This is a time when, for me at least, owning a cell phone feels like a curse. Having that little device at my fingertips makes it far too easy to check the news obsessively. I’ve never been one to care about Facebook or other social media, but the recent uptick in political events has me checking my phone like a teenager in love. I've found myself scrolling through the news at dinner (rude), at stoplights (dangerous), in the middle of meetings (risky), and in the elevator (no wifi).
But I've also embraced an opposite response to the crush of political news. Every day I pick up a book and ignore the world around me. And that's the best part of my day.
Here are a few books to read when you just want to get away. The purpose is not to close your mind with fiction. It's to give you a break. Republican or Democrat, we can all use a break sometimes:
Go to Montana with The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig - Doig, who lived here in Seattle (you can read more about him here), has a voice and a view of life and people that will sweep you away. Reading him, you can't help but 1. be transported, and 2. be happier and more optimistic when you return. Runners up: A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean and Montana: 1948 by Larry Watson.
Solve a Mystery with The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown - Oh no he didn't. He didn't just recommend Dan Brown as an alternative to the news. Yes, I did. Because reading this book will take most people away to a different place. In the "oops, I did it again" category, you could pick up The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo instead. Or you could read one of my favorite discoveries in the past couple years: the work of Louise Penny. Try her series of Chief Inspector Armand Gamache novels, which begins with Still Life.
Go Back in Time with Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel - To be honest, I liked the book a lot more than I liked the TV series. Mantel is so effective at putting you into the head of Thomas Cromwell, you may notice that you're wearing more velvet around the house. Another option is Philippa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl, which gives a different perspective of the Tudor Court. If you're not interested in Tudor England, there's always WWII. Try Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale. Or, dare I suggest All the Light We Cannot See?
Visit Another World with The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell - When I first read this, it kind of blew my mind. A Jesuit priest in space is tasked with making first contact with an alien species. It's deeply philosophical, which is either 1. a reason to read it, or 2. a reason not to read it. If you're looking for something different, try Gail Carriger's steampunk series--starting with Soulless, the first book in the Parasol Protectorate series, which is a comedy of manners set in Victorian London, full of werewolves, vampires, dirigibles, and tea-drinking. You could go to Mars with The Martian (the best-selling novel that sparked the Matt Damon movie). Or check out Richard K. Morgan's Altered Carbon, a noir science fiction that I recently reread and loved.
Maybe you'd rather read a love story. Maybe you want to read a novel that will scare the thoughts out of your head. If so, I hope you do that (there are lots of great book lists for ideas on Goodreads). We spend enough time in our own heads. It's good to get into someone else's once in a while. What will you be reading?
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