Friday, September 12, 2008

Read and Boast III: Books You Shouldn't Bother To Boast About

For my final installment in the recommended reading lists, if someone should be currently preparing for a trip that will involve multiple layovers in multiple airports, attempting to break an addiction to television, or wanting to read something that is just generally entertaining, I've compiled a list of books I've read in the past that are good escapist reading. Generally, they're quick reads and don't require too much critical thinking, but they also stimulate the imagination, something TV and movies don't do. These are the books I'll pick up on a rainy Sunday afternoon when I just want to curl up with a cup of tea and relax. (The list is obviously skewed towards "women's fiction", but so what? I'm a woman, deal with it.) And so, without further ado, the lists:

Adams, Douglas. Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Yes, I agree that the movie was sub-par, and the BBC version was okay but hokey. This is the kind of book that is just fun to read, even if you aren't a particular fan of the science fiction genre, and it is very British in its sense of humor. (If you don't know what I mean, try watching the following shows to see if you get an idea: Monty Python's Flying Circus, Red Dwarf, and Spaced. Of course, you could just read it to get an idea.)

I also stumbled across an audio recording of the Hitchhiker's series done by Adams himself and he does an excellent job of reading his own work, which is good for long drives.

Austen, Jane. Persuasion.

I know that my placement of Jane Austen in the "fun" and not in the sort-of "literary" list will have some Austenphiles up in arms, but these are books that are made to be read casually. I've done close readings and even wrote a paper on the proto-feminist themes in Persuasion, but the books are much more enjoyable if you just relax with them.

And, yes, I know men hate them and are questioning why they would ever be on the "fun" list.
Again, here's the link to the book on google books:

Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan. Any of the Sherlock Holmes Series.
Some people will probably wonder whether a book written over a hundred years ago can even qualify as "fun," but what I enjoy most about Doyle's works is that the short, episodic nature of the stories requires very little of a time commitment. Plus, Holmes is such an interesting character that the stories have richness and depth. The only thing that is frustrating (and only if you particularly care) is that Dr. Watson is so dense that there is no possible way for the reader to solve the mysteries before Holmes has his big reveal.

Anyone who is a fan of the show House might like this series (since House is based on Holmes (Holmes=homes=houses=House)). I've also read a series by Laurie R. King that has a female main character who helps Holmes with his cases.

This book was extremely interesting, because it explores the most interesting (or at least the most scandalous) of the Eurpoean royalty stories. As an English major, it helped solidify both the orders of the monarchs as well as some of their more interesting traits. (It's always easier to understand literature if you have an idea of what was going politically at the time.)

It was a far easier way to get a dose of history without having to wade through a boring text book, believe you me.

McCafferey, Ann. The Harper Hall of Pern series.

This was my favorite fantasy series growing up, partly because it has a female main character and partly because music (one of my passions, for those of you who don't know) is so central to the plot. If you don't like fantasy, you won't like this, but if you don't dislike fantasy, you might.

Quick, Amanda. Wicked Widow.

Yes, I know, but what I like about Amanda Quick's work is that it takes place in the Victorian period (like Jane Austen's) but has actual action (unlike Austen's). Generally, the main character is an "old maid" with some unfashionably "unfeminine" profession or something like that, some mystery comes up, and she meets a tall-dark-handsome-stoic-etc gentleman.

It's my guilty pleasure. Hey, it's better than cocaine. Marginally.

Roberts, Nora. Homeport.

My mom teases me mercilessly for liking Nora Roberts--apparently if I studied Milton and Chaucer, I can't enjoy a little romantic suspense. (Or maybe I'm such a snob that she's surprised I'll admit to liking Nora Roberts. That's always possible, too, I guess). Roberts is one of the few bestselling "women's authors" I enjoy besides Amanda Quick (I can't stand many of the others like Janet Dailey (blech) or Danielle Steele (double blech)). The reason I like Nora Roberts in general, however, and this book in particular is that Roberts is very good at (a) making her characters believable, and (b) making the settings incredibly interesting.

Homeport is good (in my opinion) because it focuses on art and art history--the main character is a scientist who dates bronzes and Renaissance art is almost another character in the book. So even though you're reading a fluffy romantic suspense (gasp! A bronze has been stolen and there's murder!), you're also getting a taste for a field you might know nothing about.

It's my other guilty pleasure. I feel so much better having come clean about it. Admitting you have a problem is the first step toward recovery, right?

Wodehouse, P.G. Any of the Jeeves and Wooster books.

Like Sherlock Holmes, the Jeeves and Wooster series was originally written as a recurring series, so it has short, fun and easy-to-read stories bundled together in collections. The narrator, Bertie Wooster, is a 1920s dandy and is hilarious, both in his utter obliviousness and his rhetoric. (My favorite line so far in any of the stories is "Bally pirates!"... guess you had to be there.)

Anyway, I enjoy both reading these stories and listening to them in audio form, and they were one of the only things that got me through my cross-country drive by myself when I moved from California to Colorado. Try this series if you like things that are British or if you like things that are funny. There's a very funny BBC screen adaptation of the series from the late-80s featuring Hugh Laurie (recently of House fame) and Stephen Fry (probably most notable recently in V for Vendetta).


Chatty Cathy said...

Interesting picks. Since I am looking for a fun new read, I might check one of these books out. I still think you should have put on your list "Viking Passion." How can a cheesy romance novel with a 3rd grade reading level not be a fun pick?

Lindsay-with-an-A said...

Yeah, I hesitated about posting this at all... might ruin my reputation for intellectual snobbery.

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