And today, we have our first letter to the Book Doctor!
Dear Book Doctor:
What would you suggest for someone who has been doing mostly academic reading for the past few years and really wants to burst back into pleasure reads? This person has a stack of books ready to go but wants to buy something you suggest and put it on top.
Dear Textbook Overload,
I know this conundrum well. When I was in graduate school, I got so sick of reading dense psychoanalytic texts that I finally gave myself a loophole- I was allowed to read Harry Potter as long as I was riding on public transit to and from class. (This was in SF, not Los Angeles of course) This had a bit of a strange side effect- I ended up taking longer and more inefficient routes in order to get more time reading something that felt less grueling.
Now, I happen to know this reader well and I will not suggest Harry Potter for your case.
I have several options, from the most simple balm for the brain to the more adventurous and challenging. It is my experience that those coming off an academic bender either want to go whole hog with fiction and really get into it, or they just need something that will calm the synapses. I have been in both places.
Suggestion #1: Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter.
For the totally sizzled mind that just wants a lovely story.
This is the book I have been slinging at everyone at the moment, in all fairness. But it is a delight. Bouncing between 1950s Italy and contemporary LA, it is 100% satisfying diversion and beautifully written, as befitting the title. A gem. Who wouldn’t love a book where Richard Burton is a character? I loved it so much.
Suggestion #2: Longborne by Jo Baker.
For the brain that has just a little bit of power left.
I listened to this on audio during my terrible commute from Silverlake to the west side of LA and found it enchanting.
This book is quite clever- a story of the below-stairs world in the home of the Bennets of Pride and Prejudice. If you are an Austen geek like me, or enjoy period stories, this will be a diverting treat. Again, better for the slightly less sizzled brain, because it’s fun to pick up on how the story weaves between the below-stairs world Baker has created and the original plot line of Pride & Prejudice.
I was a bit sizzled from work myself when listening to this one, and I was charmed completely.
Suggestion 3: Bark by Lorrie Moore
Just saw this lady speak at the Aloud series and she read a full story from the collection. It was clever and witty and charming. And took you right into her world, which is a place worth visiting.
If you have a real desire to feel more of a pull into literature and you don’t feel completely zapped by textbooks, this is the one for you.
Those are my suggestions.
Please report back and let us know what you think of them!
The book doctor.