I’ll not try to convince anyone that, when looking at the last 18 months of the Covid pandemic, the cons DO NOT outweigh the pros.
Lockdowns; political polarity; market volatility; businesses closing; and let’s not forget the obvious, a horrible sickness that sounds like it’s straight out of one of my horror colleague’s novels. In short, there’s been plenty to be pissed about in the last year and a half.
But for me, personally, a few good things have sprung forth from the ashes of the proverbial shitshow that has been the pandemic.
I learned to read better and love what I read more.
About a year ago, I started making a conscious effort to learn the art of speed reading. Since then, I’ve basically doubled my “words per minute” rate. Or, to put it another way, I’m able to read twice as many books now as I could a year ago.
I also decided to fully embrace my inner book nerd and got into the habit of reading more than one book at the same time. Counting a monthly audiobook, I generally read 5 different titles at once now. This newfound literary promiscuity, combined with the speed at which I’m able to “get it on” with each title, has led to something pretty awesome.
I’ve read a shitload of books.
It may shock some, but they haven’t all been horror titles. In fact, the majority have been classic literature, biographies, or hard-boiled detective novels. But there’s another genre I’ve been able to get my fill of. It’s a genre that often gets scoffed at and, more interestingly, it’s a genre that’s different for each individual reader.
I’m referring to the “Guilty Pleasure.”
Or, as my buddy Joel likes to call them, “Sentimental Favorites.” He’s right, too. As long as it’s legal, why should we feel guilty about something that brings us pleasure?
Sentimental Favorite reading can be a breath of fresh air, especially during stressful times. For some, the subject matter might be steamy Harlequin novels. For others, it’s a Louis L’Amour western. I first embraced the idea of Sentimental Favorites while I was deployed to Baghdad back in 2003. I binged on Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt novels.
I recently discovered a (new to me) author, whose work and its recurring hero is very much in the vein of Clive Cussler and Dirk Pitt.
Randy Wayne White has written over 40 books, 28 of them featuring the character “Doc Ford,” a former CIA operative turned marine biologist who can’t help but get into the kind of adventurous trouble that only Dirk Pitt could relate to.
I first discovered White and his Doc Ford novels while vacationing on Sanibel Island, which just happens to be the home of both the author and his fictional main character.
My family and I went to eat at Doc Ford’s Rum Bar. When we arrived, I had no idea the restaurant (several, actually) was named after the character in a book. We made the reservation because the menu looked fantastic, and…well…rum bar. By the time dinner was over, I’d had an awesome conversation with our waitress, learned who Randy Wayne White and Doc Ford were, and found a stack of novels for sale at the hostess stand.
I promptly bought the first novel in the Doc Ford series. A week later, I finished it.
I was hooked.
Sanibel Flats introduces us to Doc Ford and the eclectic cast of characters that hang with him at the marina he calls home. One dead friend, a kidnapped child, and an adventure in the jungles of Central America later, and I’d ordered the second Doc Ford novel before I’d even finished the first.
I’ve found my new “Sentimental Favorite.”
We need these kinds of books. And I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that only fictional books can fit the bill. In addition to the second Doc Ford book, The Heat Islands, I’m also currently reading a 1,000-page biography on Winston Churchill. As much as I love old Winston, his life story does not have the same effect on me as Doc Ford’s insane adventures.
“Mindless fun” probably isn’t the right phrase, and I certainly mean no offense to the talented Mr. White, but when I need to relax at the beach or after a long day in my office, I need a book that doesn’t make me think too much. I just need a great story with fun characters. Randy Wayne White and the Doc Ford novels (so far) deliver on both fronts.
While I highly recommend White’s novels, I understand they might not be for everyone. That’s OK—I won’t judge you. But you owe it to yourself to find and embrace your own Sentimental Favorite.
It’s nothing to feel guilty about.