Reading Guilty Pleasures

My reading taste tends toward literary most of the time, and I gravitate towards difficult reads. I like a challenge and learning new words. I like there to be a deeper layer of meaning beneath the words on the page, and experience a thrill of discovery about the unreliability of a narrator. I love connecting various unrelated threads together in a way that's not explicitly spelled out by the author. Vagueness, ambiguity, and conflicting points of view are my jam.

But right now, friends, I am exhausted. September/October 2020 has hit like so much of the rest of the year--unrelenting in its awfulness while at the same time passing miserably as more of the same. Every day requires a new evaluation of statistical tradeoffs, the type of thing that human brains excel at. I'm a manager, which means supporting my reports' existential dread while managing my own simultaneously. A Republican congress has defied the dying wish of a feminist icon and Supreme Court justice by shoving through the confirmation of a 35 year-old who wants to create the Republic of Gilead in real life. The streets of the U.S. are patrolled by a police force that actively promotes white supremacist ideals at every turn and kills unarmed Black citizens with alarming regularity.

My life now is nothing but challenge, ambiguity, and unreliable information, so I want a break. A juicy, escapist, plot-driven read that grabs me by the dopamine receptors and keeps me from checking twitter for the thousandth time. I searched the internet for some guilty pleasure reads:

  • Kushiel's Dart - Just your standard BDSM-themed fantasy epic. For a woman who is born into bondage, works as a submissive escort, and is sold across the border into slavery, the main character has agency for days.
  • The Murderbot Diaries - This series of novellas by Martha Wells follows the adventures of a newly conscious/awakened Security robot who manages to disengage their governor module--the bit that makes them do what their owners command. They just want to sit in his armor, left in peace to binge-watch streaming media and frankly, who can blame them? Gets a bit too into the details of how technological systems work that slows down the pace of the story (and this is coming from a tech geek), but I relate to Murderbot in many surprising ways and love watching their character growth.
  • Vampire Academy - The premise of this series is utterly ridiculous. There are good and evil vampires. The good ones don't live forever (boo!) but get to wield elemental magic (yay!). The evil ones want to kill the good ones for...reasons. Despite being able to do cool things like throw fire around, the good vampires have decided that magic should never be used for combat, so sit around and act frail while half-vampires serve as bodyguards. If you can get past that ridiculousness though, the conflict is well done and engaging.
My guilty-pleasure binge session is nearing its end, but I enjoyed it. Have you changed your reading habits throughout the last year in response to the pandemic? In what ways?

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