What’s Your Favorite Junk?
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?