Monday, March 12, 2018

My Favorite Genres for your Goodreads Book Challenge

Every January I take up the Goodreads Book Challenge to read a certain number of books that year. Last year I crossed the finish line mid-way through December.  I attribute my procrastinate behavior and lack of urgency to knowing that literally nothing (except perhaps defining myself as a good-for-nothing blank page) would befall me should I fall short of my goal. The remaining two weeks of 2017, I earmarked for exploring the benefits of a completely sedentary existence. Pajamas all day every day while my mother doted on me with home cooked meals and effusive praise for my generosity and ability to outperform my sister at every turn. In a moment of quiet self-reflection, she would admit to me that I am her favorite child. Sadly, my mother didn't have the chance to share her truth. I was forced to trade relaxation for deterioration as my body fought valiantly against the severe cold, graciously donated by my father.

Once my mobility and overall desire to live were restored, I set my new Goodreads goal of 50 books for 2018.  So far I've read twenty nine books. Twenty ahead of schedule. Normally my diligence would warrant applause but quick math affirms that these numbers are the rightful cause of my dwindling social prowess. Rest assured, not all twenty nine books are substantive. My completed list contains the occasional foray into the romance sub-genre called "Mommy Porn." A genre comprised of the same story told in every sexual position known to man and animal with each version a different take on the oozing sex appeal of toxic masculinity. Just as porn grossly distorts the act of sexual congress for young men, mommy porn distorts healthy relationships for young women. Still read them though. Why? Probably because emotions are a hard pass for me and I much prefer to read one-note romances that reinforce my life decision to avoid intimacy. Plus, they're filler reads.

Besides books that count towards my PHD in descriptive words for "orgasm", I delve into true crimes and historical non-fiction. My love for true crime is a consequence of my first childhood crush, Encyclopedia Brown. He solved neighborhood crime with a panache that blew my heart up. Had Encyclopedia existed, I would have followed him Felicity styles to college and become a bona fide badass in ill-fitting pantsuits dodging bullets and nailing murderers on Forensic Files. To cope with his non-existence, I stay at home on Friday nights discontinuing friendships while devouring stories of creepy dudes that I find oddly attractive. If you look at Pablo Escobar objectively, he is quite handsome. Something about putting together puzzle pieces that slowly identify the big picture is quite satisfying. Murderers can be extremely sharp but they always mess up somehow. Discovering their slip-ups reassures me that most don't get away with it.  Mrs. Scarlett in the billiard room with the knife!

My other passion, mentioned above, is Historical non-fiction.  Pure joy radiates off my body when my latest issues of BBC History and Smithsonian Magazines slide into my Kindle. How anyone can claim a full life without knowing the significance of Eleanor Of Aquitaine's footprint on the English and French monarchies of the 1100s is beyond me. My thirst for nerd nourishment runs the gamut from Louis IV, the man-whore extraordinaire, to the 2008 housing crisis. Plagues, Victorian babies on heroin, and primitive hygiene are also winners. Did you know that in olden times humans used corn husks to clean themselves after going number two? Learned that one from The Time Travelers Guide to Elizabethan England. Knowledge is power as they say and understanding the confluence of factors that led to the sinking of the Lusitania is a powerful thing. So powerful in fact, it single-handily earned me lifetime membership into the much coveted Spinsters Club of America.

If any of these genres appeal to you, I have recommendations below that can count towards your own Goodreads Challenge. I've refrained from listing any mommy porn as I'm fairly positive I will lose esteem in your eyes from the book covers alone. You're on your own there.  That being said, I did include one legitimate romance novel that is a must read.

Book Recommendations: 

1. Call Me By Your Name: In the late 80s, a 17 year old boy summering in Italy falls in love for the first time with a handsome 24 year old grad student assisting his father in research. The story that unfolds creates Kanye levels of emotion reminding one of the infinite bounty, purity and endurance of love. Before you point out my hypocrisy towards feelings, know that I did not expect emotion to penetrate my cold dead heart. This treasure of a book spawned one of best movies I've ever seen. Don't fight me on this.

2. The Radium Girls: This history based book is not for the faint of heart. Some of the details are pretty gnarly and grotesque but serves a purpose. In the early 1900s, Marie Curie discovered the glow in the dark element called radium. During WWI young women were hired to paint watch dials with radium infused paint so soldiers could tell time in the trenches. Subsequent exposure led to some unbelievable side effects and a long fight for justice. Hindsight tells us radium is extremely toxic but no one knew back then. Or did they?

3. Killers of the Flower Moon: The Industrial boom of the early 20th century necessitated a lot of oil. Oil was found on Native American land making the Osage tribe some of the richest people in America. Who knew! After some time these wealthy men and women started dying in rapid succession. A couple of Texas investigators were sent to the town to find out if their deaths were part of a larger conspiracy. The coordination by investigators became the impetus for the creation of the FBI.

4. Blitzed: Drugs in Nazi Germany: Nazis are the worst. Nazis on meth are more worse if you can believe it. This book goes in depth on the rampant drug use forced upon unsuspecting Nazi soldiers. Turns out when you mix meth with the "superior race" you get super-soldiers who lose wars but gain addiction.  Blitzed also details Hitler's increasing dependence on drugs and injections of foul concoctions made from animal parts and chemicals. On a scale of one to ten, Nazi's get an 11 for bad decision making.

5. The Last Days of Night: This book chronicles the war between Westinghouse and Edison to light America. While this is considered fiction, the main beats of the story are true. Edison, to my surprise, was a total a-hole out-maneuvering Westinghouse with questionable tactics. Westinghouse had an ace up his sleeve in Nicholas Tesla. Spoiler alert: Nighttime isn't scary anymore so it clearly worked itself out.

What's next on my reading list you ask? I've got two books in my queue. I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara and Wallis in Love by Andrew Morton. I'll Be Gone in the Dark covers the exhaustive research compiled by the author in the hopes of discovering the identity of the Golden State Killer. Wallis in Love is about the original Meghan Markle, aka American commoner who seduced a British monarch. One could argue Wallis Simpson literally saved the world so I'll refrain from calling her a morally repugnant divorcee moonlighting as a social climbing escort.

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