I don't usually feel much guilt about my various pleasures; "guilt" in general is not a feeling with which I'm too familiar. But I have read about this thing called "guilt" so I think I can imagine what it's supposed to feel like and when it's supposed to occur. So here are 5 books that I at least theoretically felt a bit of guilt about enjoying.
Tampa by Alissa Nutting. This book was the scandalous It Girl of 2013. The narrative is uncomfortable to say the least; just as uncomfortable is the idea that Nutting grabbed her True Crime storyline straight from the headlines in a transparent, cynical ploy to sell some books. But still... the prose is wonderfully succulent and often woundingly sharp. The humor is delightfully evil. The ending illustrated a surprising commitment to keeping her psychopathic heroine redemption-free. I never thought I would find reading a book about a sexual predator who preys on junior high-age boys to be such fun.
Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead. I scratched beneath the shiny surface of the inaugural book in this popular, long-running series and found much that I respected: an examination of the potentially deep bond between teenage girls; a willingness to honestly explore self-destructive and self-abusive behavior; a storyline that didn't let its heroine off the hook for her own selfish and manipulative actions. But it took some scratching to get through that surface because the surface is all about worshipping some tedious, Fabio-haired love interest who is about as clichéd as all other such love interests.
The Weirwoods by Thomas Burnett Swan is chock-full of all sorts of things that could make a person feel guilty or at least embarrassed about reading. A book cover that I could never take out in public. Sexy naked water nymphs and wood sprites. Constant sex that is often constantly silly. A heavily breathing homoerotic vibe that smacks of a repressed and perhaps closeted author. All of that, but Eh so what. The novel was pure pleasure and the writing was often elegant and lovely. And I can always get behind the classic theme of Nature vs. Civilization. Go, Nature! Destroy Civilization!
Transcendence by Shay Savage. So apparently this romance novel is an example of fan fiction starring different versions of Bella & Edward. I'm glad I didn't know that going in, but then I'm not sure if it would have affected my feelings about the book one way or the other because I didn't see a bit of Twilight in here. What I did see was a sweet and charming romance between a modern gal and a hunky caveman. It's hard for me to believe that I wrote that last sentence without an ounce of sarcasm, but 'tis true. Transcendence is a simple story done well, if you like romance. My jury is still out on that genre but I liked this one quite a bit. Bonus points for an ending that is genuinely transcendent.
The Barrow by Mark Smylie. At times it felt like Smylie wrote this dark & dirty sword & sorcery novel with one hand on the keyboard and one hand in his lap. It has expert world-building, an exciting plot, enjoyably larger-than-life characters, and the potential for more fun in various sequels. And it is just about the most horny, sexed-up book of its type that I've ever read. All of those smutty little fantasies that some readers (cough) have had featuring various characters from fantasy novels... well, no need to fantasize about those sorts of tawdry scenes when contemplating The Barrow and its characters. Those fantasy sex scenes are all there on the page. Rough sex, voyeuristic sex, sadistic sex, sex with zombies, you name it. Surely some sort of ground was broken with this book.