What I’d read – and avoid – right now

Spending more time at home + avoiding social media because of its incompatibility with my anxiety levels = I’m pretty sure my goal of 70 books for 2020 is going to be done way before December πŸ˜› (That, or I’ll have all classes and all races at max level in World of Warcraft before the end of the summer. Can go both ways).

And since I seem to function better if my reads are aligned with my state of mind, here are a few thoughts on how I intend to achieve that πŸ™‚

General considerations

  • I’ll be avoiding certain themes:
    • epidemics and contagions, because I really don’t need these
    • apocalypse and post-apocalypse: same, I think it’ll tend to fuel things that I don’t need right now
    • anything where people are overly social, because that just feels WEIRD right now, at least in a contemporary setting. In the book I just finished yesterday, there’s a few “restaurants-and-bars” scenes, and it really felt… disconnected and weird and “this would not happen this way right now”.
  • I’m strongly considering re-reads of “feel-good” books, because that’s never a bad move when comfort is needed. Re-reads also have the advantage of knowing where I’m standing with regards of the themes I want to avoid.
  • As far as new books are concerned, my current train of thoughts is along these lines:
    • Escapism is good, give me all the escapism. For me, this probably means a mix of “romance with guaranteed happily ever after” book and non-grimdark science-fiction. Probably avoid settings around war or happening before the discovery of antibiotics.
    • Paradoxically (considering I just talked about escapism πŸ˜‰ ) I’m feeling drawn to close-quarter stories, assuming said situation is a “plot device” and not the main reason everything goes to shit πŸ˜› Think “cosy mysteries” mood, but probably avoiding “extreme isolation” books.
    • It’s probably easier to find “safe bets” with non-fiction right now – well-chosen biographies, books centered about inner life (creativity, meditation…), technical books.

Some suggestions

Given my own set of constraints, here are a few things, in no particular order, that I’d recommend and deem as “hopefully safe” (my memory being what it is….. mistakes may happen).

  • Almost all of Becky Chambers (I’d avoid To Be Taught, If Fortunate): my own literary hot chocolate, the books I’ve re-read most in these past few years. I don’t think I’m due for a re-read just yet, buuut we’ll see.
  • Gretchen McCulloch’s Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language – this is actually a perfect time to brush on your internet communication πŸ˜€
  • Agatha Christie looks like a safe bet – I’d personally avoid And Then There Were None but I think that’s the only one coming to mind in that case.
  • I think most of Isaac Asimov’s Robots would work, with a caveat for The Naked Sun (see “open for consideration” section) – small caveat because there’s a part of the population that’s pretty germaphobe.
  • Tobias Klausmann’s Slingshot series – definitely safe, absolutely good.
  • My existing meditation practice has helped me tremendously – but I think more by the fact that I’m “used” to doing it than I would if I was just starting. Still, if you’re interested in the question, Andy Puddicombe’s The Headspace Guide to Meditation & Mindfulness and Dan Harris’ Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics are IMO good introductions. They’re kind of linked to the corresponding guided meditation apps – which are both very useful in my opinion.
  • Jessie Mihalik’s Polaris Rising/Aurora Blazing – pure scifi romance escapism. I’ll probably give a try to her other series.
  • I enjoyed the few Tessa Dare romances I’ve read so far; I believe them to be safe (within my own constraints) despite the historical setting, and I’ll probably dig more into her books soon, because they’re good and funny and give me the right happy feelz.
  • I’m also probably going to dig more into Courtney Milan’s books – her Cyclone series would definitely be a “recommend” on this list (contemporary setting, but characters are not overly social).

Some books I’d avoid right now

There’s a few things I read more or less recently that I would avoid right now. I’m just going to put a couple of “trigger warnings”, hoping that I’m not spoiling too much there. Some of them are completely obvious, some of them possibly less so. And the things I’m avoiding may actually be the things some other people are craving for! πŸ™‚

  • James S.A. Corey’s The Expanse series, especially books 1-4 (later books are probably okay) – TW contagion/epidemic.
  • Becky Chambers’ To Be Taught, If Fortunate – TW cabin fever.
  • Connie Willis’ The Doomsday Book – TW epidemic
  • Cory Doctorow’s Radicalized – especially the Radicalized story (TW bad healthcare) and The Mask of the Red Death story (TW contagion, cabin fever)
  • Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend – TW epidemic, post-apo
  • Stephen King’s The Stand – TW epidemic

Some “open for consideration” books

And then there are a few where I’m on the fence πŸ˜‰ As in: “I think they would actually work pretty well for me, but I don’t feel comfortable suggesting/recommending them to other people” πŸ™‚

  • John Scalzi’s Lock In and Head on. The premise IS about an epidemic, but the books happen years after said epidemic, in a world that’s recovered and rose to the challenge in a good way. I’d absolutely avoid Unlocked, though (which tells the story of said epidemic).
  • Isaac Asimov’s The Naked Sun – the setting is a world where “social distancing” has been cranked to 11; I’m actually strongly in the mood to re-read this one, but it may feel weird to consider that society right now.
  • Andy Weir’s The Martian – I do believe that it’s funny enough that it works, but I’d be wary about a story of extreme isolation.

Now, my dear readers: do you have suggestions? I’m also interested in your criteria of inclusion/exclusion, if such exist!