This fall has been the winter of my discontent with the election making me want to pull up the drawbridge to my psyche and mentally barricade myself in a safe place. I know I’m not alone with this because I know too many people in both political parties who are stunned by what has happened to civil discourse in America. What makes it worse is that in today’s 24/7, all-access world there are very few ways to get away from it. Open a browser, check social media and you’re inundated with words of such vitriol, fear, arrogance and insult that it’s like being punched. I’m left staggering around, unable to focus on much of anything and feeling as if something is very wrong even though, in my life, everything is all right.
One of the biggest ways all this has impacted me is my reading, which sounds like no big deal, but it’s my ‘job’. Blogs need content and I need to read lots of it in order to share recommendations with you all—that’s why you stop by. But when I’m trying to understand how someone who brags about his right to sexually assault any woman he wants because he’s a “star” can run for President it doesn’t leave much room in my brain to process anything else.
What it does leave me with is a desire for safety and security. I like fiction that challenges me and even makes me uncomfortable, but in the last two months I’ve turned back to what I call Comfort Reading—fiction that I know will immerse me in the kind of stories that do nothing but entertain. The macaroni and cheese, meat loaf, pancakes, mashed potatoes, chicken noodle soup, chocolate cake kind of reading that requires very little thought, because the author does all the heavy lifting. Here are four authors that I know I can count on for consistently great, escapist reading. The good news? Unlike comfort food comfort reading is not fattening and doing it in excess won’t make you feel sick.
Ah, Inspector Lynley, I think it’s safe to say I’ve had a crush on you since I was introduced to you by Elizabeth George in 1990. As if it weren’t enough that you’re well-dressed, thoughtful, and intelligent George even surrounds you with a cast of characters that never fails to make me laugh and keep me on my toes (I’m looking at you Barbara Havers).
Truly, if you like mysteries AND are an Anglophile than the Lynley series of mysteries are a must-read. Thankfully, there are nineteen so if you start now you could be set for life, whereas I have to wait desperately for the next installation.
Fun note: George is actually an American and lives near Seattle! I don’t know how she does it, but her knowledge and use of British slang, locales, and customs had me fully believing she was British until we moved to the Pacific Northwest and she was mentioned as a local author. p.s. My dream job? To be her research assistant.
For as erudite and elegant as Inspector Lynley is, John Corey is not. He is gruff, profane, hates authority, almost always has trouble with women, but is a brilliant detective. He is one of the reasons I love Nelson DeMille, who has written 7 Corey mysteries—all with a nod to international politics. DeMille is one of those authors who entertains and educates. I learn something from every one of his novels—usually something disturbing about terrorism, but unlike the real world I don’t have to worry because Corey will fix it.
Aside from this series, DeMille has written numerous other great thrillers.
If I’m going to read chick-lit (and I am) then it needs to be reliable. I want bling, misadventures, travel, high society and a plot that wraps itself up neatly in a Tiffany box with a bow. Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic series delivers. Her heroine Becky is sometimes a twit and has very little understanding of finances, but she makes me laugh…and sigh for the yummy clothes in every novel. Sometimes the fun tips over into annoying, but by and large Kinsella can be counted on for reading that has nothing to do with reality.
Well, really this one can’t come as a surprise, I’ve been yammering about Philippa Gregory and my obsession with British historical fiction for months. The Cousins’ War, the War of the Roses, the Boleyns, Seymours, Norfolks and that fat bastard Henry VIII—what’s not to love? Gregory is another author who teaches me something with every novel I read because she does an immense amount of research for each book. Now I’d just like to find her counterpart for the French monarchy because you know there was some crazy stuff going on there.