I'll admit: Chick lit is a great way to escape

I'm done feeling guilty for reading “chick lit.”

Go ahead and lump me in with the oft-mocked fans of bodice-ripping romance novels – I can take it.

What the book snobs fail to recognize (I'll also admit, I used to be one of them) is that there's nothing wrong with a little escape reading every now and then. As the news of the world continues to grow more gray, “chick lit” is a great, cheap way to check out for a few hours.

Here are just three of the diverting books I've plowed through recently.

The most seasoned shopper knows the best kind of retail therapy ends with someone else footing the bill.

And that couldn't be more true of Michael Tonello's “Bringing Home the Birkin” (272 pages, $25.95). The deliciously quick nonfiction read is almost too good to be true. While living abroad and paying the rent by selling off his luxe goods on eBay, Tonello unlocks the secret to buying the famed Hermes Birkin bag and turns it into a profession.

As he country-hops and shops his way across Europe, Tonello exposes an ultra-luxury world that isn't as exclusive as they'd like us to believe.

While the dollar amounts with which Tonello is dealing are gasp-worthy ($30,000-plus for a bag isn't uncommon), there are retail lessons to be learned that will work for more mainstream shoppers, too.

For example: Dress for the level of service you expect. Tonello struck Birkin gold when he started dressing like he belonged in the Hermes store.

Suburban subterfuge, sex and Las Vegas meet in “Secrets of a Shoe Addict” by Beth Harbison (352 pages, $22.95). What happens to three parent chaperones during a student trip makes it hard for their transgressions to stay in Sin City. How they recover, while learning what a good pair of heels can do for your psyche, is entertaining and fun.

In Marian Keyes' latest novel “This Charming Man,” (576 pages, $24.95) politicians are riveting (especially when they don't mention lipstick and farm animals or Tina Fey).

Keyes uses four women to weave a tale of secrets, friendship, abuse and justice.

Each of the women has a connection to Paddy de Courcy, a rising star in Irish politics, often compared to John F. Kennedy Jr. in looks and charisma. That common thread puts them all on separate courses of self-discovery.

Known for her dark storytelling, Keyes delves into the ugly parts of life. The novel is graphic in its depiction of sex, addiction and various types of abuse.

Keyes' twisted sense of humor blends with the realism that is often lacking in the genre to create a strong message of female empowerment.