The Joy of a Trashy Novel

imagesPeople who work on airplanes are admirable. I watch them take out their laptops, open documents and work as if their lives depended on it. Maybe they do. Then there are the game players who hold their iPads like steering wheels and race through narrow lanes on their screens. It’s hard not to feel sorry for the people who are watching a movie on their iPhone. Seriously, I would not want to watch a movie that expanded across a big screen shrink down to the size of my phone. I’d keep wondering, “Which one is that? Was he the driving the getaway motorcycle or was he the guy who crashed through the window in France?”

On airplanes, I bring a book. The kind you don’t have to put away until you are at 10,000 feet. The kind the flight attendant doesn’t ask you to turn off until the Captain tells you it’s OK to read. The kind that makes you look like a matronly grammar teacher on her way to teach a class and . . . let’s leave her alone.

These airplane-reading books are a slice of heaven. I keep my eyes glued to the pages tPile-of-Bookshrough turbulence. Ignore the man in the next seat whose head is on my shoulder and he’s drooling. Ignore the squalling toddler who is kicking my seat.

For I have the trashy novel and am loving it. I pick them carefully. They have to be well-written and the plot has to capture my attention. I’m willing to suspend a lot of disbelief if the main character is flawed in a believable way and has to struggle to solve his problems.

When I say “trashy,” I don’t mean bodice-busters or Fifty Shades of Gray. I have standards. There are genres I don’t like (but not many).  Give me a good mystery with an interesting protagonist, and I’ll have to be pried off the plane like a dried-on diaper from a baby that’s been asleep since we passed over Cleveland.

pile-of-books-1During the work week I often read non-fiction books on writing, coaching, critical thinking. Art books and magazines for fun. But I do have a weakness for novels, and audiobooks have made many a car trip not just fun but deeply satisfying. Airplane books fall into that category. Yes, I’ve read Middlemarch and Moby Dick, Light in August and The Gulag Archipelago, but I don’t read classics on an airplane. I read books that hook my interest and my imagination. Some of them may even be literature. But all of them hold my attention.

My latest airplane novels:

Inferno by Dan Brown. More of the same, but if you love Italy or are a folklorist, there is a wealth of interesting information buried in the so-so plot.

A book of short stories by Neil Gaiman. That led me to reading The Ocean at the End of the Lane and then onto American Gods and The Ananzi Boys. Not trashy, incredible. Some of the best story-telling I’ve read.See where a book of short stories can lead?

Several by Jodi Picoult. She writes page-turners with interesting characters and interesting plots.

Peter Robinson writes about an English detective, Inspector Banks, who is flawed and troubled and a very stubborn and a good detective. The books are always interesting because they weave the personal life of the characters into the crime plot.

J.A. Jance now lives in Seattle, but she’s from Tucson. She wrote a series that takes place in Tucson (Joanna Brady and another set featuring Diana Ladd Walker and Brandon Walker)  another in Seattle (J.P. Beaumont),  a few where the detectives from each town meet. Then there are some about a woman newsreader who gets bounced from TV because her face is starting to look old (Ali Reynolds). J.A. Jance is prolific and a kind and generous woman who once comforted me with a funny story that made a clever blog. And she writes page turners. If I finish one on a plane, I put a note in it recommending it and leave it in the airplane. Someone will be delighted.

You don’t have to get on an airplane to read an interesting novel you like. Good writers almost always are also voracious readers–of anything. Enjoy an old-fashioned book. You won’t be disappointed.

-Quinn McDonald reads books in bed. Her iPad hurts too much when it drops on her face as she falls asleep.


14 thoughts on “The Joy of a Trashy Novel

    • So true. We have two tubs, but I never use them as tubs. Because I run the water to warm it in the winter (in the summer it comes out of the tap, ready to use), I fill buckets and throw them in the pool to refill it. And I never bathe, just shower, to make up for the fact we do have a pool. But I have read many a book in the tub, and dropped a few, as well!

  1. Quinn,    I enjoy “Randy Wayne White”, he is a marine biologist in Florida. He has a secret past. The characters at the marina in Florida where he lives are different and delightful. They always have a mystery. The used book store in my town can’t keep them in. Cathe Ekas

  2. I love Peter Robinson’s books. And Elizabeth George too, although her output is a lot slower. But her books are a lot thicker as well. I got to meet Peter at a library conference in Alberta, Canada a few years ago. Peter lives in Toronto. He is a very friendly and down-to-earth guy, I really enjoyed his author talk. I will look into Neil Gaiman, I am always looking for new (to me) authors.

    • The next time I get to Toronto, I’ll have to be aware I am in the city of Peter Robinson. I found his books by accident in the library, having run out of another author who was shelved immediately in front of Peter Robinson. Not the best way to discover an author, but I was lucky.

  3. Isn’t Neil Gaiman amazing? The Ocean at the End of the Lane-such a clever blend of fantasy and just plain good writing. One day I will get to Middlemarch.

    Thank you, Quinn, for being such an interesting part of my world.

  4. If you like English police procedurals, I can recommend Graham Hurley. Much better than Peter Robinson in my opinion – as good as, if not better than Ian Rankin!

  5. I like your comments about “getting lost” in books. I like to read mystery novels, The “Murder She Wrote” by Donald Bain are great ones for a lazy afternoon. Historical Fiction is another genre that is good too. Have you ever tried listening to music while reading? I have several instrumentals that I downloaded onto my Kindle and if I adjust the volume, it provides a cushion of sound against the disturbances of traffic or people’s conversations. A friend of mine listens to audio books on her device and in her car.
    Thanks for sharing your picks.

    • The cushion of sound that works for you is great. For me, I begin to listen to the music or read to the beat, so no music for me. It’s a flaw I have, I can’t write or work in the studio with music, either. In 2012, when I traveled by car a lot, I began the habit of listening to audiobooks. There are many places in the desert where you can’t pick up a radio station, so audiobooks were perfect. Now there is always an audiobook in the car, even for short errands. I love listening to books; even traffic doesn’t bother me anymore.

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