Oh boy, now I know.
It's a New York Times Bestseller, and the two sequels in the trilogy, "Fifty Shades Darker" and "Fifty Shades Freed" are now also flying off store shelves. It's estimated that more than 10 million readers worldwide have already read the first book in the series.
"I have another name for it — 50 shades red," said Jessilynn Norcross, owner of McLean and Eakin Booksellers in downtown Petoskey.
"It is by far the No. 1 thing in the store and people continue to come in and be embarrassed to ask for it. If they only knew how many people were buying it every single day, they wouldn't be so embarrassed and their faces wouldn't turn so red when they ask about it."
Without going into too much detail — not because I don't want to ruin the story itself, but because this newspaper can't print such descriptions — the book, set in Seattle, tells the story of recent college graduate, Anastasia Steele, who meets Christian Grey, a young, wealthy businessman.
It's been dubbed "mommy porn," and the book's explicit erotic scenes have become so controversial, some libraries around the country refuse to put it on the shelf.
The book actually forced the American Library Association's office for intellectual freedom to release a statement, in summary, saying library collections should be diverse, but should also reflect what people want to read. And that decisions on what to buy shouldn't be based on content alone.
According to the Petoskey District Library's website, as of Wednesday, all copies are checked out. The estimated wait is 555 days.
The bottom line — I couldn't put it down — and millions of other women can't either.
Just a few chapters in, I told my friend Danna about it. She couldn't wait to borrow my copy, she bought her own. Another friend couldn't wait either.
None of us could stop reading, and when we did, we couldn't wait to get back to "Fifty Shades of Grey." And there we were, all three of us the other night, skipping out on plans with each other to stay home and read.
Throughout the book, Anastasia, the book's heroine, compares herself to Thomas Hardy's Tess, in "Tess of the D'Urbervilles." References to classic women's literature throughout the story are just a reminder that "Fifty Shades of Grey" isn't anything new — it's just an updated tale of a vulnerable young woman in search of love, with obstacles to overcome. At one point, she even walks away, just as Jane Eyre did.
Is it destined to become a classic piece of literature? Probably not, but it has so many talking.
"I guess it's just a sign of the times," Norcross said of the book's popularity. "Maybe it's because of the economy, the war, the drudgery of every day life — but what better way to escape than with a book. And the trashier the better."
Trashiness aside, I'm already deep into the second book of the trilogy. While it won't replace the classic authors I've always loved — O'Connor, Dickens, Fitzgerald — it has earned a place on my bookshelf.
While Rachel Brougham loves reading the classics, she's not ashamed to admit her favorite book of all time is "The Witches" by Roald Dahl. Yet lately, most of her reading consists of newspapers and Dr. Seuss. Her column appears each Thursday. If you have a topic you'd like Rachel to write about, email her at email@example.com.