I loved The DaVinvi Code. There. I said it, and I’m not ashamed of it. I loved the book – inhaled it. Couldn’t wait to turn the pages and find out what happened.The book made me think. It made me question important values. It seduced my imagination. I didn’t read it for historical accuracy; I read it for pleasure – and it gave me immense pleasure.

My “literary” colleagues trash the novel as poorly written, so on the face of it, I guess that makes me a mass market slut. So be it. I love Robert Ludlum’s formulaic adventures,Taylor Caldwell’s over-dramatized tales, Agatha Christie’s multiple mysteries.

Then again, I have also loved some of the novels that are included in the elite grouping of “literary” works.  John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany has a place in my top five faves of all time. Give me any Barbara Kingsolver book (fiction or non), and I’m in literary heaven. Loved much of Timothy Findley’s work, Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace, Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees … all rich with layered language, striking descriptions and inspiring metaphor.

I’ve read self-published and vanity press books that have left me breathless with stunning passages, and I’ve read so-called literary novels published by major industry firms that I have considered a waste of my reading time. I swear that nowadays, weirdness for the sake of weirdness is sometimes translated as “literary” for no other reason. Then again, the books in this category that I haven’t cared for may appeal to others. I also love books that I consider “crossovers” – I defy anyone to tell me that Bill Bryson’s hilarious and action-packed nonfiction tales aren’t written with a literary voice.

So, what’s the deal? Read what you love, not what some elitist writers and reviewers tell you is worthy. And for that matter, write what you love. Different voices appeal to different readers, and there is nothing wrong with that. The importance is in the reading and the writing – and what these pastimes mean when it comes to shaping our personalities and enriching our lives. Take creative writing courses … don’t take creative writing courses … follow the path you clear for yourself and revel in the process. Enjoy the writing; enjoy the reading.

Read romances, westerns, horror, humour, chick lit, kiddie lit, poetry (even rhyming poetry – GASP!) … write whatever you feel passionate about. A book should take you somewhere else for a period of time, enable you to see the world through someone else’s eyes, tug at your emotions, make you angry, make you happy, make you curious. If a mass-market book does that, isn’t it noble in its own way?

Some people read to the end every book they start. I give a book 50 pages; if I’m not engaged by then, I’m off to the next novel or nonfiction book. Have I missed out on some potentially remarkable writing? Probably, but that’s my choice. For me, it’s “so many books, so little time.”

As with things like politics and religion, my advice (not that you asked for it :-)) is to think for yourself when it comes to books and what is “worthy” of your reading and writing time.