Does your reading list embarrass you sometimes? (This category is for you.)

a book you're dying to read

The eighth category for the 2017 Reading Challenge—for those of you who want to put the “oomph” back in your reading life—is “a book you don’t want to admit you’re dying to read.”

Some readers may look at this category and think what are you talking about? They can’t imagine feeling embarrassed about important life decisions, like which books are on their To Be Read list.

Others of us, though, know exactly why this category is here. {{Raises hand}}

Sometimes we judge ourselves, like maybe we wish we weren’t the kind of person who wanted to read memoirs by former contestants on The Bachelor, but we totally do. Or maybe we wish we didn’t feel compelled to read the whole Anne of Green Gables series every year, but we do, and we do it. (I just made up those examples, but wouldn’t it be interesting if those described the same person? If that’s you, can we please talk books sometime?)

Sometimes we know what we love, and are fine with it—but we don’t necessarily want everyone else to know it, too.

When I asked MMD readers and readerly friends what they were reading for this category, the answers were fun, and diverse. You all are reading:

  • lots and lots of YA
  • or children’s literature
  • romance novels, especially racy ones, or anything with a bodice-ripping cover
  • celebrity memoirs
  • true crime (one reader specifically mentioned she loved reading books about serial killers, but was afraid what people would think if they knew how many she had read!)
  • books by and about politics and politicians, which you don’t feel comfortable discussing with your friends, neighbors, or family
  • Nicholas Sparks novels
  • anything you’re reading for health reasons—you don’t want to talk to people about your diet or headaches or diabetes or whatever
  • parenting books
  • business and productivity books
  • anything you perceive as “too popular”
  • any book with a terrible cover or a title that’s trying too hard to be clever

If you’re reading for fun this year, you can take this category in so many different directions. If you’re not sure what to read, imagine a book you wouldn’t necessarily want to read with the title on display in a public waiting room, or discuss with your grandmother.

This category is fun to read AND fun to discuss. What are YOU reading for this category?

P.S. Books I’m afraid to recommend, and you don’t want to go there.

a book you're dying to read


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  1. Oh my gosh – I recently listened to Courtney Robertson’s Bachelor memoir on audio and was wrestling with whether to even add it to my “Currently Reading” shelf on Goodreads! I was embarrassed to admit to my real life friends that I was listening to it (and they all know how into The Bachelor I am!)…much less divulge to my blog readers that I had such a lowbrow hobby. Haha!
    I ended up owning it and talking about it on the blog. But, I love this challenge category…I think people should read whatever they want to read and not be made to feel embarrassed about it!

    • Lindsay says:

      The Courtney Robertson book was actually really good, well-written, self aware, AND juicy. I finally read Holly Madison’s memoir (of Girls Next Door fame) because I had it on my TBR for years! There was nothing great in it and it felt a lot less honest (comparing the two) but I was still Glad I read it.

  2. Susan says:

    I have all 44 of J.D. Robb’s (Nora Roberts pseudonym) In Death series and I cannot wait until book 45 comes out on September 5. I love the snarky female police lieutenant and her hot billionaire husband. People who know me know how much I love these books, but they’re not exactly literary:)

  3. Teri says:

    For this category, I read A Dog’s Purpose because a book narrated by a dog is unlikely to be considered a literary masterpiece by pretty much anyone. I loved it! It was one of my favorite books I’ve read this year.

    • Melissa King says:

      If you loved this book try reading “Emily and Einstein” by Linda Lee. My mom told me about it and I thought, after reading the first couple of chapters, that I must have had the wrong book. She ensured me it was the right one and to keep reading because of how great it was. So I did, and I LOVED it 🙂

    • Jo says:

      The Chet & Bernie series by Spencer Quinn is wonderful! Chet the dog narrates as the sidekick of private investigator Bernie. You see the plot through Chet’s eyes, along with any dropped food, odd smells, and boundless optimism and faith in Bernie. Titles such as Dog On It, The Sound and the Furry, and To Fetch a Thief, plus the beautiful covers attracted me from the start.

  4. Julie says:

    I listen to Harry Potter audio books daily. It takes me about 12-15 months to get through all 7…and then I begin again. I don’t tell people this because, you know, I’m 30 and Jim Dale reading HP is like my security blanket which is moderately to severely embarrassing. Most of my family has linked Kindles so we can share books, but my sister refuses the benefits because she is so embarrassed by the stuff she reads, she doesn’t want us to know what titles she has! I suspect a lot of zombie romance novels. That’s a genre, right?

    • Julie says:

      JULIE! My name is Julie, too, and I used to listen to the Harry Potter audio books (on tape!) back when they first came out EVERY DAY. My mother-in-law had given them to us for our kids, but YES Jim Dale’s voice was the sound I got ready to every day. Now my son listens to the CDs from the library every time I’m willing to check them out again, and my husband has read the entire series to our nine year old about three times. 🙂

  5. Lissa says:

    I agree that I am not ashamed but I have my guilty pleasures. I have read or listened to the Harry Potter series at least 6 times. I read/listen to them about once a year. I have read the Fifty Shades series twice. (I had to read it again after she released Grey.) I adore science fiction and fantasy. Not the high literature stuff. Anne McCaffrey, Sarah Maas, Lisa McMann, Denis McKiernan, Neil Gaiman,etc. But please don’t ask me about the symbolism of the color or blah, blah, blah. I want to be transported to a different realm. I love to read and that is the most important thing! If anyone has any other good suggestions let me know!

    • Katie says:

      I’m the same way, I love sci-fi and fantasy. I know it’s usually talking about politics or it’s supposed to be some kind of allegory. But I don’t care – I read it for the story and the different world – and that’s enough for me!

  6. Tana says:

    I am embarrassed by how many classics I read. I blog about what books I read every month and I always save the serious stuff for the end because I hope people will quit reading before they get to that point. Everyone is reading this light fluffy stuff and I read some of it which half the time I hate. So about half my reading every month is embarrassing, sadly.

  7. Brandyn says:

    I don’t really have a pick for this. I’m kinda in the middle of the “don’t want to admit” spectrum. There is no genre I’m hesitant to admit I read. Celebrity memoirs are my jam. I LOVE YA and children’s lit. I will read a bodice ripper in public without shame and my political affiliations are well known.

    My struggle with embarrassment is over quantity. During times of high work stress, I comfort read romance which means I might read 5-7 of them in a row in a week. I don’t like 5 straight romances to show up on my Goodreads feed so I start unchecking the “add to feed” option when I finish.

    PS – I also mention in a comment above, that I share a Kindle account with my Mom so I buy the vast majority of the romances on Nook. She knows I read romance, but she doesn’t need to know how much.

  8. Sally says:

    Oy with the romance novels. I’m a married lady with an advanced degree, and I feel like admitting that they really work for me is HYPER EMBARASSING, and will bring about some judgey comments – or at least some quirked eyebrows. I call them my “potato chip books” because 1) if they are in the house I will read them and nothing else, 2) it is impossible to just have one, and 3) I never want anyone to know how many I actually consume.

    • Kate says:

      Yes! I go through romance novel binges, particularly in times of high stress, and while I don’t mind admitting that I enjoy them – I do not want anyone to know how many!!!

      • Becca says:

        I do the same thing! I was going through a lot of stress last summer and I ended up binge-reading Tessa Dare’s entire backlist. There’s something oddly relaxing about romance novels – if I’m having a hard time, I can always count on them to make me feel better.

  9. Jess says:

    I tend to be like the others who aren’t embarrassed by what they read. I have noticed, however, when I tell people that I read quite a bit of science fantasy that they tend to sigh in relief and then admit that they do too! Where did this come from, the tendency to be embarrassed by what we are reading? I can maybe understand people being embarrassed about romances and bodice rippers, but all the rest? I have a 34 year old brother who did all he could to avoid reading through school. But now he reads what I affectionately call “smut westerns” and I am so proud of him for just reading!

  10. Such a fun question! I read mostly literary fiction with the occasional domestic suspense/women’s fiction/historical. But occasionally I like a feel-good cozy mystery. There’s just something comforting about them.

  11. Heidi says:

    I just checked out Middlepause, a book about menopause/mid-life coping, even though I just turned forty and am not really in that demographic quite yet – I feel like it’s good to be prepared. But I hid it from the kids, quickly self-checked at the library, and haven’t told my husband I’m reading it either. I guess that counts as embarrassed!

  12. Laura J says:

    I read other genres but I also read smoochy books. Lots of them. I have a difficult situation in my life, not health related or financial but misery causing and that type of book makes me feel better. I want to know that everything will work out and definitively have a happy ending. No apologies.

  13. Jennifer says:

    The books I chose for this category were The Chemist by Stephenie Meyer and Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth. I guess I put the Stephenie Meyer book on there because I’m still a little embarrassed that I enjoy the Twilight series. As for Carve the Mark, I’ve read that one now and I did not enjoy it. The only reason I put it in this category was because of it being YA, but I’m really not embarrassed about reading YA in general.

  14. Grace Mayfair says:

    Cozy mysteries. You know, with punny titles and a theme like knitting, sudoku, or cooking. There are usually at least three in the series. My fav are supernatural cozy mysteries. Sometimes I need to lose myself in fluff. Ok. Most times I need to lose myself in fluff!

    • Stacy in TX says:

      That would probably be my pick too. Absolutely love a good cozy mystery and probably feel just a tad embarrassed by the ones with ghosts. Just a tad though…These are the perfect books to read in between something more serious.

    • Laura says:

      Have you read The Quiche of Death (Agatha Raisin)? It’s so good- actually smart and funny in a way that I didn’t expect from the title. The narrator was perfect too. It may have hooked me on this genre.

      • Grace Mayfair says:

        Oh I read all the Agatha Raisin books and the Hamish MacBeth ones. I’m gonna have to reread those now that I think of it.

  15. Miche says:

    For this category I’m reading Word by Word by Kary Stamper. It’s a book about how dictionaries are written. Stamper is a lexicographer at Merriam-Webster. I guess it’s a little embarrassing to tell folks I’m super excited to read a book about dictionaries and the process of writing the definitions of words.
    Confession: I will admit to judging others myself when I hear them praise a book I thought was absolutely awful. I have to work hard to hide the flinch! 🙂 That’s a whole other blog post…

    • Brandyn says:

      Do you get emotional whiplash listening to the podcast sometimes. The first favorite will be a book I LOVE and then book 2 will be something I think is terrible and my brain struggles to put those facts together:)

    • Cindy May says:

      Have you ever read “Printer’s Error: Irreverent Stories from Book History” by Rebecca Romney & J.P. Romney. If you’re interested in dictionaries, this might be the kind of book you would find interesting. In fact, I think one of the chapters might even be about the first published dictionary, but sadly, my memory fails me at recalling the content of each chapter (though I do remember something about Shakespeare’s Folio and another about Ben Franklin as a young printer’s apprentice). Anyway, check it out on Goodreads when you get a minute. BTW, my husband checked it out of our local library for me because he thought I might find it interesting, and I certainly did.

  16. Leanne says:

    I am going to be reading The Period Repair Manual for this part of the challenge. Needless to say, it’s on my Kindle. I don’t need to sit and have, what will turn out to be, a far too-detailed conversation with any stranger who asks about it.

  17. Julie says:

    First of all, I totally love reading the comments–what a great world of books there is! Something for everyone. For me, this post reminded me of sneaking out of bed after I knew my husband was asleep to read the Twilight series. I bought all the books at full price when we didn’t have very much money and read them obsessively until I was through. My husband is a minister, and I was embarrassed to be reading something kinda questionable. He never knew I was reading them–which was kinda fun. In the years since, I’ve told him about my top-secret reading, and we had a good laugh.

    One category that I always avoid, though–any kind of self-help/parenting books. We have a very, very, very difficult child, and I have found that parenting books just enrage me. When people recommend them to me I have to try so hard to be polite–“Oh, thanks, I’ll add that to my list.” Internal eye roll.

  18. Brittney says:

    I just finished Outlander, and struggled for days whether to add it to my goodreads! It is the most sultry book I’ve ever read, and I would be embarrassed if my sisters knew what was in it.

    • K says:

      It’s funny because Outlander seems SO popular. I’ve only read the first one so far, but I’m always hesitant to recommend it because I’m not sure how some of it will go over with the people I recommend it to.

  19. Natasha says:

    I find reading to be a very private affair. Most books I read are on the “guilty pleasure” shelf.

    I am embarrassed (and annoyed) by fantasy books… 99% of the time, I end up disappointed and with an unpleasant aftertaste. Still, they provide an escape from reality and there is that 1% that I end up loving.

    Hard-core science fiction – I love it, but feel like I have to be careful who I share them with. I’ve gotten funny looks based on the books I’ve been raving about. There is definitely too much stigma that goes with sci-fi.

    I hide any sort of erotic fiction deep in my closet (figuratively speaking).

    Same goes for sappy, feel-good, happy-ending books about helping orphans, rescuing troubled teens, and melting the hearts of hardened recluses. No idea why I like books with these themes or why I never EVER discuss them with anyone. Also, if anyone has suggestions for this specific niche – I would appreciate it!

    Also, any self-help books (except parenting books) – I feel bad checking them out! From guides on how to be happy to perfectly folding your clothing – I find reading these puts me in a very relaxed mood. Again, not sure why I find these to be embarrassing, but I like to pretend I never look at them!

    • Rebekah in Redlands says:

      “I am embarrassed (and annoyed) by fantasy books… 99% of the time, I end up disappointed and with an unpleasant aftertaste. Still, they provide an escape from reality and there is that 1% that I end up loving.”

      I feel exactly this way about thrillers. Books are tricky b/c sometimes I’ll kind of dislike most of it, but the ending pulls it together in an amazing way. So I read a lot of duds b/c I hate to think I’m quitting too early.

  20. I usually read intellectually challenging books, but I admit to devouring the Beatrix Potter cozy mystery series by Susan Wittig Albert. But my real confession is worse: I dislike any sort of explicit or non-contextual sex in a novel… but my brother sent me an article about a woman who writes erotica involving prehistoric women and dinosaurs, and though 98 percent of me says “ewww”, 2 percent is really wondering just what the plot is like. I’d never dare buy one, though. I feel sort of tainted just knowing the genre exists.

  21. Diana says:

    I do maybe feel a little guilty about the amount of YA I’ve been reading lately…I’m 34 and married for over a decade and sometimes feel like I should have “outgrown” it? But I love (most of) it. And, thanks to solid recommendations, I’ve mostly read good ones.

    I feel like I should be reading more “serious” literature. I read a lot. A LOT (130 books and counting this year) but very very few classics or ones that are super literary. Sometimes I feel bad about that…I do read a decent amount of non-fiction so it’s not just light and fluffy reads.

    But, saying all that, I still post everything I’m reading on Goodreads and in my monthly Quick Lits linked up here. So I’m not THAT bothered by it. =)

  22. Emilie says:

    I re-read the entire Harry Potter series every August. I’m on the Prisoner of Azkaban right now, and this is my 17th read (second time in French). Hoping to read a few in German next year, at least I can tell people I’m just working on my language skills!

  23. Nicole Sewell says:

    well I have been rereading the entire Sweet Valley high and Sweet Valley
    university series by Francine Pascal. They are addicting

    • Cindy May says:

      Have you ever read the Canby Hall series by Emily Chase? My sister and I loved these and only wish I hadn’t gotten rid of our collection, though I do see that they’re back in print, so that’s good (not sure millenials like my niece won’t find them just a wee bit dated).

  24. Jennifer O. says:

    I don’t think I’ve read anything, or have anything in my TBR, that I wouldn’t own up to or put on my Goodreads account. I read literary fiction, romance, some mysteries, YA, sci-fi. I read a few celebrity memoirs this year and they’re on my list.

  25. Jo says:

    I just finished A Generation of Sociopaths, which I wanted to throw across the room a couple of times (being a Boomer myself). So I remembered I’ve wanted to read The Sociopath Next Door, so that is what I’m reading for this category. The cover itself is kind of creepy, 3 pairs of eyes looking at you, plus the subject!

  26. Rebekah McGee says:

    Bachelor memoirs and annually reading the anne of green gables series! That is ME! Ya books are my secret guilty pleasure. I feel like since I’m in my 30s and a pastor’s wife my reading list should be more refined than it is! Maybe that should be a resolution….

  27. Barbara says:

    I don’t regret a lot of what I read. I’m too old for it really care. That aside, I feel bit odd going to the ya section in the library as a 46 year old. And I don’t read certain things in public that might be too sexual. But, not a lot.

    My suggestions would be Valley of the Dolls and Sex Lives of the Hollywood Goddesses.

  28. Jayme says:

    I usually don’t hide what I’m reading even though I read a lot of middle grade and YA. But I’m in school to be certified as a middle grade LA teacher so it’s pretty reasonable for me to say it’s “research”. But it’s also a lot of fun. I’m currently reading the latest Serafina book by Robert Beatty. Well, listening to it. The narrator has the most amazing voice. She also did the audio for Bird Box and The Sparrow Sisters, both great.

    I read the whole “A Court of Thorns and Roses” trilogy in June. I avoided it forever because it’s so popular and I thought it would be overrated. Boy howdy I was wrong. I wouldn’t say it’s YA because it gets pretty racy. More like New Adult or regular adult, honestly. I’m 27 and the characters felt like my peers. But since it’s such a hyped series (seriously, booktubers and bookstagrammers are obsessed) I feel weird admitting I read and loved them. Especially when my very conservative mother in law said she might want to read them and I just about tackled her in an effort to convince her otherwise. There are just some scenes you don’t want your in laws to read.

    • Leigh Kramer says:

      I absolutely LOVED A Court Of Thorn And Roses!!! The way she developed it, particularly with what big things happened in each book, blew my mind. I’m thrilled she’s going to continue it as a series.

    • Aly Sharp says:

      I feel the same way! I LOVE them but am hesitant to recommend because I am afraid of what my conservative friends will think of me saying that they are fantastic. Ha!

  29. Andrea Methvin says:

    Should I be embarrassed to re-read Mary Stewart books? I still feel “too young” (49) for them, my mom likes them for heaven’s sake! But so do I! The Moonspinners, This Rough Magic, Thornyhold, etc. They feel so comforting to me. I like to read old hardback copies with yellowed pages and a slightly mildewed smell.

  30. Jamie says:

    I read Jenny Colgan’s latest book. At home. Voraciously. And enjoyed every minute of it. However…I don’t think I left the house with it for the very reason stated here – not wanting to be seen reading it. Haha!

  31. Katy says:

    When I was in high school, I was reading the Xanth fantasy series by Piers Anthony. But I got to somewhere in the teens, and the library didn’t have the next book, which was called The Color of Her Panties (it was a magic joke from in the book, not anything sexual, but I was absolutely too embarrassed to request it!). Now that we are in the age of kindles, I may have to revisit that series, because I was thoroughly enjoying it up to that point.

    • Jayme says:

      The Xanth books were some of my first adult fiction. I only ever got to Ogre Ogre, I think. But I’ve been wanting to reread them and finish the series for forever. I love the world Piers Anthony built. I think there’s like 30 books in the series now, so I’d have to set aside a full year of reading to do all that haha!

  32. Every fall, I pick up and re-read the Mitford Series by Jan Karon. I am not a Christian fiction reader at all, but something about these characters and her description of small town life grabs me every time.

  33. JB says:

    Because I live in such a religious community (and have extremely religious family members and friends…not to mention the most prudish husband ever) I have wanted forever to read Jenny Lawson’s “Let’s pretend this never happened” and “Furiously Happy” but haven’t because I’m avoiding how much I would be judged for reading books with so much foul language.

  34. Angela says:

    I’m reading The Fellowship of the Ring (The Lord of the Rings book 1). I didn’t want to admit that I’ve seen the movies but never read the books, I have a bracelet with a quote from it but never read the books, and that I want to read it but there’s 3 of them and if I don’t finish reading, I’d feel like a fake fangirl. LOL!

  35. Suzanne says:

    I look forward to re-reading Rosamunde Pilcher’s books every year. “September” in the Fall, “Winter Solstice” at “Christmas and Coming Home anytime really. People were so civilized back then and I just love being transported back.

  36. Meg says:

    I’ve read a couple books about Scientology (including Leah Remini’s Troublemaker) that I’ve put up on my Goodreads account but certainly did not share to my Facebook feed! The concept, history, and celebrity are so bonkers to me that I just wanted to learn more about it. I didn’t want to give anyone the impression that I wanted to pursue the ‘religion,’ so I kept those books to myself!

  37. Aly Sharp says:

    I read a wide variety of books, but some of my favorite “filler” books (lighter fluff in between anything more literary) are in the Proper Romance series. They are basically like my favorite BBC series in book form. I read them quickly, love the characters and setting, and know exactly how it will end up and love them all for it!

    • Aly Sharp says:

      I got distracted my children 🙂 It is somewhat embarrassing to admit how many of these I have read and how much I love them. I buy a new one the second they come out and reread them often! Sarah Ladd, Sarah M. Eden, Josi S. Kilpack, Julianne Donaldson. Love them all!

  38. Guest says:

    My “don’t want to admit I read” books are regency romances. People are shocked when the learn I love romances (and used to love soap operas as a teenager at home in the summer – ha!) because to them it seems counter intuitive to my personality. A few fantastic authors in this genre who are excellent writers – Julia Quinn (graduated from Harvard – start with her Bridgerton series), Eloisa James (an English Lit professor at Fordham), Mary Balogh (LOVE her survivors series), Tessa Dare, and several others I’m blanking on at the moment. I should share – these books DO have some racy scenes so you can either skip them or if you are really averse, don’t check them out.

    • Jo Yates says:

      Georgette Heyer was the best writer of Regency Romances, and her “racy” scenes were very unracy. Wonderful characters, sometimes crazy plots, and beautiful writing. Someone wrote in the foreward to one of the books, “You never forget your first Georgette Heyer.” Mine was Sprig Muslin, but I think my favorite is The Masqueraders, with Sir Anthony Fanshaw as one of the best heroes ever.

  39. Stephanie says:

    Every summer I reread Valley of the Dolls and the entire ouevre of Judith Krantz. I feel absolutely no shame in this. I adore them as much as I love any of my “proper” books 😀

  40. Kim says:

    I used to read a lot of Anne Rice when I was younger. I’ve outgrown that now. I still pick up a Stephen King although those may get abandoned part way through. My embarrassing list includes: any of the latest thriller/suspense novels (I keep a constant list at the library so I don’t waste money on something I will never read again), southern beachy or women’s lit (Karen White, Mary Alice Monroe – I live in the south now so I have an excuse and I love the atmosphere), young adult fantasy fiction (Harry Potter and Miss Peregrine – I’m 47 with no kids, but who cares, it’s good stuff!).

  41. Amy says:

    Hi, my name is A, and I read smut, lol. Okay, it’s not ALL smut, but there are a lot of R-rated books out there. But I do like for my smut to be well-written, so there’s that.

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