I understand why, among writers, who are usually endless-appetite readers as well, the reading of books other than Real Books is a vaguely shameful activity. We all live on borrowed time, and there’s DeLillo and Nabokov and Pynchon I’ll never get to because of the hours I’ve spent reading… well, I’m even afraid to tell you their names. You can and will judge.
There should be no shame in reading bad books—the same as watching bad movies or bad TV shows. (Although I admit to having shame during previous reads of certain formulaic novels). Being a snob all of the time—as Tom Bissell recently noted—is bad for you, or at least bad for your friends. The only shame is to avoid the “good” or the “hard” or the “literary” (scare quotes purposeful) altogether. The best and most memorable reading experiences—for me—have been when I challenged myself the most.