Not long ago, Moira, at Clothes in Books, brought up a very interesting question: what books would you recommend for someone who is convalescing? It isn’t an easy question. Books that are very bleak, or very long, or that explore deep philosophical issues, might not be the best choice. People who are convalescing may need to rest a lot, and they may not have the energy to ‘go dark,’ keep pace with a thriller, or really think deeply about issues. At the same time, just because people are recovering from an illness or surgery doesn’t mean they want ‘frothy’ books or badly written books.
There’s also the matter of personal taste, of course. Some series are more appealing than others, whether or not a person is in good health. So, making recommendations almost always carries a certain risk. That said, though, Moira asked a good question, and I decided to offer a few suggestions.
I’ll start by saying I couldn’t recommend just one book, or even just one author. I’ll also add that all of my suggestions are crime fiction (which should surprise exactly no-one). That said, here are a few of my ideas.
Alexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency Series
There are several things I like about this series for the person who’s convalescing. For one thing, none of the books is very long. So, someone who needs to rest, and may not have a lot of energy, can still enjoy the books. I also like the fact that the pace of these books is leisurely, but (at least for me) not plodding. It’s not the sort of series that wears a person out. And yet, the stories are engaging, and the characters interesting. There’s also the optimistic nature of the series. Even when things don’t work out, or there’s bad news, or… the stories have hope. Someone who’s convalescing isn’t likely to want to dwell on how bad things could get. Finally, the setting is exotic enough that it can draw the reader into a fascinating different place.
Cathy Ace’s Caitlin Morgan Series and W.I.S.E. Series
Ace writes traditional-style mysteries. One of her series features Caitlin ‘Cait’ Morgan, a criminologist and academician who teaches at the University of Vancouver. Her W.I.S.E. series features four women (one Welsh, one Irish, one Scottish, and one English) who set up an investigation agency. The stories mostly take place in the Welsh town of Anwen by Wye. Both of these series include whodunit-type plots that invite the reader to stay interested and keep turning and swiping pages. They both feature appealing (well, at least to me) settings and characters as well. Since they’re both traditional-style series, they don’t feature gore or a ‘high octane’ pace. Yet, they are not without substance. To me, they strike a fine balance between engaging and keeping the reader’s attention without being too much for a reader who is recovering from an illness or surgery.
Martin Walker’s Benoît ‘Bruno’ Courrèges Series
Martin Walker’s Benoît ‘Bruno’ Courrèges series strikes a similar balance. Bruno is Chief of Police in the small Périgord town of St. Denis. He’s also a member of the community, who’s woven into the town’s life. The mysteries he investigates are not light, ‘easy’ cases. But neither are they gory or bleak. And they invite the reader to engage in the story. They make their points without getting overly philosophical or ‘weighty,’ and the pace moves along without being tiring. While they’re not what you’d call very short books, they’re also not doorstop-length, either. A person who’s convalescing would, at least in my opinion, be able to enjoy the series without getting exhausted.
Peter Robinson’s Alan Banks Series
There often comes a point in convalescence when a person is almost, but not quite, ready to rejoin the world, so to speak. People in that situation may not be at the point of going back to work yet, but they are getting some energy back. And they may be ready for a series that sometimes gets a bit darker. That’s where Peter Robinson’s Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Alan Banks series may come in handy. These novels take place mostly in and around the Yorkshire town of Eastvale. They begin, in Gallows View, as Banks and his family move from London to Eastvale and follow Banks’ personal and professional life. The novels aren’t really overly long, and they’re not what you’d call bleak or gory. The focus is often on the whydunit as well as the whodunit, and Robinson doesn’t go for ‘shock value’ as he writes. That said though, these books aren’t always very easy, light reading, and sometimes address more challenging subjects. For me, that makes them a solid choice for the convalescent who’s strong enough to start rejoining the human race, so to speak, but isn’t quite finished resting and taking extra care.
Gail Bowen’s Joanne Kilbourne Shreve Series
And I wouldn’t want to do a post like this without mentioning Gail Bowen’s Joanne Kilbourn Shreve series. Joanne is a political scientist and (later, retired) academician. Based mostly in Regina, the series follows Joanne’s life as she teaches, does research, raises her family and, later, becomes a proud grandmother. The investigations she’s drawn into are sometimes somewhat dark. But Bowen weaves hope, family bonds, and sometimes wit through the novels as well. They are also interesting character studies, as well as solid portraits of life in modern Canada. They aren’t overly philosophical, and they’re not gory or explicit, either. I recommend them in general to begin with, but I think they’re also a fine choice for someone who’s convalescing.
And there you have it. A few ideas of mine for series that might be of interest to those who are convalescing. Your mileage, as the saying goes, may vary. Thanks, Moira, for inviting me to think about this. Folks, do check out Moira’s excellent blog. It’s a treasure trove of reviews and discussions about fashion and culture in books, and what it all says about us.
What are your ideas, folks? What would you recommend?
*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Duke Ellington’s Merry Mending.