Books have been my escape these past weeks of stressful personal situations. Ever since I’ve been foolish enough to take up the writing life, it’s been hard not to read like a writer.
In times of crisis, the process of reading falls back to what it once was, the pure pursuit of pleasure. (Horrid alliteration, but in the spirit of not taking things too seriously, I’ll let it stand.)
I’ve found myself reading across genre, and wanted to share my ‘escape books’ with you.
For fun, I’ll post the titles and the first few lines of each.
— First up, FIND HER by Lisa Gardner.
You start off with one of her books, and you’re guaranteed a few lost hours. I needed those in the past few nights I wasn’t sure I wanted to sleep, and Gardner kept me company.
These are the things I didn’t know:
When you first wake up in a dark wooden box, you’ll tell yourself this isn’t happening. You’ll push against the lid, of course. No surprise there. You’ll beat at the sides with your fists, pummel your heels against the bottom. You’ll bang your head, again and again, even though it hurts. And you’ll scream. You’ll scream and scream and scream. Snot will run from your nose. Tears will stream from your eyes. Until your screams grow rough, hiccuppy. Then, you’ll hear sounds that are strange and sad and pathetic, and you’ll understand the box, truly get, hey, I’m trapped in a dark wooden box, when you realize those sounds come from you.
— I read the next book because it’s been recently recommended in all the book groups I’m part of, with a promise of being transported to an absolutely different world. While I’m not a huge fan of the romantic aspect of this book, it is extremely well plotted, and I can see why it is so popular. It was an excellent escape read, and I finished it in about seven hours that would have proven torturous without the aid of a book. I don’t know if I’ll pick up the sequel rightaway, but maybe yes, on another day when I need to leave the real world behind.
A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES by Sarah J. Maas.
The forest had become a labyrinth of snow and ice.
I’d been monitoring the parameters of the thicket for an hour, and my vantage point in the crook of a tree branch had turned useless. The gusting wind blew thick flurries to sweep away my tracks, but buried along with them any signs of potential quarry.
Hunger had brought me farther from home than I usually risked, but winter was the hard time. The animals had pulled in, going deeper into the woods than I could follow, leaving me to pick off stragglers one by one, praying they’d last until spring. They hadn’t.
— Audiobooks have been my mainstay since the beginning of the pandemic, and while doing a thousand and one chores, I managed to finish the tome that has been on my TBR book pile forever. This is many books within one, and while the structure, the characters, and the atmosphere fascinated me, what blew me away was that it truly replicated my childhood experience, of reading. Like reading the Arabian Nights. Or A Tale of Two Cities. Back in those days when I read huge tomes and lived more in that world than my own. I might re-read Shadow of the Wind if I don’t die anytime soon, because it’s an extended love letter to books, authors, reading, and readers.
THE SHADOW OF THE WIND by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, Lucia Graves (Translator)
A secret’s worth depends on the people from whom it must be kept. My first thought on waking was to tell my best friend about the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. Tomás Aguilar was a classmate who devoted his free time and his talent to the invention of wonderfully ingenious contraptions of dubious practicality, like the aerostatic dart or the dynamo spinning top. I pictured us both, equipped with flashlights and compasses, uncovering the mysteries of those bibliographic catacombs. Who better than Tomás to share my secret? Then, remembering my promise, I decided that circumstances advised me to adopt what in detective novels is termed a different modus operandi. At noon I approached my father to quiz him about the book and about Julián Carax–both world famous, I assumed. My plan was to get my hands on his complete works and read them all by the end of the week. To my surprise, I discovered that my father, a natural-born librarian and a walking lexicon of publishers’ catalogs and oddities, had never heard of The Shadow of the Wind or Julián Carax. Intrigued, he examined the printing history on the back of the title page for clues.
— I found the next read, a wonderful, post-apocalyptic urban fantasy set in Nigeria, in what I consider the best way to stumble upon a book that will hold you captive–by walking along library shelves and picking up a novel at random. It is a different world in ways more than one, and kept me turning the pages.
DAVID MOGO GODHUNTER by Suyi Davies Okungbowa
This is going to be a bad job.
I know it from the angular smile of the wizard-ruler seated before me. I know it because I should sense the icy heat of his godessence on my collarbone, but feel absolutely nothing. I know it because right outside this handcrafted palace, the rest of Lagos mainland is a dank, brooding, perilous hog pen; yet this foyer smells like orange air freshener, and you can only ignore the stink of your own shit for so long.
— And for the last book, which I haven’t yet finished, I went back to my first love, short stories. Balzac was one of the finest writers of his time, and his stories are a masterclass in suspense and revelation. I started reading them for entertainment, but have been studying them for the way he provides psychological and social insight, without being didactic.
SELECTED SHORT STORIES by Honoré de Balzac
The clock of the little town of Menda had just struck midnight. At that moment a young French officer, leaning on the parapet of a long terrace which bordered the gardens of the chateau de Menda, seemed buried in thoughts that were deeper than comported with the light-hearted carelessness of military life; though it must be said that never were hour, scene, or night more propitious for meditation. The beautiful sky of Spain spread its dome of azure above his head. The scintillation of the stars and the soft light of the moon illumined the delightful valley that lay at his feet. Resting partly against an orange-tree in bloom, the young major could see, three hundred feet below him, the town of Menda, at the base of the rock on which the castle is built. Turning his head, he looked down upon the sea, the sparkling waters of which encircled the landscape with a sheet of silver.
What books have you read lately that you’d recommend? Did you ride along for my month of crime novel recommendations in April? Have you read any of the above books?
My lit crime novel, The Blue Bar will be out this October with Thomas & Mercer. It is already available for preorders. Add it to Goodreads or pre-order it to make my day.
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The Shadow of the Wind sounds good. I also enjoy Lisa Gardner from time to time. Thanks for visiting my blog last week.
The Shadow of the Wind was on my TBR for quite a while–I’m glad I read it. Lisa Gardner is my go-to escape read. She’s amazing, and I’m bowled over that she blurbed my book!
Thank you for sharing!!.. it depends on the mood my heart is in.. today it is a mystery (Agatha Christie), tomorrow perhaps a love story and, of course, we cannot rule out Winnie the Pooh or Dr Seuss.. 🙂
Until we meet again..
May you always be blessed
with walls for the wind,
a roof for the rain,
a warm cup of tea by the fire,
laughter to cheer you,
those you love near you,
and all that your heart might desire.
I think Winnie the Pooh has more wisdom than a lot of books combined. Thanks for stopping by,
What I wouldn’t do to get back to reading. This is a wonderful list. I have managed to listen to two audio books but haven’t completed them yet – You are the placebo and Lean In.
Audiobooks were my way back into reading as well–the pandemic had completely shot my focus. I’ll look up the books you’re reading!
Hi Damyanti. I’ve finally taken the time to sign up for a review copy of BB. Can’t wait to read it.
Great selection of books! I’ve never been disappointed by Lisa Gardner, and I love that you included Honoré de Balzac’s classic short stories. I’m on book three of the Joe Pickett series by CJ Box, and just finished Pretty Little Wife by Darby Kane.
Like. the cover design of Shadow of the wind.
I’ve read some of Lisa Gardner’s work, but not that one. I’ve been on a happy ending kick for a while now – don’t see that changing anytime soon 🙂
Gardner is amazing. If I could write a chapter like her, I’d be grateful. I find myself leaning towards happy endings, too.
I’ve been genre hopping, too. I’ve covered thrillers, cozy mysteries, and biography this past month. I may have to continue because I’ve really enjoyed the variety of styles and stories. Thanks for your list, I’ve noted a few to add to my list.
You’re welcome, Lee. You have an email from me!
I’ve been reading a number of new(ish) releases – Lincoln Highway & Harlem Shuffle among them. Both very enjoyable and recommended. I adored Pere Goriot, so will seek out that Balzac book of short stories as it’s a form I love when its done well. The Godhunter book also sounds interesting and I’ve been enjoying the work of Nigerian authors so much. Many thanks for the recommendations, even though my TBR list is probably spitting blood & feathers 😀
Thanks for your recommendations as well, and both Lincoln Highway and Harlem Shuffle are on my TBR. If I could get a time machine, I’d probably use it to steal time off to read extra books.
These sound like very interesting books. Thanks for sharing them. I am re-reading a few old favourites currently.
Re-reading books is such a comforting exercise. Like visiting old friends.
Loved ALL the openings, Damyanti. It’ll be hard to choose just one to add to the TBR. 🙂
I recently discovered Karin Slaughter and have been bingeing on her Grant County and Will Trent series.
Ah! I hope you enjoy it Stace 🙂 Let me know how you like it.
I recently finished The Shadow of the Wind too! It was certainly a compelling reading experience, despite some unlikely coincidences. But that’s fiction, isn’t it?
Yes, absolutely. Despite the coincidences, it is a riveting and atmospheric narrative. And I loved Fermin, and his dialogues. 🙂
I think you must be a speed reader like my daughters. When I lived in India I used to buy loads of books from the second hand book store and they would devour them quickly. I tested them once to see if they were really reading them and they could give me the gist of the story after reading quickly. I like to read slowly and think about it.
These are my reads over a month, and I’m not done with the Balzac yet. I’m anything but a fast reader, Ian.
I’ve been reading back issues of Story Magazine while I try to get caught up on writing book reviews.
That must be fun!
I read for education, for comfort, for escape. And sometimes find all three in the same book. My unread towers are huge – and growing.
I am sorry for your difficult times and very glad you have books. And more books.
Thank you so much for your kind words Sue! 🙂 I wish I could say I hope you get to the top of that tower, but we all know, it’s never going to truly shrink.
I’ve got so many books waiting to be read!
I have a pile myself, devouring them as soon as I can 🙂
Love your list. Balzac too! I’m not sure I’ll follow up and read one. I just finished Volcano Lover by Susan Sontag. I’d been reading too many Brits but loved Kings and Lovers by Lily King. The protagonist is unique and strong in Weike Wang’s Joan is Okay. I trying to turn towards books that were published during the years of my own books setting. Too often I go to new issues. And my art books on the stacks are about contemporary artists.
Thank you so much. I’m glad you like them 🙂 Ah… I see your journey, Good Luck!
What a collection, Damyanti. I just read a Lisa Gardner book, too. She’s good, isn’t she?
She’s tremendous! I can’t get over the fact that she had kind things to say about my book.
Speaking as an outsider (meaning not you or her), it makes perfect sense to me.
We all need at least one friend like you :). Thanks, Jacqui.