For years I believed that if I read anything other than non-fiction I was wasting my time. I knew that, in one short lifetime, there were more books I absolutely must read than there was time to read them.
Or, if I did tackle some fiction, it had to be the ?good stuff.? What snobs would call literary. Titles that had won prizes like the Giller or Pulitzer. Or books that dominated best seller lists for months. Projects that were adapted for the big screen. Others that were part of Oprah’s or some other book club selection. Quite often, but not always, they earned the hype.
Then, somewhere along the way, something shifted. I tired of the miracles glibly promised in the self-help titles I was buying. There are basic universal truths that remain immutable no matter how creatively or cleverly or often they are repackaged. I tired of the ?should read? titles that weren’t worth the hard work of plowing through them. I tired of finding that my interest in a particular topic waned by the time I got to ?the? book that would enlighten me.
I confined my easy reading to vacation reading. Most publishers launch what they market as ?beach reads? for light, summer-drink-in-your-hand, sun-at-your-back relaxing. But, realistically, how many days out of the year is the average person on vacation?
I always have an audio book playing in the car. The boredom of highway driving or the white-knuckle frustration of city traffic is mitigated with a gripping story. What, I’m here already?
It was probably audio books that got me on a mystery/thriller kick. A talented reader brings the book and its various characters to life. Because I loved Tami Hoag’s Ashes to Ashes on audio, I then set out on a mission to find her other titles in paperback. I love the complexity of her stories and the twists and turns leading to the ultimate surprise ending. Her recurring good guy characters are richly drawn, and flawed but likeable, dedicated professionals. Somehow I can distance myself from the incredible violence.
I began devouring the Hoag titles at every available stolen moment: before bed, during meals, in the car, in waiting rooms. Because I was reading them faster than she can possibly write them, I had to pull back and save the last few titles. In between, I made room for a Lisa Gardner. Next I might have to choose a Rick Mofina, Joseph Finder, Michael Connelly, Lynwood Barclay, James Lee Burke, or Lee Child.
I’ve just finished an easy read called Tales from the Yoga Studio. It’s not a mystery but I’m into the early stages of a yoga practice myself so this appeals to me.
What all these books have in common is their ability to transport me from my own life using great plotting, strong characters, and visual imagery. they’re a great (harmless) strategy for unwinding after a long, hard day. They are my current guilty pleasure, from where I sit.
Hazel Anaka’s first novel is Lucky Dog. Visit her website for more information or follow her on Twitter @anakawrites..