Our Reading Lives

Confessions of an Intense Thinker: On Reading the Shopaholic Novels

The two books on my nightstand, right this moment, are A Path Appears (the new book by the Pulitzer Prize winning journalists behind Half the Sky), and Timothy Keller’s book on Prayer. This is the kind of stuff I read when left to my own devices; this is the stuff I read “for fun.”

Of course, reading challenging and thought-provoking books is a good thing. But I tend to take it a little too far. I’m dark and twisty inside, and if I don’t take a step back once in a while and, say, watch an episode of Friends rather than contemplate the state of the world…I can get a bit lost.

So for years, my sister tried to get me to read the Shopaholic books by Sophie Kinsella. She read the first couple when she was in high school and she thought they were funny. She thought I would think they were funny, too.

I like funny; funny’s good. So I picked up Confessions of a Shopaholic and started reading. Half way through the book, I put it down (something I don’t often do) because BECKY BLOOMWOOD WAS STRESSING ME OUT. So much credit card debt! So much fiscal irresponsibility! So much SHOPPING!

To my chagrin, Confessions of a Shopaholic wasn’t making me laugh, it was making me break out in hives. I wanted to reach through the pages and help Becky Bloomwood balance her freakin’ checkbook. She was making me nervous.

I wanted to be the type of person who could sit down on a Saturday afternoon and read a witty British novel about shopping without wanting to give the protagonist financial advice. But it wasn’t happening, so I quit reading and moved on to something else.

Years later, I was living in England and found one of Kinsella’s books at a charity shop. I decided to pick it up for my sister’s birthday; but before I gave it to her, I read it.

And LO and BEHOLD: as I read it I was laughing! The book is about how Becky Bloomwood’s two year old daughter develops her mum’s bad spending habits. It is called Mini Shopaholic and if ever I was going to find a Kinsella book financially distressing, it would be this one. But, dude – that book is hilarious. It turns out that Becky Bloomwood is actually awesome and Sophie Kinsella is so darn funny.

I liked it so much that I went on to read all the rest of her books. (I’ve Got Your Number is my very favorite – there is this scene in a hotel lobby that involves singing “Mr Yamaguchi” to the tune of “All the Single Ladies” and I know that sounds a bit nuts but seriously it makes me laugh so hard.)

I am officially a Sophie Kinsella fan now. She is on my I’ll-Read-Anything-They-Write/Auto Buy list. Her new book Shopaholic to the Stars is about to come out and you can bet I’ll be reading it as soon as I can get my hands on it.

I still love my serious, intense reading. I love big fat biographies, theology, the classics. But now you’re just as likely to catch me reading a mystery novel by a fictional character, as you are to find me with the latest treatise on social justice. Becky Bloomwood has taught me not too take myself quite so seriously.

I think reading books that aren’t intense or Super Serious Literature makes me a more well-rounded person; I promise you it makes me easier to live with.

I still wouldn’t mind giving Becky Bloomwood a bit of financial advice. But, let’s be honest, I kind of want to go shopping with her, too.


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