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There was a time in my life when I read Jane Austen, Dickens, and other Victorian authors. I was a serious individual reading canonical literature.

This summer I’ve delved into a genre that I’ve previously avoided like gonorrhea. The ubiquitous “women’s literature” as my library categorizes it. Yes, it began with titles like Bridget Jones’ Diary. Who knew that Colin Firth would be the beginning of a path that led to novels I was certain would turn my brain into lilac-tinted mush?

If I’d read some of these books in my younger years, I would have hidden them behind book covers. Now, happily resolved to enjoy middle age, I don’t give a damn because they’re fun. They’re like literary popcorn. They offer fiber and that tasty combination of salt and whatever flavor you want to shake on. They’re low-cal and they help keep your primary systems healthy.

Why is that? Because these novels talk about the stories of women–how we fit sex, family, and work into our lives. How we deal with our battered self-esteem. How we deal with relationships that we overanalyze. How to survive motherhood. How to survive being single. How to relate to our own mothers. And food. The yummy collections of books that deal with food.

Who doesn’t love a novel that includes recipes for muffins and sourdough breads along with its reflections on the challenges of being female?

I think tonight I’m going to make some popcorn and snuggle under the covers for a good read and maybe some empathetic tears. I am woman. See me read. Women’s fiction.