She’s never written a novel, but she’s read thousands.


While it’s no surprise that reading is good for you, did you know that a literary escape into fiction can make you a better thinker? In a new study, researchers compared those who read stories with those who read essays, asking both groups questions about closure and order. The ones found to be more comfortable with uncertainty and instability were the fiction readers. That, researchers say, makes them better thinkers—more apt to be open-minded and less likely to make snap judgments. And, don’t-cha love it, happier.

Read more about the study here at
Study: Reading novels makes us better thinkers

Guest Blogger Sue has something to say to lovers of books ~ and no few roam the planet ~ about some of her favorite authors. Read on.  It is, in two words, a treat.



There are some books I’ve read that I wish I could read another one with some of the same characters or perhaps the same milieu. That’s why I’ve read Ethan Frome many times. Edith gave us no more of Ethan, Mattie, or Zenobia, no more of Starkfield.


Anyway. James Patterson has developed a rather pleasant character in Alex Cross. These mysteries are like lightly-salted potato chips: they read fast and they offer very-close-to-no value other than pure entertainment.


Alex Cross is quite a handsome specimen, African-American, 6’3”, 200 lbs, in shape. Intelligent: PhD in both abnormal and forensic psychology. Good resume: Johns Hopkins degrees, migrant farm worker, CIA, FBI, psychologist, homicide detective in DC police department.

He’s been lucky and unlucky in romance with many women. First wife was killed before the series. But he eventually married again. Other of his lady friends are killed off. He’s been lucky, but the ladies ~ not so much.

His grandmother, Nana Momma, is part of his household, having brought up Alex in DC, later bringing up his children.


He is a fine, talented, intelligent man you love to meet in 21 of Patterson’s novels. They all read fast and if you plan to read them all, then start with his first, Along Came a Spider, and travel through Cross My Heart. If you care about these things, then take notes to keep the details straight (or depend on Wikipedia).  Patterson does his homework for his intrigues and develops his stories well. I like Cross and his family. I fear his antagonists. And when I finish reading one novel, I reach for the next. And maybe look for the film.


Author Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl has been on the NYT best sellers list for 51 weeks (be sure to read it before the movie comes out). I do not want to meet up with Amy or her unfortunate husband Nick ever again. But I did want to read more by Flynn. I like her style and mystery twists, surprises, and developments. Even her ending.


So I read her first novel, Sharp Objects. Camille Preaker, a newspaper reporter, is sent to her small hometown to report on the murders of young girls. Camille didn’t want to revisit the town, her family, anything from that tragic part of her life. But she does as she is told. As it is revealed, Camille is a recovering cutter, having been recently in a psych ward for help. This reconnection to that very stressful time in her life was, to say the least, a mistake. The truth about the murders is uncovered at Camille’s emotional expense.


Flynn’s second novel, Dark Places, has a list of characters you are really glad you did not grow up with. But you will hope Gillian is currently completing and masterfully editing a fourth mystery. Libby was only 7 twenty-five years ago when her testimony put her older brother, Ben, in jail for murdering their mother and two sisters. Now, unhappy and without money, Libby seeks support from a club that researches murders. She questions her testimony. If Ben was not the murderer so long ago, then who was?


Got a yen for another bag of potato chips, lightly-salted, no nutritional value? Try Nicholas Sparks. His Safe Haven was filmed in Southport, NC, not so far from the film capital of the east coast, Wilmington, NC. Of his 17 or so novels, 8 have been adapted to film, with 2 more in the planning. Not bad from a University of Notre Dame business honors graduate.

Though you will not meet the same characters or settings, the plots are all romance with a bit of a twist and often a mystery. Safe Haven, one of his most recent oeuvres, features 2 good-looking adults, young and unlucky in their marriages and, perhaps, unlucky in their new courtship. It reads quickly and we cheer for Katie and Alex and boo and hiss at Kevin, Katie’s/Erin’s husband. *Spoiler alert: there is a happy ending. The jury is still out deciding which is better, book or film.


The Best of Me, published in 2011, is a classic romance of two high school kids from the opposite sides of the tracks. Life interrupts their love, but they meet again twenty years later for a funeral in their old home town. *Another spoiler alert: a two-hankie ending.


So. I strongly recommend you read another book by an author who interests you, whether it be an earlier title by a current best-selling author or perhaps a more recent novel by the author of a book you read long ago. (I’m thinking of John Updike’s Rabbit series of 4. I read his not-so-classic Couples when it was the rage.)


Book or film? Guest Blogger Sue asks.  I say ~  Both!  Roger Ebert would have been 71 today. In his honor, Let’s Go to the Movies and eat chips.

Toni 6/18/13

2 thoughts on “SHORT CUTS ~ books to read for people with unruly stacks in unlikely places

  1. Sue, I know what you mean about Edith/Ethan. Have you read anything by Jane Gardam? I’m about to start her latest book, Last Friends, it is the third In a trilogy. Old Filth is first ( that stands for failed in London, try Hong Kong) and The Man in the Wooden Hat is second. It’s the story of a marriage, two exceptional men and so much more. Sad and funny. Gardam won the Whitbread Prize twice. Sir Edward Feathers, wife Betty and Terence Veneering are captivating characters. I’ll be reading this concluding novel very slowly.


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