Reading inertia

I feel like I’m in a bit of a reading rut these days. I’ve picked up a few books, started reading them, and abandoned them, unfinished. Usually less than halfway through.

This happens to me every so often, and I think it comes from a kind of overload. Too much good literature and I get feeling a bit bloated and logy. Too much literary turkey dinner, if I may make a bad analogy.

This is all my fault, too. I rarely read anything other than what people like to call “literary fiction.” More character- than plot-driven stories. Sometimes very dark themes. What draws me to this “genre” is that every once in a while, I find an author who has such command of the English language that I can tell s/he is playing/painting with words. Duluth by Gore Vidal. The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt. Two virtuoso performances. Rich reading.

But now, I’m left with the feeling like I’m too full to read. Like I need to go on a diet of sorts. Or detox. I don’t know.

I was in a similar spot a couple of years ago. No books would hold my interest. Until. Aimlessly wandering in fiction stacks of our public library, I happened upon The First Casualty by Ben Elton. That name made my eyes go wide. The co-writer of one of the finest TV comedy series (Blackadder) was also a best-selling novelist. The final season of Blackadder was set in the trenches of World War I, and here was a book that told of a murder investigation in those same trenches.

And. It wasn’t what I would normally call literary fiction. It was populated by interesting characters, but it was the plot that kept everything going. Elton, having written for TV and film, knows a thing or two about pacing. I started reading the first couple of pages there in the library and I was hooked.

I took it home and devoured it in less than a day. It was a page-turner unlike any I’d read before. Each page made me want more. When I finished it, I went back to the library and borrowed more of his books. Those done, I revisited books I’d previously read. Started reading one of Stephen Fry’s novels, realized I’d read it before, but continued on because it was a damn good read.

The momentum from that initial thrust by Ben Elton has lasted up until quite recently. I guess I’m looking for that next book, the one that will open my eyes again. I guess that makes this post the most round-about way of asking, “Hey, you know a good book I can read?”

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19 Responses to Reading inertia

  1. Have you read anything else by Ben Elton? I love DEAD FAMOUS. Big Brother reality show meets a mystery novel. Fantastic.

    Also, for something really different, pick up Jacqueline Carey’s KUSHIEL’S DART if you haven’t read it already. 🙂

    • Oh, and I just read THE PASSION by Jeanette Winterson. Highly recommend it.

    • Hah, I didn’t see your note when I left mine about the Carey series. Now Ben *has* to look it up. 😉

    • Ben Wiebe says:

      I have Kushiel’s Dart, but I found it too highly populated. I’ll pick it up again someday to give it another go.

      I read Dead Famous right after The First Casualty. And Blind Faith right after that.

      One that looks really interesting is the novel you sent me: Mister Sandman. Looking forward to digging into that one. 🙂

      • Oh right, I bet I did send you that one. 🙂

        It is highly populated, but that’s part of what makes it an interesting series. Lots of intrigue.

        I think you’ll quite like Mister Sandman. And if you do, there’s other Barbara Gowdy I’d recommend. (Her short stories We So Seldom Look on Love are quite good too.)

  2. Ever read the Kushiel’s Legacy series (Carey), or the Coldfire Triolgy (Friedman)? Both opened my eyes and shook me up, in very different ways.

    • Ben Wiebe says:

      I started Kushiel’s Dart a couple of years ago, but it is such a crowded book. Way too many characters for me. But it’s one of those that I will revisit. Have not tried Friedman (adds to the long list). I did read the first of Anne Rice’s Sleeping Beauty series recently. It was an eye opener, and probably the last book I actually read straight through.

      • I agree on the crowding with Carey, I mean she’s worse than Martin or Jordan that way. However, after the first 1/3 of book one you’re past all the intro’s, and then the story overwhelms the titles and names. I also loved the Sleeping Beauty series. Too much fun, and I may need to reread those again soon.

  3. I just finished Soldiers’ Pay: Faulker. His first novel and very different from everything else he’s written. After that, I read Tina Fey and Mindy Kaling books because I was on vacation. But these are way girly and ridiculous.

    • Ben Wiebe says:

      I’ll have to give Soldiers’ Pay a look. Not a huge fan of Faulkner, so if it’s different, it may be worth a try. And Tina Fey is awesome, girly or otherwise.

  4. gabryyl says:

    Try the Agent Pendergast series by Lincoln & Child. Love a mystery with odd supernatural turns and amazing literary feel. (Have yet to read one that I haven’t had to look up meaning of at least 2 words.) Their individual works are great, too.

  5. Years ago I put down Redwall by Brian Jacques not because it was bad, but because I was all epic-ed out. Sometimes I just need to pick up some candy, something light and fluffy, enjoyable and easy to read.

  6. Jen says:

    The Dresden Files are a good, mostly light, read. I also recommend Kushiel’s Dart. I’m on the third in the series, and once all the character claptrap intro’ing is over, if it has engaged you, you really care about the main characters. Plus, the lush imagery is, well, lush.

    • Ben Wiebe says:

      Awesome suggestions. I will try Kushiel’s Dart again. Some day. I think. I did really enjoy the first of Anne Rice’s “Sleeping Beauty” trilogy, after all. Also, I need to read more Scandinavian noir. The good stuff is really great.

  7. Monica Kaye says:

    I am currently reading “The Lonely Polygamist” by Bradley Udall. It was recommended to me by one of my agent friends with a sense of humor very similar to my own who told me it was the funniest book he read in the last year. Take from that what you will.

    Also, I really like the Amanda Feral books by Mark Henry. He’s a master of dark humor. Start with Happy Hour of the Living Dead.

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