I hear some people actually clean their houses or tackle organizational projects rather than take on things they’d rather not do. As evidenced by the state of my shoe collection–currently residing in multiple locations across the floor of my closet–I choose other activities. Namely, reading–a somewhat ironic choice since it’s typically reading of another kind that I’m avoiding. For the past several weeks, I’ve powered through multiple novels of varying complexity rather than face a mound of scholarly journal articles I must finish in preparation for my summer school class which begins Thursday.
Only a certain type of book serves my procrastination purposes. While I usually shoot for a tier above the usual “chick lit” offerings, when work avoidance is the ultimate purpose of my reading, I like books that provide distraction without requiring a great deal of concentration. I find myself drawn to mysteries. That and the fact that I also can’t resist a good series made my most recent choices the perfect distraction. Julia Spencer-Fleming’s novels featuring Claire Fergusson, an army helicoptor pilot turned small town Episcopal prient drew me in immediately after I started the first of the group, In The Bleak Midwinter. As a cradle Episcopalian, many of the details Specer-Fleming includes brought back childhood scenes of Rite One services and the liturgy that resides deep within my memory. But the real action takes place outside the sanctuary, when Claire finds herself involved not only with solving a series of crimes but also with the town’s chief of police. I sped through all seven books in the series in a little less than a month, a timeframe which was evidently quick enough to avoid Adventure Guy’s perrenial question in these circumstances which is, “Exactly how many of these books are there, anyway?”
Having gotten my fill of mysteries during the month of May, I was pleased to find a preview copy of Anne Easter Smith, Queen By Right in my mailbox to help me continue in avoidance mode until my book club made its next selection. If I’m not reading mysteries, historical fiction definitely comes in a close second for its distraction potential. Smith’s strength lies in her ability to weave the information gleaned from her meticulous research into entertaining prose. I loved the novel about Cecily Neville, Duchess of York, and the events leading up to the outbreak of the War of the Roses. By far, the most engaging parts of this novel covered Cecily’s childhood and early married life. After all, it’s hard to live an exciting life once you’ve commenced to producing a dozen children. An enduring lesson from Queen By Right? Being a woman in the 15th century left a lot to be desired–things like self-determination and the like.
My favorite recent read, however, was a return to the mystery genre. I heard a review of The Devotion of Suspect X on NPR several months ago and added it to my “to read” list. In an interesting twist, the reader of this Keigo Higashino novel knows the identity of the murderer in this case from near the outset of the book. The remainder of the novel involves the investigation from both sides of the equation–that of the police detectives attempting to solve the crime and the suspects efforts to conceal their actions. I don’t read a great deal of literature in translation, but I found that this book lived up to its reputation as one of the most successful Japanese novels in recent years. I enjoyed both the experience of delving into life in Japan and the surprising twist near the end.
I’ve learned a lot about solving crime, Japanese culture, and British history in the past few weeks. I’ve learned that my Kindle is far superior to my iPad for reading in the sun (and much less risky for taking onto the pool float, thereby achieving the truly perfect reading environment). What I haven’t learned is how to stop time. Unfortunately, that means that I’ll have to postpone any further book reviews until after I’ve read those articles I’ve managed to avoid up until now. Because, yes, they are due. Right about now.