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March 21, 2014


I remember reading Sayers as a kid, great stuff.

Recent sickbed reading: Jonathan Franzen and William Boyd.

Journal papers, mostly. If I'm sick enough to stay home, its as good an excuse as any to catch up (or at least not get further behind) on literature review.

Back In The Day (a decade or so ago) there was a "List" group called Dorothy-L, which was devoted to discussion of mysteries. Many of the participants were librarians. Not hard to guess who it was named for! (And I still have the mug, with the coat of arms ["As my whimsy takes me"], two cats and a computer mouse [!], and a red herring.)

I have a bookshelf next to my bed carrying my comfort-reading books. Among them is the short novel Lost Horizon, which was on my mind the other day because it's a mystery about a missing airplane.

Actually it's not "about" that. It's about a lamasery in Tibet called Shangri-La. And even that isn't accurate: it's about the meaning of Civilization versus Life. But with a light touch. In any case, the main part of the story is set in a warm, elegant place surrounded by cold, rugged mountains. For some reason that comforts me when I'm huddled in bed with a bad winter cold.

But it IS a mystery story: the tale of Shangri-La is book-ended by conversations in Berlin and London about whether the tale is true. Spoiler alert: Hercule Poirot does NOT appear at the end to solve the mystery.


History, mostly. The thicker the better. I tend to read fairly fast, so the more I have to pore through, the more time I can pass on a sick afternoon. Of course, classic detective fiction is always a standby...

I have a hardcover copy of "Science and Sanity", first edition. The seminal work in General Semantics. I keep it around to knock me out when I'm in that woozy state where you just want to sleep, but your brain won't shut down.

But for enjoyable sick reading, I pull out the Charles Stross "Laundry" series.

The "feature" of working from home is, I can work whether or not I'm ill. If I'm too sick to work, I'm probably too sick to read anything either. (And I don't get too sick to read very often!) I'd forgotten how nice it can be to work in an office, where I can take a sick day occasionally.

There is more than a visualization of what Fenchurch Saint Paul looked like. The Little Architect has made a massive reconstruction of the whole place using the miracle of computer visualization. I believe, however, that it is open only to members of the Dorothy L. Sayers Society.

Which little architect would that be? The architect (rather tall, in fact) who uses that nom in the Yahoo news group "LordPeter". The group has existed for about 15 years, and is now rather languishing for lack of new blood. Why not look in (There are vast archives available) and post something and see if you can breathe some life into it?

But for enjoyable sick reading, I pull out the Charles Stross "Laundry" series.

Did you read his Eschaton duology? That was my intro - and outro - to Stross. I really liked Singularity Sky, and I passionately loathed Iron Sunrise... if you've read those, would you say his other writings are more akin to the former or latter?

When I'm sick, I read PG Wodehouse. If you haven't read him, I recommend starting with "Something Fresh," the first of the Blandings Castle books, also published as "Something New."

And you might consider "The Daughter of Time," by Josephine Tey, a mystery about a detective confined to a sick bed.

last time i had one of those week-long cold/flu things i ground through Cryptonomicon while keeping the couch warm.

Lately I sorta like Iain Banks's Culture novels, even though as a Christian I recognize that he's taking a lot of potshots at religion in his books. But they're fun to read, if you are willing to skim through the boring patches. In some of his novels, there are long stretches of material that just aren't that interesting--in "Matter", for instance, there's a long stretch of words describing an awe-inspiring waterfall. This in a book with wonders that make a lot of water going over a cliff seem pretty pedestrian.

I like the Lord Peter novels. One unlovable but interesting aspect of them is the casual antisemitism that pops up from time to time. I can't tell if the attitudes are Sayers' own, or if she is just describing what upper class English people would have said about Jews, or both. For that matter, I can't tell if Lord Peter is being ironic when he refers to someone as a "child of Abraham", or if he's being bigoted.

My belief about the antisemitism is that Sayers was actually *trying* to be anti-antisemitic, while also faithfully depicting a pretty antisemitic society. For instance, the plot of Whose Body revolves (spoilers!) around a marriage between a Jewish man and an upper-class Englishwoman, and there is no indication whatsoever that Wimsey or his family disapprove of the match.

When Lord Peter calls someone a "child of Abraham", for instance, I think he's trying to be *respectful*. Really! but within the parameters of his class and upbringing.

My exposure to Stross is fairly limited, I dicovered him after I got cataracts, and even after the surgery my reading speed was never the same. So I couldn't realy say.

"When Lord Peter calls someone a "child of Abraham", for instance, I think he's trying to be *respectful*. Really! but within the parameters of his class and upbringing."

That makes sense.

I'e read and reread the Sayers novels. My current comfort reading--actually I've done this since I was a teenager--is Georgette Heyer's Regency novels. That's what I read when I can't concentrate and just want to open a book anywhere and read a few pages.

Fo he last year or so I'e been reading with great enjoyment the genre' I've learned to recognize as British urban fantasy.

BTW Gerogette Heyer had the anti-Semitism of her time, too.

Dorothy Dunnett.

Either the Nicolo series or the Lymond series.

There is no finer historical fiction. The style took me a hundred pages to entrain. At two hundred pages, you'll feel the need to go back and re-read because you missed most of what was going on the first time around.

OTOH, the Aubrey/Maturin novels of the Napoleonic wars asea are superb.


As it happens I have complete sets of all three of those series on the bookcase I see when I look up from this screen. And I probably love the Niccolo books and the Aubrey-Maturin books just about equally. Although I've read all of the O'Brians at least 4 times and I've never gone back to the Niccolo books. Even though I still seem to remember dozens of scenes from them. Never been able to figure out why I don't want to reread them.
As for my sickbed reading, along with O'Brian, I will chug through any good historical writing -- like Clark's _Sleepwalkers_ -- or reread any of the hundred or so scifi paperbacks I can't bear to get rid of.

_The_Sunne_In_Splendor_ by Sharon Kay Penman, a thick historical novel about the Wars of the Roses, is compulsively readable, and my favorite of her works.

JakeB skrev

I've never gone back to the Niccolo books ... Never been able to figure out why

Guessing: because they actually broke your heart at least once and probably a couple times. Powerful experiences are valuable and important, but not necessarily something one wants to repeat often.

It's been ten years since I read Nicolo; I'll retire in a couple years, and re-reading Dunnett is high on the list of pleasures for the first winter after.

On the lighter side, if the mucus is darkening your outlook, you may very well get a lift from

_Three_Men_In_A_Boat_ by Jerome K. Jerome

or from the Vimes/Carrot books in Pratchett's Discworld

Those anglophile enough for Sayers may find Max Beerbohm amusing; I'll link here to How Shall I Word It, which should be enough to draw you in if you're susceptible.

yes, I am addicted to the printed word

Several somethings, completely different, all engrossing:

We Die Alone, Howarth
Memorable true WWII story. Sabotage, evasion, and escape in northernmost Norway

The Bounty Trilogy, Hall and Nordhoff

Fifth Business, Davies

Rising From The Plains, McPhee

_Three_Men_In_A_Boat_ by Jerome K. Jerome

Never read this, though I probably should. I did enjoy the not-really-derivative-or-even-precisely-related-but-heavily-alluding-to-it To Say Nothing of the Dog: or, How We Found the Bishop's Bird Stump at Last by Connie Willis, who's actually an author I've availed to on a sickbed once or twice.

One last shot:

Stevenson's Treasure Island will be a delight to those who have never read it and in whom the former twelve-year-old-boy survives
(Like many sea stories, it has essentially no female characters)

HG Wells The First Men In The Moon is too little read. The first part, in which we meet Cavor and his experiments, is gently humorous -- the book shades darker as one goes.

If you care at all about the natural world, Leopold's seminal Sand County Almanac is something you should read. The introductory episodic sketches go down easily, insensibly preparing the reader for The Upshot, deep thoughts about how people should choose to live in the world.

Somewhat in the same vein, Farley Mowatt's Never Cry Wolf will both amuse and instruct.

Derek Robinson's WWs I and II RAF novels.

Agree with the Aubrey/Maturin and Dunnett picks...

Alexandre Dumas...

Lots more, but that would probably get me through a does of 'flu.

WRT Dr. Sci's question about access to the angel roof :

If I recall The Nine Tailors correctly, Fenchurch St. Paul had galleries on either side, which I understood to be a tall, permanent scaffold supporting balcony seating. I think that the vicar's wife goes on at some length about them and their degree of authenticity, in the same bit where she talks about the awful rood screen, and the way that the parishoners insist on bringing in bits of greenery and crap just because they've been doing it for generations.

I've always liked the bit where she explains that certain kinds of decoration and liturgy are right out, because "they'd give a leg up to the Nonconformists".

When I was hospitalized a few decades ago, a friend introduced me to P.G. Wodehouse. I have forgiven him for a lot since.
When a different friend of mine was hospitalized, with an enormous kidney stone and a catheter up his penis, I introduced him to Tom Sharpe, specifically the first three (then all there were) Wilt stories. Anyone who has read them will know why they were a hysterically inappropriate choice.

I hesitate to write this, but I haven't been laid up with sickness for a fine long time.

But, Wodehouse is good.

Years ago when suffering, I would pile up all of my Dickens novels in my bed and read the opening pages of each, I guess practicing in case I remained sick forever being Mr. Todd's forced reader of Dickens from Evelyn Waugh's "A Handful of Dust".

I like to read coming-of-age stories too when the ague sets in -- A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and especially Alain-Fournier's magical "The Wanderer".

Maybe something gothic. Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre.

Short stories.

Travel books and maybe books about cooking by M.F.K Fisher or Jim Harrison, unless it's a stomach upset.

The Baseball Encylopedia and, now that I own it, the 12-pound Bible of Beatles recording history, "Recording The Beatles" sitting unread so far also makes me want to contract mononucleosis for a good long lie-down with the blinds drawn, except that I might be found dead under the weight of it opened on my chest.

The collected cartoons of Roz Chast.

Mostly, when sick, I doze and sleep, turning from side to side, knocking the books off the bed like so many rectangular, sharp-edged cats.

Last time I was mostly bedridden recovering from surgery I reread all of Laurie King's Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series and when I could not read I watched--or at least played--all of the Harry Potter movies. The time before that it was Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody series. If I had all of Lord Peter available on my Kindle reading devices I would certainly have gone there too.

Particularly when I'm sick, I like immersing myself in other times and places with interesting characters and stories. I read fairly fast so a decently long series is perfect.

Late to the conversation: I am currently reading "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich", which is fascinating in the enormous amount of documented detail. The same information could be assembled in a different way to form a How Not To Let That Happen Again manual, I would guess.

An incidentally interesting part of this book is how jarring it is, in terms of casual references to people as being e.g. "a notorious homosexual". It's possible that this was more the norm when the book was written than it is today.

After you digest "Rise and Fall", give a read to "Bloodlands" by Timothy Snyder, which if the first is a How To Not Manual, will do as one of those cautionary but graphic videos in high school health class about What Happens When You have sex or drive fast or set out to erase an entire population.

It's about the meat grinder created in Poland (Eastern Europe) and Western Russia (Ukraine) by two personalities -- Hitler and Stalin.

It's amazing, the other day I watched a very old British movie called "The Astonished Heart" starring Noel Coward and minutes before reading your comment, Slart, I was describing the movie to a friend on the phone and I referred to Coward, in the parlance of the time the movie was made @1940, as "a notorious homosexual" (you need to watch the movie to see the "irony" of the role he played).

Happily, we don't use the term "notorious" any longer, in that context. Unless, we also want to refer to Warren Beatty as a "notorious heterosexual".

I was sick over the weekend. As usual reading was not an option.

When I'm not feeling well, I like to read "The Funny TImes". It's basically a tabloid out of Cleveland, full of nothing but cartoons and short humor pieces.

My favorite part is "News Of The Weird", which is a collection of police log and other news tidbits, chronicling bonehead foibles from all around the world.

For some reason, nothing gives me a bigger laugh than stories about stupid - I mean really really stupid - criminals.

Funny Times has a distinctly knee-jerk liberal perspective, so if that is going to bug you, I don't recommend it. Otherwise, it's nothing but fun.

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