perks of Being a Wallflower
        -Dust
        -American Born Chinese

        I think those were the ones we read, just off the top of my head. If I happen to find anymore that were on it I will let you know!

  15. I like mysteries, thrillers…I used to love trash like the Flowers in the Attic series (V.C. Andrews). Last week I was reading Archie comics with my son (we picked up a copy on Free Comic Book Day last month), something I LOVED as a kid, and I was thinking about getting some more for my summer reading 🙂

  16. I feel exactly the same way when I’m on vacation. I’ve read Omerta by Mario Puzo and it is quite good. I also like Nick Hornby for those moments. High Fidelity is my favorite, but About a Boy is the funniest!

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