By Freddie Moore

(via Flickr)

There are many signifiers of a good piece of literature, but what always stands out is its ability to change you, to make your heart ache, to stay with you for months, maybe even years, after that final page is turned.

There are moments, though, when you need to give yourself a break — when all you want is the junk-food equivalent of a read. These books might not be our companions on the commute to and from work, or on a Sunday in the park or, hell, even on an airplane where no one knows us, but there remains a low-brow partner to even the most sophisticated title. Below are a few pairings of books that people flaunt in public and the guilty pleasures they’re likely enthralled with on their e-readers or in the privacy of their homes.

Public: The Lover by Marguerite Duras (via Trash Complex)

Private: Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James  (via Dot Scribbles)

Duras’s autobiographical novel is a sexy coming-of-age must-read — but sometimes it’s hard not to be tempted by literotica that’s brainless and, frankly, a bit hilarious.

Public: Nobody is Ever Missing by Catherine Lacey (via Flavorwire)

Private: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (via Litbeetle)

A classic indie-versus-blockbuster scenario: You could get lost in the aching portrait of Elyria’s divorce from her former life and husband or read a story about a woman’s disappearance for the shock value. You might get judged for the latter, but it definitely depends on who’s watching.

Public: The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen (via Greg Walklin)

Private: A Song of Ice and Fire Series by George R. R. Martin (via Hot Coffee Books and Chocobar)

The Lamberts have their fair share of problems (alcoholism, affairs, dementia) but the Lannisters’ family issues (kings born out of insestual affairs) are far more scandalous.

Public: About Alice by Calvin Trillin (via Austin Kleon)

Private: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (via Ask)

YA is all the rage these days, but you can bet anyone who catches you reading Green’s book late (the movie isn’t even playing in theaters anymore) probably won’t think very highly of you. Thankfully, you can binge-read the YA novel at home when no one’s watching — and when you’re looking to have your heart broken in public, Trillin’s book is timeless.

Public: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (via Indelible Literature)

Private: Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding (via Luna International)

Plath’s confessional portrait of depression will stick with you for years, but Fielding’s jokes about dating, ugly knickers and weight-gain are probably best enjoyed at home.  

Public: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (via The Voice of Reason)

Private: Android Karenina by Leo Tolstoy and Ben H. Winters (via The Qwillery)

This just begs the question: Would you rather read about Anna’s affair with Vronsky in the 800-page classic or the 320-page steampunk reinterpretation?

Public: Hothouse by Boris Kachka (via NPR Books)

Private: The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger (via Amazon)

FSG might be your favorite publisher, but sometimes you just need the account of a personal assistant at a ridiculous high fashion magazine to remind yourself of how luck you are not to be in her shoes. Naturally, you might want to keep that bit of schadenfreude to yourself.

Public: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (via L. W. Currey, Inc.)

Private: The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling (via J. K. Rowling)

The book that established magical realism in Latin American literature versus the book that established Hogwarts. Decisions, decisions.

Have any other suggestions for pairs of books to read in public versus at home? Let us know in the comments below!

Freddie Moore is a Brooklyn-based writer. Her full name is Winifred, and her writing has appeared in The Paris Review Daily and The Huffington Post. As a former cheesemonger, she’s a big-time foodie who knows her cheese. Follow her on Twitter: @moorefreddie

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