I had parents who often watched television and movies with us and discussed the characters choices, so it always made sense to me that entertainment could be a gateway to both critical thinking and also better conversations with people. They do it in school, have everyone read a book and discuss the character choices and the framework of the discussion. Although it seems to me that many people come away from that under the impression that if the book wasn't really hard to read, then it isn't worthy of such critical discussion.
Stephen King talks wonderfully about how reading was never really dead, even for kids, but some of the powers that be only seem to count the stuff that makes you feel more superior when you finish. And don't get me wrong, everyone should read what they want (unless you are in a class, and they want you to read something, you might want to go do that). But that means everyone. It's the reason this whole chick lit backlash is silly. If you don't like chick lit or vampires or trashy stuff or literary stuff, don't read it. There are loads of books out there, find the ones you want. Don't get stuck thinking you are supposed to read something else, or it doesn't count if the book you're reading has a half naked person or a pair of shoes on the cover. It's all good.
This was brought home to me as I began read Suzanne Brockmann's Force of Nature last night. In her dedication she mentions what I'm sure is just a small sampling of the stories people have told her after reading Hot Target. See, in HT, which is part of the Troubleshooter's series about Navy SEALs, FBI agents and civilians working through interesting situations, FBI agent Jules Cassidy, who appeared a while back in the series, gets a subplot of his own. A romantic triangle, even. The reason any of this is noteworthy, is that Jules is gay. And in the dedication, Suzanne tells the story of her wonderful son. In fact, go read it, I'll wait.
So, in the dedication Suzanne mentions stories of people who were inspired to start conversations with their loved ones after reading HT.
So, read what you want. Read what inspires you. If it's Pulitzer Prize winning or a book club selection or green, it doesn't matter. It's all good.