Top Five Saturday: Guilty Pleasures

Top Five Saturday is a meme hosted by Devouring Books in which the bookish community discover and share books that all have a common theme. Previously, the meme has focused on a range of different characters (witches and werewolves), genres (thrillers, detectives and re-tellings) and thoughts about the industry and life as a bookworm, and many more. 

Please read and share, comment on and discuss this week’s topic!


This is a funny topic title. Yes, I know what it means – of course we all know instinctively what it means – but I balk at the idea of any reading being something about which we feel guilt. All reading is valuable and deepens and fills the space and plot that we inhabit and I, perhaps particularly as a teacher, would never mock or diminish anyone for reading anything, regardless of my view on their reading matter. Romance, Erotica, Fantasy, Fanfic… you go and you read and you enjoy – please!

And also, guilty pleasures – why would we feel guilty about anything that gives pleasure?! What Calvinist tendencies lie behind that concept?!

But these meanderings are just me taking the title too seriously and too literally. So what are we looking for? Those books we all enjoy but which are not going to feature on any awards, are not literary and do not even pretend to be literary, but which are sheer simple fun! For me, graphic violence and sex detract from the pleasure of reading, so I really do focus on those plot-driven set piece popcorn reads – the literary equivalent of a Marvel film.

The novels and series which come to mind for me are…

Dan Brown, Robert Langdon series, Origin

So easy to mock and to pastiche.

Such a formulaic structure. Such tortuous explosion of unnecessary adjectives! Will he ever be forgiven his over-use of the word “renowned”? Or that Frozen reference?

Yet his novels, including the non-Dan Brown ones, are intricately plotted, fun reads – absurd at so many levels and yet cracking yarns!

You would have thought though that Langdon, with his eidetic memory, would have learned to be a bit more suspicious of seemingly benign paternal figures who seem to be helping him….

Robert Galbraith, Cormoran Strike series, The Cuckoo’s Calling

Galbraith I find every bit as poorly written as Dan Brown; yet also every bit as well and enjoyably plotted. In terms of the writing, The Cuckoo’s Calling managed to used the word “rabbit” repeatedly to describe a character’s teeth!

And oh god! The interminable will-they-won’t-they of Strike and Robin’s relationship!

Guilt in its truer form does creep in a little with this series: the depiction of the LGBTQIA+ community is cliched and bordering on offensive and after J K Rowling’s comments about women and transwomem on Twitter…

Jim Butcher, Harry Dresden series, Storm Front

Once again, cracking good convoluted plotting here – perhaps over convoluted as we go through the series. Great scenes of combat and a hard boiled detective with a soft heart.

I seem to recall somewhere that Storm Front was conceived as an exemplar of how to put together a story from trashy tropes…

But he does so (particularly later in the series) with energy, vitality and aplomb!

Brandon Sanderson, Mistborn… and anything else

I could have chosen any of Sanderson’s books as great unadulterated fun! But let’s leave the weight of his Stormlight Archive to one side and focus on Mistborn. I loved the Mistborn series and its spin off Wax and Wayne adventures.

A cracking good magic system, a great cast of characters – and who cares if they are a little two dimensional? – and fantastic fight scenes!

Just wonderful fun!

Tamsyn Muir, Gideon the Ninth

Talking of fight scenes, my goodness does Muir know her swordcraft and the difference between fighting with a broadsword and a rapier!

And the numerous shades of necromancy in the novel, the interplay between the Houses, the bitter sweet love hate between Gideon and Harrow – Gideon’s unwavering care and concern for Harrow whom she expresses a wish to see die horribly!

Great great fun!


Five books about which I feel no guilt (with that one exception) about loving and enjoying.

Please do love your pleasures and proudly declaim them! All reading is good reading!

Upcoming Top Five Topics

  • September 26th, 2020 — Guilty Pleasure Reads
  • October 3rd, 2020 — Intimidating Books

Again, a David Mitchell book is an event, and a thing of beauty! But the music industry is not my natural setting and again I was caught between this and another book – Daisy Jones and the Six in this case – and Daisy Jones was read first. This time, because it was nominated on a book club I was part of.

Bonus: The Lies of Locke Lamora, Scott Lynch

They say that the Thorn of Camorr can beat anyone in a fight. They say he steals from the rich and gives to the poor. They say he’s part man, part myth, and mostly street-corner rumor. And they are wrong on every count.

Only averagely tall, slender, and god-awful with a sword, Locke Lamora is the fabled Thorn, and the greatest weapons at his disposal are his wit and cunning. He steals from the rich – they’re the only ones worth stealing from – but the poor can go steal for themselves. What Locke cons, wheedles and tricks into his possession is strictly for him and his band of fellow con-artists and thieves: the Gentleman Bastards.

This one has been on my TBR for years. Literally years. I have heard nothing but praise for it, but so far have never quite got around to reading it! Go figure!

So, there we go: a range of books that I got in 2020 – save for the Scott Lynch – and do regret not reading during the year. Is regret the right word? Probably not to be honest: I do not regret the reading that I did do last year at all. But these are books that I would like to find time to catch up with this year – before prize season hits us again!

Pop in the comments below your thoughts on these – maybe let me know which I should read first!

4 thoughts on “Top Five Saturday: Guilty Pleasures”

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