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.

Sincerely,

Textbook Overload

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.

 

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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.

 

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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

 

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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!

Happy reading,

The book doctor.

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It seemed only fitting to begin this site with an optimistic title, helpfully one that I only got to reading quite recently, in fact.

It is with great expectations that I begin the Book Doctor site at last, after many years thinking about it and with much encouragement from those who have benefited from my book prescriptions.

Great Expectations is a book I would very much recommend as a gift to recent high school or college graduates, if they haven’t already read it in school. As a book that cautions against decisions made in the late teens early twenties that the main character comes to regret, perhaps reading this will breed some caution?

I probably would have completely ignored that sort of advice at that age, so I may be all wrong with this one. Perhaps this is a better read for those of us who have a few regrets later on in life, but not too many. I certainly felt that I wasn’t so badly off once I finished the book.

It’s also a good classic if you are in the mood to feel studious or are nostalgic for high school English class in the fall.

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