I have recently rediscovered reading for pleasure. It’s not that I ever lost interest in it; more a combination of lack of time and not finding anything that really met all of my qualifications. I am picky.
You see, with all the stresses of my day-to-day life, I have very little tolerance for added stress in my entertainment, be it books, TV, or movies. And so some may say that my tastes have become simplistic.
I want characters I will care about and well-crafted interesting stories. I won’t tolerate getting invested in a character only to have them killed off. A little drama is good, too much drama it’s time for Food Network. (Nothing really horrible ever happens on Food Network.) Happy endings are required.
I recently devoured five books. It started when the title of a book I read years ago (probably back in high school) popped into my head and I found it was available to read with an app on my phone. Then I read the sequel and that got me to looking for more books. I found a new author, sucked down two titles by her, and then found an old favorite author had written a new book with characters I knew and liked. So I read that too.
All of these titles were totally engrossing; I couldn’t put them down. This led to some sleepless nights as I plowed through to reach the end of the story and see my fictional friends through to their happy ending. But I’m not writing about those titles tonight.
Having been bitten once again by the reading bug, but needing more sleep than I did back in my book devouring youth, left me with a bit of a predicament. I wanted to keep reading. It would be nice to read a chapter or two before I go to bed…provided I could stop there.
So this just added one more qualification to my already picky list. I needed a book that was enjoyable enough to read, but I also needed to be able to put it down.
Right now that book is Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol. It’s not that I don’t care about the hero, Robert Langdon. Back when the book was at the height of its popularity, I enjoyed Langdon’s exploits in the Da Vinci Code. (Didn’t sleep much during that one.) But Mr. Brown’s books adhere to a very strict formula. His formula is so strict that I was actually too annoyed by it to read Angels and Demons.
When I find an author and character I like, I will usually go through one book after another till the list runs out. So after enjoying the Da Vinci Code, I picked up Angels and Demons. A few chapters in I could see the formula at play and it was so obvious that I could not get past it. (I did enjoy the movie when it came out on cable, but that was largely due to Tom Hanks.)
I won’t go into the formula here, because I don’t want to spoil the books for anyone. But I will say that this time it’s a comfort. Langdon is Brown’s cash cow, so I can be pretty sure he’ll live through the book. And the story is engaging, especially since this time it’s set someplace I’ve actually been, Washington, DC. But after each chapter, I’m able to say, “enough for now” and I don’t have that anticipation or anxiety that leaves me needing to find out what happens next. In fact, I realized today that, unlike my other recent reads, I can go days between reading one chapter and the next without even wondering what will happen.
And that’s exactly what I need right now.