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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Reading With Your Brain Off

Everyone needs a good mind-dumber from time to time, right?  I don't care if you're the biggest literary snob in the world, dedicating to a book about the same level of concentration required to understand an episode of Jersey Shore is almost always relaxing (therapeutic, even) and fun.

I mix in the occasional genre fiction novel for two reasons: These books are fun in the same way as the silly summer blockbuster movies: They really are just, pure mindless entertainment. I love contemporary literary fiction, and it'll always be my favorite "genre," but once in awhile, I just need to flip the "off" switch on my bean and grab a crime thriller or tale of political intrigue. I wouldn't even call them "guilty pleasures," because I don't feel the least bit guilty about devouring them, putting them on my shelf, and not remembering a damn thing about them the next day.

The second reason is that the signature bad dialogue and preposterous plot twists make them almost as funny as the funniest funny novels. I mean, how do you not laugh at a line like this: Character A hits on attractive female Character B and totally out of the blue, unleashes: "I want to get naked with you." So even if the plot isn't keeping you riveted, there is still plenty of entertainment to be derived.

Lately, I've been in the market for a new genre series to get me through the busy spring travel season. I settled on Vince Flynn's series of thrillers starring CIA agent extraordinaire Mitch Rapp, and plowed through most of the first one in the series, Transfer of Power, on planes to and from New Orleans this week. So far, the book definitely fits the bill — the above dialogue example is pulled directly from Flynn. Thankfully, there are nine more books in the series after this one!

Other than this first Flynn book, I've also enjoyed genre fiction from writers like Greg Iles, Nelson DeMille, Raymond Khoury, Tom Clancy and Daniel Silva.

So who is on your beach-read list?  Which writers have you picked up in an airport bookstore and really enjoyed? Why do you enjoy the occasional genre book as well?

11 comments:

  1. I've read only two "thrillers" in my life, one being a James Patterson and the other was "Last Snow" by Eric Van Lustbader.

    The James Patterson book was abysmal. I couldn't stand the thing and couldn't finish reading it fast enough. I enjoy his young adult series, but his adult books are horrid.

    The Van Lustbader book, however, was really enjoyable. It had some brains to it and I actually had to think to keep up with it, which is what I like in a book no matter what. In looking more into his works, I noticed that he was chosen by Robert Ludlum's estate to continue the Bourne series, so it makes sense that I liked his books.

    However, if I really want to turn my brain off, I pick up anything deemed "women's fiction." Not chick lit, because that is just pure drivel and I end up wanting to burn it, but "women's fiction." You know, Jodi Picoult, Kristin Hannah, etc. Something about other people's drama is just so soothing to me.

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  2. oh, i hear you brother! before i had my baby i was all about reading books i could 'learn something valuable' from, things that stimulate the mind so to speak. Then i stopped getting more than 3 hours uninterrupted sleep in a row (still the case after 7.5 months) and hey presto now i love YA urban fantasy fiction! lately i've been delving into a bit more of the literature side of things but it takes its toll on the old noggin and am back to a YA book right now. my mum says you never really get your brain back once a baby comes along, so maybe i will be dependant upon YA forever.........

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  3. ahhhh, I cannot do without my James Rollins....he is my man! i can inhale his books faster than anything; well his and the Pendergast series by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child. Oh man oh man those are so good! I could gobble them up!

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  4. I re read for this reason. Goin gback to old favourites and switching off the grey cells.

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  5. @Michelle - I've never read James Patterson, but I've always heard what you say - he's awful! But, then again, that's part of the fun. To be a true bibliophile, you gotta read the bad to appreciate the good more, right? Interesting point about the "women's fiction." And, no, I wouldn't have thought you meant chick lit. ;)

    @mummazappa - I've never quite understood the allure of those "urban fantasy" novels - but if it's your equivalent of my Vince Flynn, I say more power to ya!

    @Stacy - Hmmm...Never read James Rollins nor Preston/Child stories. That good, eh?

    @Hagelrat - Great point about rereading! You probably pick up even more the second time through when you're relaxed and your brain's off anyway.

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  6. I could definitely use some of that mindless reading, but I cannot get distracted off my R.House List so in every other aspect of life I'm mindless!!! Try some Greg Iles, entertaining (and I've read a lot his books) but couldn't give you any details .....that is the qualifier yes?

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  7. When I want to just zone out and read a brain number I tread Dean Koontz or John Grisham. Both are pretty darn good and always entertaining. If you want to know my guilty pleasure though (and this is when I need to literally turn off my brain) I read Janet Evanovich "Stephanie Plum" series (oh jeeze now everyone knows my dirty little secret) hahaha! You won't see them reviewed on my blog b/c there are about 20 of these books and they all have the EXACT same plot line: Bounty hunter gal low on money takes a job, kooky grandma, sexual tension with co-worker, goofs up, gets in a pickle, gets out of a pickle, catches bad guy, gets paid, the end.

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  8. @Kris - Oh yeah, Greg Iles counts! I read The Footprints of God several years ago, and only remember something about a supercomputer that turned out to be SO super, it could control the world. Or, something...What's next for you on the Random House list?

    @Lauren - You know, I always see those Janet E books littered throughout used bookstores, and have always wondered what the allure is. Thanks for shedding some light! ;) I've also read a fair amount of Koontz and Grisham, and you're right, both are usually pretty entertaining.

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  9. I completely agree with you! Sometimes you just need to turn the brain off! Which is actually why I started reading YA.
    Lately, though (since I've started blogging, actually), I find that I have so many "brain turned off" books on my plate that I've forgotten what it feels like to read a real book. So what used to be guilty pleasures that didn't make me feel guilty are now starting to make me feel guilty.

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  10. Well, I'm the opposite. I usually read way below my intellectual level. As much as I enjoy classic literary fiction, I can't help reading fluff. Thrillers and sci/fi/fantasy are fun. If they catch my eye, I must read them. So I read literary fiction as a break from my usual.

    One one blog, I ranted along with the blogger about literary fiction readers (book bullies) mocking and belittling us for reading genre books-- especially YA. I'm so pleased to find out that some literary sorts appreciate genre fiction for what it is--fun. Can't imagine only reading one type of book all the time.

    I second the Rollins and Preston/Child thrillers. If you are ever in the mood for pure adrenelin action packed thrillers, check out Matthew Reilly's Scarecrow books-- nothing literary about them-- they are like reading an action movie. Too fun!

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  11. a warning for reading future flynn novels. he forgets to edit quite frequently. one egregious example is a when he starts a paragraph giving a character one age and then two sentences later another age. yes they can be enjoyable, but i put them down because my editor's eye couldn't take it...yes i realize i did not capitalize...see, keen editor's eye.

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