Apr 29 2013 9:00am

Just Say Yes?: The Makings of Book Crack

Book addiction image by Emily Carlin via FlickrThe reading community—like any legion of fans—likes to to create its own terms. You’ll find romance readers mentioning PNR (paranormal romance), H/H (hero/heroine, not to be confused with H&H for Heroes and Heartbreakers), HEA (happily ever after) and the like. Usually these are initialized shortenings of popular phrases.

Those bits of jargon are easy to parse out or have a friend explain. Then we come to “book crack.” We’re guilty at Heroes & Heartbreakers of calling out J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series of being cracktastic, but what does that mean?

At their base, all novels considered book crack are addictive. To be labeled with the drug-related moniker, a book must be un-put-downable. Length is no issue with these books. Nine hundred pages? Sleep is not needed the night after the release of the latest title in a cracktastic series.

While the book does not need to be tome, the majority of book crack titles tend to require more of your time than a mere afternoon. This relates to the second point: The book must be worthy of devouring despite obvious stumbling blocks.

If every series we couldn’t read fast enough were classified as a drug, then we’d need more book clubs reading support groups. No, for a novel to be considered book crack it needs to be bad for us. This means there will be issues with the books. There will be plot lines, phrasing or other prose choices that one simply overlooks because you can’t read it fast enough.

For examples, we turn to the Black Dagger Brotherhood, since we’ve already called them out. The first is the odd spelling of the Brothers’ names. Other than the leader Wrath, each has bonus a bonus H or Z in their name (Tohrment, Rhage, Zsadist, Vishous, and the like). It’s silly. We know it’s silly, but—and this part is vital—we don’t care.

Silly choices aren’t the only way to land in book crack territory. Read our roundtable discussion on 50 Shades of Grey. You’ll find H&H writers who devoured the book, but were almost ashamed of it. They knew they’d read better erotic romance, but could not stop reading.

If you find yourself saying, “I don’t know why I couldn’t stop reading,” the odds are good you’re reading something crack-worthy.

And that’s okay. Not every book needs to be read for literary purposes. Books should be fun, and that’s the core truth of book crack. We might shake our heads about series we can’t give up. We might laugh at the asinine plot points as we devour the latest title. We might even tell others we don’t know why we keep reading certain books. But the whole time we’re enjoying the experience.

Book crack gives you a quick high on a tasty story that yanks you through to the end without a moment to breathe (or cook dinner). While we wouldn’t suggest a reading diet solely of crack, we can’t deny the occasional appeal.

Book addiction image by Emily Carlin via Flickr


While Chelsea Mueller runs Vampire Book Club, she won’t turn down a sexy werewolf, demon or faerie. Her appreciation of Alexander Skarsgard is well documented. Bother her on Twitter — @ChelseaVBC — she likes it.

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Megan Frampton
1. MFrampton
I've been reading more and more crack-y books, as self-pub becomes almost as ubiquitous as traditionally-published books (in my library). I think I find obsessive love--New Adult style--to be somewhat crack-y, as it's so far removed from my own experience. But even though the situation might be unrealistic (to me), the writing is still addictive. But my favorite addiction remains the BDB.
2. ChelseaMueller
The obsessive love element feels like a trope to me. Are there such things as 'crack tropes'? I think there just might be...
Megan Frampton
3. MFrampton
@ChelseaMueller--I feel another blog post coming on--crack tropes! That's one I bet we could all contribute to.
Julia Broadbooks
4. juliabroadbooks
Crack tropes!

For me, I always think of a book/series as crack if it's over the top, larger than life. In the case of the BDB, larger both figuratively and literally. I think the obsessive NA love fits well because it's full of tension. With that kind of rip-your-heart-out angst you also get all kinds of heart-in-your-throat tension. And that's what keeps those pages turning.
Carmen Pinzon
5. bungluna
My crack of choice continues to be Laurell K Hamilton's Anita Blake series. I used to be addicted to the BDB, but I kicked the habit. Now I visit them (from the library) but AB still gets my full attention the day of publication.
7. pamelia
I have replaced my addiction to BDB books (since I was getting a little weary of them) with a full-on and unapologetic addition to Kristen Ashley -- I swear I've read most of her books at least twice and some of them about 5-6 times in the past 18 months since I first started reading her.
Nikki Hilton
8. nikkiphilton
My lastest addiction is also Kristen Ashley. I get annoyed when I get a call from the library saying I have a book (by another author) ready for pick up, interrupting my KA glomming. I've read the Rock Chick series, the Dream Man, the Colorado Mountain, and the 'Burg series, plus the Chaos book. I know I'll be starting something else by her shortly, but I think I'll go back and reread Mystery Man or The Gamble first.
Laura K. Curtis
9. LauraKCurtis
Thanks for this post! I don't like cracky books. I have plenty of other bad-for-me addictions, but I can't get beyond the things that make the books "crack" as opposed to just good books. I'm not saying the stuff I read is high-brow, because it isn't, but things like bad grammar, stupid plot points, idiotic names, they throw me out of the story and I can't get back in. My "high" is too badly diminished.

I am bookmarking this so that I can send people to this post when they need to know what "cracky" books are!
10. ChelseaMueller
@pamelia & @nikkiphilton - I'm almost afraid to start her books. I've heard they're ones you go on a nonstop binge with!

@LauraKCurtis - I aim to please. :)
maria babani
11. Chica8
Guilty as charged. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. I am a crack book addict.
@pamelia and @nikkiphilton - I'm also addicted to Kristen Ashley's Chaos series and Unfinished Heroes series
12. juliagabriel
For me, paranormals often end up being crack. If the main character is in mortal danger in every chapter, it's hard to stop reading -- I need to find out if they survive the next chapter!
13. clarkac64
LKH continues to be my crack and will probly always be crack for me. I broke up with BDB but I'm almost pretty sure I have replaced that with Kristen Ashley and Laurann Dohner.
Patricia Wilkerson
14. Proofreaderpat
Lora Leigh's Breed series used to be cracktastic to me but,Navarro's Promise put me in rehab.My current addiction is Shelly Laurenston's Pack/Pride series.
Carmen Pinzon
15. bungluna
I devour all of Laurenston's book, but can't consider them cracktastic; they are just so good and funny in an entiery determined way.
Ellen Hutchings
16. shadowmaster13
Gotta agree, Laurenston's books can't be crack they don;t have big enough flaws.

I must say that I am a comletely rehabbed BDB reader, I stopped after John Matthew's story and I and still clean and sober.
17. ngaireturnbull
My ultimate crack worthy series is the Fever series by Karen Marie Moning. I think there's something to be said for the build up over an entire series. I also think it's the meticulous crafting of the 'world' that makes it so good. BDB is right up there too, and I still have a soft spot for Charlaine Harris... Sookeeeeeeh.
18. Pamela1740
Well said!!! There are a shameful number of series that I've succumbed to in this fashion... I confess to having read every single Cynster book; they are so incredibly addicting/the same!
19. kreads4fun
BDB and LKH are my guilty pleasures, but I also considered Anne Stuart's Ice series book crack. I have different people in my life that I share books with, the murder mysteries, the romances, the literary fiction, the humor essays, etc. These three are sets I don't share or loan out. I just feel too silly about my addiction.
20. southerngirl
Besides the earlier BDB books, I am addicted to Kristen Ashley's books. When I first started reading her I could not stop and even though I've read most of them multiple times I still want to read them again. Definitely cracktastic!
21. She'sAlwaysReading
Kristen Ashley is the queen of bookcrack!
22. Lionrock71
Kristen Ashley is pure book crack. There will be something in her books that could lift you out of a depression/ennui, get you to look at your friends/family in new ways, and get you excited to get out (once you're done reading!) and see if anyone in the real world measures up to her characters. That to me is at a different level than authors like GA Aiken/Shelley Laurenston, RL Mathewson, Laurann Dohnner, and Kresley Cole. I look forward to their books and wouldn't miss one, but I won't shut down EVERYTHING until I finish one of theirs. I will definitely do that with a Kristen Ashley book. Her release dates are on my work calendar! Also, I could overlook typos in her early works without mentally ejecting myself from a scene. I can't even do that when I'm reading a loving note from my Grandma!
23. Cheryl C
Kresley Colec's Immortals After Dark, JR Ward's BDB, Gena Showalter's Lords of the Underworld, and I absolutely agree with those that already mentioned Kristen Ashley.
24. marisa28
for me the books that would qualify as crack-y would be sherilyn kenyon, kelly armstrong, gerry bartlett to name a few. Absolutely LOVE them:)
25. Dulcinea
I am ashamed to say that this happened to me with Twilight, except that it was more crack than book.
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