I still have academic stress dreams even though I finished up graduate school fifteen years ago. You know, those dreams where you're sitting in a final exam room for French, except you never actually took French and can't figure out why you have to pass this test in order to graduate. These dreams pretty much wreck the whole next day since I find it hard to shake that "Oops, I forgot to take French" feeling that lingers all day long.
Romance novels, for me, are all about fun. No pressure. No tests. No comparative literature examinations. If something strikes my fancy, I read it. If someone recommends a good book, I check it out. But I have noticed something that makes me break out in a cold sweat like those nightmares. A very common theme on the romance boards. There are a heck of a lot of readers who have turned reading romance into an obligatory, pressure-filled experience culminating in the ever-dreaded...TBR Pile. (Took me a while to figure out this meant To Be Read.) They're seriously stressed that they haven't finished all of the Julie Garwood historicals. Or worried that a new paranormal author has started a series, and they have not read it yet. They have spread-sheets with all of their books organized into lists. Folks get high-fives for TBR Piles nearing zero, and others lament their piles are inching upward. They are filled with anxiety about reading romance novels!!!! Christ on a crutch, batman!
Uh, I hesitate to say this (not really) but something tells me these folks are missing the big picture. Romance novels are not supposed to promote anxiety, they're supposed to make us happy. Ergo, the HEA (Happily Ever After), the sizzling sex, the snappy banter, etc. etc. (Hey Kate, did you notice I got "Christ on a crutch" and "ergo" in this post?--a few of my favorite expressions!) Anyway, I really want to shake these people and remind them of one simple fact...."Romance novels! These are romance novels, people! Sheesh!" There is no way I am turning one of my most favorite, relaxing, fun-filled, mindless, wonderful, endorphin-producing hobbies into an academic-like endeavor. I'm thinking of having a Just Say No To TBR Piles! bumper sticker made for my car.
Honestly, there are a few vague thoughts floating around in the back of my head concerning books I'd like to read, like "One of these days I'm going to check out a Nalini Singh book," but there's no sense of urgency, no anxiety. I figure I still have a few decades left to devour all the great books I want to, and I refuse to make it a sweat-inducing source of stress. Not sure why certain readers want to elevate reading romance to an academic endeavor, but I'm staying out of it. Next week on vacation, I'm looking forward to a cold, frosty beer, a hammock and a pile of unplanned, unknown romance novels that I'll probably pick up in the Narragansett grocery store. Perfect!