Reading for Guilty Pleasure

Looking over the list of books I read this year, there is some variety. Some books I read for entertainment, some because I want a good story. I read to educate myself. Occasionally, I read for sheer guilty pleasure, and it is usually a certain type of book.

I enjoy celebrity memoirs and biographies for my guilty pleasure. Particularly books about older celebrities, or ones that are no longer with us. Last year I read Hope: Entertainer of the Century by Richard Zoglin, and enjoyed it immensely. I loved Gary Giddin’s biography of Bing Crosby, Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams, and have been waiting ever since for the second volume. I find these books fascinating, and fun. Occasionally, I feel a little silly reading these books, as though I am peeking at the tabloid magazines at the checkout counter in the grocery store. I guess that is why they call it a guilty pleasure.

And what does “guilty pleasure” mean, anyway? According to Wikipedia, a guilty pleasure is,

something, such as a movie, television program, or piece of music, that one enjoys despite feeling that it is not generally held in high regard.

Okay, I think that is a fair definition. I do get the feeling the celebrity biographies are not held in particularly high regard, and yet I still enjoy them. I find it interesting that the definition given above mentions movies, television, and music, but not books, as if it is impossible that reading could be either guilty or a pleasure.

Recently I picked up three books that I thought I might try to get through while on vacation, despite what I said about my failed attempts to do much vacation reading in the past. I’ve already started reading the first and it is everything I hoped for.

The book is My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business: A Memoir by Dick Van Dyke. All three of these books are the audiobook editions, and what’s great about this book is that the narrator is Dick Van Dyke himself. I am having a blast listening to him tell stories of how he became an actor, what life was like on the set of the Dick Van Dyke show, and to all of the people he has met and interacted with over the years.

My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business

In addition to this book, I also picked up Dick Van Dyke’s more recent book, Keep Moving, and Other Tips and Truths about Aging. Finally, there’s Jimmy Stewart: The Truth Behind the Legend by Michael Munn. I’ve seen Stewart in movies, of course, and I know he was a great bomber pilot in the Second World War. But that is about all I know of him. I thought a biography would be interesting.

Sometimes, these guilty pleasures offer hints at life that prove useful. Not always, but occasionally, I’ll read something that an actor or other busy person did that helped them better manage their time, and when it makes sense, I’ll give it try and find my life slightly improved because of it. But mostly, I read these books because they are fun. I am fascinated by “old” Hollywood, and these books help to quench that fascination.

I hope to get through all three of these books while I am on vacation. This always seems to work out better in theory than it does in principle.


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