My not-so-secret love of “fluffy” books

Please join me in welcoming the lovely and talented Mary Carver to the blog today. 

Stack of Library Books

One night my brother came over for dinner, and while I worked in the kitchen, he picked up my Kindle from the table next to the couch. I didn’t think a thing about it until after he left –when I realized he’d pulled up my list of books, scrolled through it, and found something to read before dinner.

Agh! That’s so embarrassing!!

Granted, he’d pulled up John Green’s popular (and acclaimed) The Fault in Our Stars. But I’m familiar with my list of books and knew exactly how many fluffy romance novels and self-published YA novels he’d had to scroll past to find it.

I’m pretty open about my reading tastes–or lack of, depending on who you ask. But like all self-reported data and internet shares, what I make public is still filtered quite a bit. I don’t tell my friends, blog readers, or even my Goodreads account about ALL the books I read.

Why?? Why do I hide some of the books I love to read?

Am I worried you’ll judge the quantity of books I gobble up (a number that makes it obvious I don’t spend my free time cleaning my house)? Or do I suspect the type of books–and writing–I enjoy or at least deem acceptable will cause you to question my qualifications as a writer and editor?

Yes. Definitely. But I also simply wish I were a different kind of person–the one who reads Austen and Hemingway and those make-you-think books on lists from Oprah or NPR or my smart blog friends. Truth is, though, I’m NOT the kind of person who craves diving into a heavy, thought-provoking classic.

Not often, anyway. And I do like to read OFTEN.

Since I don’t go a week without a trip to the library (or its website) or spend many days without a book (or Kindle) in hand from the breakfast table to the doctor’s office to the school pickup line, I’ve got a lot of reading time to fill.

More often than not, I fill those gaps with fluff.

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“Fluffy” books often feature werewolves, clumsy girl detectives, Greek demigods, and crooked cops or politicians. They’re also usually real page-turners – not because of their compelling plots (although some of them HAVE that, thankyouverymuch!) but because the words are a tad shorter, the sentences a touch simpler and–sometimes–the print a smidge larger.

These “fluffy” books are quick reads–which means this busy and often overwhelmed mom can sneak in a few chapters here and there, easily finishing a novel in a few days. And when my never-ending to-do list gets the best of me pretty much every day of the year, I will take that accomplishment–even if only by reaching the last page of a cozy mystery, silly romance or middle grade monster tale – every day of the year.

“Fluffy” books also tend to have those embarrassing covers–the pink, sparkly kind with loopy fonts or the kind with ridiculous couples doing things you don’t want displayed on your coffee table. They make you roll your eyes and turn them face down and wonder WHO ON EARTH DESIGNED THIS, because it doesn’t even reflect the snappy dialogue or clever mystery you enjoyed in the book, anyway.

“Fluffy” books, though, share the same themes that move more serious readers: love, identity, justice, loyalty and more. A few weeks ago as I finished the third book in a young adult trilogy, I was both amazed and annoyed to realize the entire second half was dedicated to the concepts of unconditional love and forgiveness –two things I was personally struggling with that week.

“Fluffy” books might not make any best-of lists or book club calendars. But I love reading. And that includes a few “respectable” classics, biographies and thinkers even the snootiest book critic would appreciate–and a whole pile of “fluffy” books I enjoy more than I usually admit!

So, today I’m going on the record to declare that I love reading fluff. My secret’s out, and I’m okay with that.

Anyone else out there a fan of silly, simplistic, self-pubbed, unrealistic or otherwise “fluffy” books?

Mary Carver is a writer, believer, wife, mom, ENFJ and recovering perfectionist. She writes about her imperfect life with humor and honesty, encouraging women to give up on perfect and get on with life at www.givinguponperfect.com. And she’ll give you a free ebook about romance and real life when you subscribe to her blog.

*****     *****     *****

Veronica Mars now streams for free on Amazon Prime!

Great news for those of you who like your fluff with a side of smarts: as of yesterday Veronica Mars (all 3 seasons!) is now available on Amazon Prime. Not a member? Start a thirty day free trial here.

(Will and I were watching this for free on WB when the movie Kickstarter was announced–and the next day the episodes cost $2 each! We’re looking forward to resuming our marathon–just as soon as we finish Sherlock.

You also get free two-day shipping during your Amazon Prime trial. More info on that here.

{Photos by Mary Carver and katerha}

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Comments

  1. ellen says

    My reading tastes are not quite the same as yours, but I do appreciate some good fluff now and then. :)

    We do mot have a tv. Sometimes I need a good evening of something light and I think fluffy books are perfect for that! They fill a need to simple relaxation and pleasure and I would argue are still better for the brain than ‘fluffy tv’! :)

    My husband has been known to suggest, when I am getting into a tense mode, that maybe I should read a novel (depending on what comes from the library when, I can end up being a little overstimulated by educational reading!

    Anyway. There is definitely a place for light story in life! And I LOVE good YA fiction!

  2. says

    I love YA fiction. It takes me back to the joys of my peak reading years in high school. I started reading some because my kids home school with Sonlight. At least I have a claim to anonymity because my daughter’s the one who down-loads the fluff like Twilight onto our Kindle Library, where I have access to it too. :-)

    I totally relate to how sometimes you just want something fun, easy that doesn’t take too long to read.

  3. Elizabeth says

    I am a reader. Just last night, I was talking to my mom on the phone and thanked her for instilling a love of reading in me. I, too, like fluffy books. I’ll read almost anything but that fluff helps my brain relax on my train ride to & from work. Cheaper than a psychiatrist! :)

  4. says

    Ha! I pretty much identify with 100% of this, except, well, it takes me longer to finish a book. I do enjoy the classics and some heavy literary reading about 25% of the time, but I love the light feeling of gliding through a fun, fast paced book that doesn’t leave me feeling heavy or dark at the end. Being a mom of a crazy toddler, I need light and I need fun! I don’t read a ton of YA, but I dip my toe in that water, and it always leaves me blushing when I check them out at the library! :-)

    • says

      My favorite day ever at the library was when they installed self checkout stands. Now I can reserve my fluffy and/or YA books online, pick them up when I get a notification and check them out myself – without ever having to look at very mature, grown-up librarian in the eye! :)

  5. says

    I could have written this myself! How I can relate. Those awful covers that I flip over so my husband won’t see and make fun of me, and the beauty of the kindle where no one can see what you are reading! I love me so young adult and my other guilty pleasure – Debbie Macombef:)
    Katie
    Ps. This is my first comment here but I have been a long time lurker. I am an INFJ :)

    • says

      Hi Katie! I’m glad you commented today! (I’m an ENFJ but just barely an E, so we probably have even more in common than we know!) I haven’t read Debbie Macomber in a long time, but your mention of her makes me want to grab one of her novels!

    • says

      Yay for delurking and welcome, Katie! (Well, welcome to the comments section at least. :) )

      I have never read anything by Debbie Macomber. Should I fix that? Sounds like it might be good for summer reading….

  6. says

    Hi Katie! I’m glad you commented today! (I’m an ENFJ but just barely an E, so we probably have even more in common than we know!) I haven’t read Debbie Macomber in a long time, but your mention of her makes me want to grab one of her novels!

  7. leslie says

    In 2013 I re-read 2 Jane Austens and made my way through some very dense non-fiction and read some Dickens and Bronte I had never read before. BUT I also read a ton of Emily Giffin and a bunch of mysteries… there’s no way I could read as much as I do if I didn’t have a good mix! If I don’t feel like doing more “serious” reading I just won’t. Fluffy books don’t replace more intense books, they replace wasting time on my iphone or watching TV. And I agree… a lot of the time, the “fluffy” books still leave me with plenty to think about.

    • says

      “Fluffy books don’t replace more intense books, they replace wasting time on my iphone or watching TV.”

      That’s such a great point! And completely agree about the last bit, too.

  8. says

    You are after my own heart. I love me some good fluff too! I also had an incident where my brother, who is an English Professor, got ahold of my Kindle. I was mortified that he would see all the Patanormal, YA novels and Romance books in my library and start teasing me. Instead, I was completely shocked to find out he had read the Hunger Games series as well and totally loved them. He teaches Shakespeare for crying out loud! We all love a fun read, now and again. Some of us more then others but that’s ok! :)

  9. says

    Fluff, yes! Some books are rich and dark like chocolate, some are substantial and crunch well in the teeth graham crackers, and some are the fluffy marshmallowy goodness that makes a s’more complete.

    S’more books, please!

    Tim

  10. says

    Good books are good stories. Period. There is no “fluffy.” We should not shame others for their reading choices nor should we feel shame for what we like. There is absolutely no shame in liking a story about the human experience–in all its varieties.

    • says

      True, Cherri. One of my favorite quotes is by CS Lewis, who says (basically) that if a children’s story can’t be enjoyed by all, it’s not a good story to start with! Good stories come in all shapes and sizes, just like readers and writers!

  11. says

    This is hilarious. I have actually moved to reading more heavy books the past year or two, but I also read what I call “fluff and stuff.” Very funny that we call that same genre by a similar term. It is nice to break up the seriousness with light on occasion.

    • says

      Fluff and Stuff? I loved that show when I was a kid.

      HR Fluff and stuff
      Who’s your friend when things get rough?

      Tim

      P.S. Only old people will get this reference. Or the truly gifted.

  12. says

    Oh my word, I thought I was the only one who didn’t put ALL of the books I read on my goodreads page. Phew. There are just a few, a very few, I would be embarrassed to admit to reading. I love your honesty, Mary. We should be friends on goodreads;)

  13. says

    Well, Mary, you know I read my fair share of fluff and I refuse to be embarrassed about it. I have my guilty pleasure TV shows and I have my fluff books. Of course, my reading tastes cover the full gamut so I read my fair share of non-fluff, too. But sometimes I just want to read something that grabs my attention and won’t let go. And usually there’s a happy ending. That said, I have some standards for my fluff. I despise predictability and poor writing- though an energetic plot can help me overlook bad writing. Also, I don’t qualify all YA as fluff. The trilogy you reference, for instance, is not fluff in my world because it raises the very themes you mention, plus it’s dystopian and there’s not much fluffy about that.

    • says

      True, true – a lot of YA is way too heavy to be called fluff! I’m not truly ashamed of the “fun” books I read (or, as you know, TV I watch) – but I am trying to balance it out a bit better with non-fluff. It’s easier said than done to break the fluffy habit, though, because simpler or younger books just go so much faster! Clearly the root issue here is patience. :)

  14. says

    Last year I stopped posting to Goodreads and also stopped running a what I’m reading page on my blog. It was incredibly liberating. While I still love to talk books and do so, I’ve reclaimed my reading life as something just for me. I know a part of this stems from trying to stay current with new titles and/or feeling compelled to read friends’ books, etc. — feeling I “had” to read certain things. Doing this has been an opportunity to reclaim joy, and it serves my introverted side well. Even though I know people weren’t digging around in my reading list, having it out there made me feel this thing I do just for me was on stage somehow.

    I still keep a book journal I started in 2005. But publicly, I’m keeping much of my reading close to the vest.

  15. Claire says

    I’m so glad to see this post and know I’m not the only one that needs an escape into reading, and that particular need is sometimes only filled by fluff. This week I read a fluffy romance novel, downloaded to my Kindle because it was free on Amazon. It was just what I needed to get back into fiction when I couldn’t decide between my long list of “real books!”

    • says

      A lot of times, I’ll breeze through a fluffy novel or two before hitting my list of “real” books, too, Claire. I’m almost always so glad to have read the “real” book – but I’m not always in the right frame of mind to get started just yet!

  16. says

    Oh, yes. My favorite books are the books adored by teenage girls everywhere. The Percy Jackson series, Twilight saga, Harry Pottet, Immortal Instruments series, Infernal Devices, you name it. I’m not embarrassed about it, either. Having ten kids still at home makes me thankful I have time to read ANYTHING!

  17. Valerie says

    I love to read but i dont think I have read more than a handful of classics in my entire life! Fluff is good. I love christian romance freebies! I havent read much YA fiction but I do love light reading. My son is the one who criticizes my reading material. He graduated from a hoity toity school (which we paid for) with a english/communications major and thinks his reading material makes him so much more intelligent than the rest of us. Whatever.

  18. Karlyne says

    Way back in the old days (I’m even older than Tim. HR Fluff n Stuff indeed!), there wasn’t a YA tag on books. We had a children’s library section and an adult one, and if you had a library card you could check out whatever from wherever. So, I read my way through some very interesting books, fluffy, stuffy, irrelevant, timely, you name it! And when my kids came along, I realized that any book that didn’t hold my interest wasn’t worth their time, either. I’m not talking about story content, exactly, but about the story telling itself. In fact, the writing. If it is “dumb-downed so that children can read them” we’re doing those children a disservice. They’re not only smarter than we think, but will grow faster on a diet of well-written words. And if it’s a gorgeous story about fairies and time traveling and dragons and true love, then we were all in! No, wait, we still are!

  19. says

    I am so glad to hear someone else admit this, and proudly! I have such trouble getting into a lot of ‘adult’ fiction because they seem to contain divorce, adultery, sex, drugs, or I feel like the storyline took me no where. It seems the older I get, and as a mom now, I just want to read to relax and enjoy. YA is quickly becoming a favorite. Fantasy and Sci-fi have always topped my list :)

    • says

      Agreed, Alyssaz. While there’s no guarantee that YA books will be clean, there seems to be a much better chance than with a lot of adult fiction that seems so great and then wham! shocks my sensitive eyes ;) (For real. I just read a book that had such a fun story and dialogue and then WHOA!!! major, um, “adult” content. Grrr!)

  20. says

    YES! It’s easy and feels “okay” to claim Grey’s Anatomy as a guilty pleasure, but much harder to admit that I read 5 Sophie Kinsella novels last fall. Thanks for making a space for us to say “Me too!”

    • says

      I was surprised at how often Sophie Kinsella came up in the Favorite Books of 2013 link-up! I’m definitely reading something by her in 2014. (Feel free to tell me where I should start!)

      • says

        Well, the Shopaholic series is probably her most well-known little series. But I actually prefer her stand-alone novels – my faves were “Remember Me” and “The Undomestic Goddess.”

  21. says

    oh my gosh yes! The Kindle was made for fluffy book reading.

    My toes literally curl EVERY TIME my husband sits next to me and asks me what I’m reading. ‘er, it’s a book featuring… firefighters / some ‘fantasy’ elements a.k.a vampires, or my personal favourite ‘sort of like a historical novel’ for any of my preferred regency romances.

  22. Idaho Jill says

    I love fluff, too. I have a list of free kindle books emailed to me daily…so I have way more fluff on the kindle than not :).

  23. says

    I am currently reading The Mysterious Benedict Society and listening to the Guardians of Ga’Hoole on audio book, so yeah, I’m all about the fluff. I mix it in with some heavier stuff, but I love it all the same!

    • says

      Would you believe I’ve never read the Anne books?! I know, I know!! I need to bump them up to the top of my list, because I have no doubt that as soon as I get started I’ll love them and be ready to share them with my daughter! :)

  24. Courtney says

    I naturally love the classics, and have been devouring them ever since I was a little girl. In fact, up until a few years ago I almost never read anything written within the last century, and never anything by someone who was still alive! It’s not that I “disdained” modern literature or anything; I was just perfectly content with the older stuff. Fortunately, though, I saw the error of my ways, and now I enjoy the classics and a good smattering of “fluff.” I consider myself much better read with both than when I only read the classics. :)

    Also, I confess to sometimes judging people by their book collections, but I actually do it the opposite to the way you worry about. If someone enjoys fluff (even only fluff) it’s an all around “hooray for reading!” If someone only reads Dostoevsky and Joyce? Toooootally judging! XD That stuff is dense even for this classics lovin’ English major!

    • says

      Well, that’s an interesting twist on my own reading experience – and I love it! I love how we can all enjoy reading so much but from different perspectives. And I am a huge proponent of being well-rounded so I’d agree that you’re better read with that smattering of fluff! :)

  25. says

    I used to be such a book snob, but now fluff is my life ;) I like to try to balance it with something else occasionally, but the last couple years I’ve been nothing but fluffy.

  26. Becca says

    Love this ! I read tons of fluff tons. But after chasing a 4 year old all day the only chance I get to read is at night and while I would love to eventually get through Les Mes that’s really really hard to do when your half awake. And as it either go insane or read… Fluff it is! (Though part of my reading goal is 6 nonfiction and 6 classics this year.)

  27. says

    I am always looking for new, fluffy recommendations. My kids are very little which means they are very needy. I like books that are easy to put down and pick back up again. Do you have any favorites/must reads?

    Oh also, I picked up a really dense non-fiction book from the library today. A little nervous because it is a ILL, so I only have it for a week. Hoping I can plow through it in between diapers and feedings!

  28. says

    Some of the best authors these days are writing YA! I read a huge volume of stuff, and have eclectic tastes, so I absolutely rotate “fluff” into my reading list! Give me a glass of wine and a Sophie Kinsella book and it’s just as therapeutic and relaxing as a therapy session and a massage! (oK, almost)

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