The Guilty Pleasures Bookshelf

Peyton Place Grace Metalious (1956) It may seem tame by today's standards, but Peyton Place in its day was scandalous. For my brother and me, it was the guiltiest of pleasures to sneak my father's paperback copy out of the old rolltop desk in the basement and flip through the book till we found the dirty parts. And as this was a dirty book from the '50s, no good sex went unpunished. Favorite moment: Bad boy Rodney Harrington, driving around town with his latest tramp, gets distracted when the floozie turns to him, bares a breast, flicks a nipple and says, "Betcha never seen any as hard as these," or words to that effect, causing Rodney to drive the car straight into the back of a truck. Take that for two-timing poor innocent Allison MacKenzie, you cad!
-David Warner

Our Bodies, Ourselves Boston Women's Health Collective (1969) What makes this well-known women's health resource a guilty pleasure? Well, it also happens to have a few pages' worth of sexual illustrations - which, when I was a youngster, proved excessively fascinating. Granted, they were only drawings, but when I found the book on my mother's bookshelf I decided this was something I had to show my friends. So, after careful consideration (or probably a few minutes of thought), I brought the book to daycare. I was showing my friends the nasty pages - the section on the missionary position attracted a sizable group of onlookers - when, suddenly, I was caught and the book confiscated. The look of horror on my mom's face when she came to pick me up was unforgettable. But there was little chance of such an incident happening again: shortly afterward, the book mysteriously disappeared.
-Leilani Polk

Outrageous Charles Barkley (1994), Drive Larry Bird (1989), The Fab Five Mitch Albom (1993) They may not belong in the pantheon of great sports books like Seabiscuit and Moneyball, but they're impossible to put down. Larry Bird (and his ghostwriter) going on about French Lick, Indiana. Barkley pontificating about race dynamics in the NBA. Mitch ("I didn't make this one up") Albom taking on the high-stakes world of college hoops. Put 'em together, and you've got an excuse to spend an entire weekend on the couch, successfully avoiding the actual playing of sports. -Max Linsky

I'm With the Band: Confessions of a Groupie Pamela Des Barres (1987) A badly written memoir of a groupie's explicit romps in the hay with Mick Jagger, Brandon de Wilde, Jimmy Page, Keith Moon, an allegedly very well-endowed Don Johnson and others. The woman's shameless, but with this much namedropping, we'll find it in ourselves to forgive her. But not for her follow-up, Take Another Little Piece of My Heart. Lady, talk trash if you must, but we can do without your "cosmic" insights.

The Phish Companion: A Guide to the Band and Their Music (2004) Because only the biggest dorks could read this for hours and not be bored.

The Bad Guys Won! Jeff Pearlman (2004) A profile of the 1986 Mets. Not the best-written book, but the anecdotes! And if you don't have time to read the whole thing, the subhead pretty much sums it up: "A Season of Brawling, Boozing, Bimbo-chasing, and Championship Baseball with Straw, Doc, Mookie, Nails, The Kid, and the Rest of the 1986 Mets, the Rowdiest Team Ever to Put on a New York Uniform - and Maybe the Best."

Private Parts Howard Stern (1995) Loved it in seventh grade, and still do. Maybe because Howard Stern speaks to the inner seventh grader in us all.

The Relic Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child (1995) It married Crichton's tech-savvy to big, classic thriller/horror elements. And no, it's not nearly as bad as the movie made from it.

The Da Vinci Code Dan Brown (2003) Trust us, for anyone with even a basic understanding of good literature - or good writing, for that matter - this has been the guiltiest of pleasures for over two years running. We can't wait for the movie.

How-to books

Toilet totaled? Shingles shot? Fridge frazzled? Fix ‘em all and feel like a stud.

The Life and Hard Times of Heidi Abramowitz Joan Rivers (1984) We hate her, you hate her, we really hate her daughter, but this tiny little hardback that no one read is proof the lady used to be funny, and in sort of a kinky way.

Garden manuals

A welcome respite from the trials and tribulations of the urban jungle.

Interview with the Vampire Anne Rice (1991) Seven hundred billion fans can't be wrong, right? Wrong. It's fluffy, it's cloying, it's overbearing and the author's ego leaps off each and every page. But damn, that Lestat's a dandy, isn't he?

The entire Mary Higgins Clark library She uses the same hero, heroine and plotline in every story, doesn't she? But she's such an adorable old thing, you gotta show some love. And you can read practically all of them in a day.

Raise the Titanic Clive Cussler (1976) Grab a paperback of Cussler's best Dirk Pitt adventure (from the Titanic disaster to an improbable hunt for a rare element, with sexy girls and bad guys thrown in) and bemoan the fact that the author has optioned all 13 of his Pitt stories for lousy films like Sahara, with a miscast Matthew McConaughey.

Ninety-Two in the Shade Thomas McGuane (1972) McGuane's great post-Hemingway tale of Key West and the inevitable personal war between two fishing guides. A great summer read; lie in the sun, with your brain curing like a ham.

His Way: An Unauthorized Biography of Frank Sinatra Kitty Kelley (1986) Raunchy, sensationalistic, full of half-truths, and completely engrossing.

Wired: The Short Life and Fast Times of John Belushi Bob Woodward (1985) Ditto.

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