I Need a Better Literary Diet

Reading too much formula fiction is like eating too much candy. It tastes good for a time and then makes you sick.

Predictable Fiction written to formula

This morning as I was going through today’s free book offerings from Book Bub, I decided to pass. I’ve often binged on the formula-written romances and cozy mysteries I’ve found through Book Bub and Kindle Unlimited. After such a reading binge I often feel just as sick in my soul as I do in my body after I eat too much candy at a sitting. I feel bored, dull, and like I’ve wasted a lot of time putting junk in my brain.

Nothing against the authors of these books. They have loyal readers, they are making money, and I could not do as well as they do were I trying to write fiction. Sometimes I enjoy these books. I tend to read them when I’m sick and need distraction without having to think too much. But they are too much like a trip to Disneyland when I might get more out of a trip to Europe. Both will give me a good time, but the memories from a trip to Europe will stay with me much longer and make me think more.

Reading light formula fiction is like spending time hanging out with people you know casually, window shopping and having lunch or dinner, occupying your time pleasantly. It distracts you a bit from the frustrations of daily life without taking you too far away. You come home and say to yourself, “that was fun,” but I’d better fix dinner for the kids now.

Books that Provide More Food for Thought

Photo by João Silas on Unsplash

The light romances and cozies are like eating cotton candy. The stories melt in my brain since they have little substance. Reading a book like Tolstoy’s War and Peace, Huxley’s Brave New World, Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, Orwell’s 1984 or Animal Farm or even Twain’s Huckleberry Finn will not only take me far away but will also give my brain something to chew on.

More modern novels with substance I’ve read recently were The Cross Examination of Oliver Finney by Randy Singer, The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, Eleventh Street: A Story of Redemption by Steven K Bowling, Claire at Edisto by Lin Stepp, and Out of the Blue by Gretta Mulrooney. None of them were simplistic. Their plots dealt with some heavy issues: which religion is true, adoption, infidelity, what can kill a vibrant church, healthy grieving, single parenting, and more. I have reviewed all of these and more on my Bookworm Buffet blog.

As a contributor to Review This Reviews, I’ve shared my reviews of other novels that have made me think . One of my favorites is Touching the Clouds by Bonnie Leon. Kate takes off for Alaska alone in a small plane, on what was to be her wedding day, because she wants to become a bush pilot and escape from those who know her. She’s sure they blame her, as she blames herself, for killing her best friend who flew with her and died when the plane went down in a lake. Readers watch as Kate settles into Anchorage and begins to deliver the mail to isolated communities such as Bear Creek. Her guilt from the past always haunts her and she often faces her fear anew while flying. The book is full of adventure and there’s a touch of romance, but the emphasis is on how Kate grows as she deals with guilt and fear and decides what sort of man she wants to marry.

If you read many of my reviews, you will note that I like a realistic and gripping plot that shows characters I care about in action. The characters must be believable. I want the main characters to show personal growth by the end of the book or series. If they don’t, the book will leave me cold. The books mentioned above kept my mind fully engaged as they entertained me. I felt I’d had steak and vegetables — not cotton candy.

Which novels have given you the most food for thought?

Christian, bereaved adoptive mom, blogger, amateur nature photographer, voracious reader. Married 56 years. Central Coast of California. https://barbrad.com

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