My Unintentional Hemingway Quest

Ernest Hemingway is not my favorite writer. I acknowledge he’s definitely talented. Look, I’ve even read more than one of his novels. As a person, I find Hemingway far too much of a caricature of toxic masculinity and aggression to develop any cult-like hero worship like some of his fans do, the sort of fans who would intentionally take on the quest I find myself undertaking.

I’ve actually been to an oddly high number of his residences without really trying. This series of coincidences slowly created my unintentional quest: to visit every place Ernest Hemingway ever lived.

I live only a short way from Hemingway’s birthplace Oak Park, Illinois. I’ve visited the town a number of times for the shops and other features before I eventually went with my book nerd family to visit Hemingway’s home, which has since turned into a museum. We got to take a tour of his house, and see it set up all reconstructed to the time it’s famous occupants lived in it. Perhaps because we were so close to my own home, in a neighborhood so like my own in a lot of ways, (minus the fancy Victorian period housing of course,) but I felt a bit weird, realizing how awkward it would be to have a whole bunch of strangers walking through your house, peering in at your bedrooms and bathrooms just because you once used them. Creepy.

Next up was Florida. Hemingway made himself a rather nice home in Key West later in his life. I went out there myself because Florida, and headed out to Key West because it’s supposed to be a lovely island and someone else would be driving the hours long trip from our place all the way to the tip of the Florida Keys. This person also knew I was a bit of a book nerd and said, if I liked, we could go visit Hemingway’s house there.

Another one? Well, I actually enjoy visiting historical sites and museums on my vacations, and it seemed like an odd  coincidence that two Chicago Suburbanites should find themselves out here. Most importantly, the house is well known for it’s only current residents, a large collection of six-toed cats, all descendants of the cat Hemingway’s family originally brought here. If my only legacy is a historical mansion full of weird cats descended from my family pet, I will have lived a good life, even if I prefer dogs.

I did get to see plenty of six-toed cats lazing about in the island sun, and learn more about Hemingway’s life since he was a little kid in Oak Park. By the time I met him in this historic house, he’d grown up, had his own children, and already put several wives behind him. He even had to build a big wall around this home, because he was famous enough by that time that privacy was a valuable resource.

So I’d seen two homes that housed Hemingway at two very different points in his life, young and old, an anonymous child and a famed author. Well, just now I’ve visited yet another one, and mostly by accident.

My family and I were actually returning from another trip, a short family getaway to Canada, when last minute we decided to break up the last day of driving and stop in Petoskey, Michigan for a night. You know who spent every summer of his childhood learning all the outdoorsy skills that would later become a part of his rugged persona in Petoskey? That’s right, Ernest mother-loving Hemingway.

The house by Walloon Lake that he visited every summer here is still owned by his family and kept as a private property, but I was able to explore the town. Really, it was a bit ridiculous. I definitely did not camp in my nice hotel room. I went swimming, but definitely not fishing in the hotel pool. I walked by a bar in town that an older Hemingway frequented when he stayed in the area, and the park where he would watch bare-knuckle boxing matches, according to my sudden flurry of research on the place. Really, I felt ridiculous trying to connect to that past in the current day Petoskey. Everything was all done up for tourists, gift shops and overpriced restaurants everywhere. The only thing scheduled in that park was a summer concert later in the week, definitely no boxing.

Even back then, the town was a favored summer retreat for wealthy families, so I can’t imagine all of these changes would surprise Hemingway. Maybe the only thing that would confuse him about these waterfront gift shops would be the addition of fidget spinners to their shelves. Still, I could feel Hemingway silently bemoaning the death of a world where bare knuckle boxing was no longer considered acceptable public park entertainment. Maybe he would agree the bookstore that I bought two more poetry books from was a good addition. As much as I loathe Hemingway’s obsessive masculinity, at least he was not one of those manly types that felt the written word was for pussies.

Here the story of my unintentional Hemingway mission comes to a close, for now, as that’s how many places I’ve visited with a connection to the author. The man traveled plenty though, so there’s still more. I could be persuaded to drag myself over to Paris, I suppose, and Spain of course. Traveling the world has always been a goal of mine, and it’s nice to know I might find the ghost of a guy from my neck of the woods waiting there for me, whether I mean to find him or not.

A Post for my Mother

Mother’s Day is coming up this weekend. I wouldn’t be the special kind of book nerd I am today without my mom. Whenever I say that my mom’s a librarian, people give me a kind of “ahhh…” look, as in, “oh, that explains this nerd’s deal.” Yes, I was indoctrinated from birth to love books, or it was in my DNA, sure. It’s more than that though. Thinking about it like “Welp, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” simplifies what was a warm, loving relationship that featured a slow yet joyful cultivation of a shared passion, something that continues to make my life richer.

The very simple start of it all was my mother reading to me as much as she could, as early as she could. First she’d read as many different picture books to my sister and I as possible, with some recurring favorites like Goodnight Gorilla and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom holding fixed positions in our story time queue. Then, as I got older, I was the one that would have to read to her and my sister, developing and stretching my own reading skills. Eventually, bedtime stories were replaced by me reading to myself every night, which did have it’s perks. Mom always insisted on an end to story time, but alone, I could hide under the covers with a flash light and keep the tales going all night long. New and improved story time did not end the essential roll my mother played in feeding my reading habit though. Things just got even bigger when I got older and she took a job on at the local library.

It was very useful to have a librarian in my pocket growing up. You better believe I never had to worry about late fees. I still don’t. The privilege is real. I’m not sure I can even admit to this next part legally, but My mother sometimes let me peek at some of the hottest books before the release date, before they would even be allowed to go on the shelves. Yeah, pretty sure I definitely wasn’t supposed to mention that. Sorry mom, you’re getting arrested by the publishing police for Mother’s Day.

My mom never liked to take me to the library, funnily enough, because she would basically be walking into work on her off hours. Still, I always managed to get plenty of books out of that place to feed the reading appetite of a growing girl. Having that sort of access to whatever books I wanted to try, coupled with an official librarian’s encouragement and assistance, even when she was off duty, definitely helped grow the bookworm in my heart.

Still today, books are a reason to stay connected to my mom as I start to live away from home. We always have recommendations for each other. We’re their to support each other through tragically bad film adaptations of books we loved. We stick together through all those highs and lows of loving books.

Just recently, I saw my local bookstore, (Anderson’s) announcing Graeme Simsion’s visit to promote his new book, The Best of Adam Sharp. Simsion is currently my mother’s most favorite author of all time thanks to his previous two books, the Rosie Project and Rosie Effect, so, as long a shot as it was, I knew I’d be the worst daughter ever if I didn’t call up my mom and tell her the news. Despite the very short notice, and the event being on a weeknight, she managed to show up, my dad in tow, and we all got to hear Simsion talk about his new book, and got the book signed afterward too.

Looking at the history of my relationship with my mother is by default looking at my history with books, and looking at both helps reveal why I’ve always thought of books as warm, welcoming environments. I’m dedicating this post to my mom today because she’s why I care enough about books to create a book blog in the first place. Mom, all this, including this post for you, only happened because of you and everything you did to help my little book-loving brain grow. Happy Mother’s Day.

Comic Bookin’ For Grown Ups

I’ve picked up a passion in my young adult life that  I never had as a kid. It’s an experience I can now say I shared with my young, prepubescent father, one I never shared when I was as young as he was though. I’ve slowly but surely become something of a comic book nerd. The thing is, the comics I read would not be ones I’d like to show to my ten-year-old dad, if we were to meet up in some wacky time-travelling comic book shop. The stuff I savor often features graphic violence (looking at you, Walking Dead,) sexual situations, (looking at you, Saga,) and a whole bunch of language my grandma would not appreciate her little boy learning so soon, (looking at you, pretty much all of my comics.)

In a lot of ways, the years between my dad buying The Amazing and/or Spectacular Spiderman issues every week at the local newsstand and my comic book hobby today have really changed the industry. Nerd culture has become more “cool” and acceptable to the mainstream public. Comic book fans have grown up and introduced new, darker, edgier twists to their old favorites, and created original material that added an adult edge to the medium. Think Frank Miller’s edgy Batman, a huge inspiration for the Ben Affleck Batman in the admittedly ill-fated Batman vs. Superman or Alan Moore’s Watchmen, which was also turned into a film, and definitely a more successful one. People eat edgy comics up, even when they aren’t comics.

Sure, just like the Marvel super hero movies are still very much billed as family affairs, there’s still places for younger readers in the comic book world. Still, the scene has changed. Probably the main reason I didn’t get into comic books as a kid was that there was no friendly neighborhood newsstand to grab the latest Marvel or DC comic books from. That practice, along with a whole lot of print media, was already dying by the time I was a kid. Comic books moved to comic book stores, which were intimidating to me as a young girl. Sure, some titles were also stocked in bookstores, which I definitely frequented, but I was so distracted by all the regular old books that the most I ever picked up from the bookstores was a relatively brief but still embarrassing fixation on Archie comics.

I started my love affair with comics when the Walking Dead became a hit TV show, and my nerdy uncle gave me a few volumes of the series to try out. I was then introduced to Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, and I slowly but surely started exploring these wild worlds of sex and violence layered over rich writing that introduced characters and plots as beautifully fleshed out as any of the novels I’d be reading. It was all much better written and drawn than my Archie books with two identical hot girls you could only tell apart by their hair color fighting over a less than photogenic red-headed boy that barely deserved either of them.

With that, I slowly started to explore the comic book world. I looked at the comic book sections in bookstores and libraries more closely. I was even brave enough to find comic book shops and face down the intimidating nerd man-cave vibe. Turns the people in these stores were mostly perfectly friendly and didn’t angrily challenge me with obscure trivia facts as soon as I walked in the door. Even if there were less than friendly people, I’d had the experience of growing up a girl and eventual woman on the internet, where I’d gotten used to angry nerds typing out vitriol they’d never spew in person. I could handle the comic book shop, it turned out, although visiting one now poses such a threat to my wallet I still try not to go too often.

Now I’m reading loads of comic books, ranging from the artsy memoir kind like Persepolis and Mausto the outlandish and fantastical, like The Wicked and The Divine or Fables. I read some superhero stuff, but honestly not too much. The super hero comic industry has a habit of treating artists, writers, and their visions as disposable, taking in and kicking out people to best serve what they see as the superhero’s image. So many artists through the ages covering one hero can create an interesting variety, but I more often stick to series written by one author. Like traditional novel series, I feel this practice allows writers and artists to create a fuller story and world. That’s just my personal taste though, and like I said I’m not against exploring DC’s New 52 or perhaps some Deadpool and Ms. Marvel from Marvel comics.

I’m a grown up and a comic book nerd, and I encourage others to try following in my path. The comic book as a medium has a huge variety of genres to explore, and a quality that would shock people around for the comic’s original pulp fiction roots. All your favorite movies are coming from comic books. If you give the real thing a try, you’ll find out Hollywood is, as usual, holding back. There’s loads of brilliant books and series that Hollywood is missing out by not exploring. Don’t make the same mistake. Feel free to check out any of the series I’ve name dropped here, unless maybe you are twelve or younger. Then ask your parents first. This stuff can be pretty grown up.

The Scariest Story I Ever Read

Alright. the month of Spook-tober is a month to confront your fears. I’m about to tell you guys about the scariest story I’ve ever read in my whole life, a tale that I almost wonder if I ever should’ve read in the first place. And now here I am, ready to share it with all of you. I hope you’re ready too.

What makes truly gripping, mentally scarring horror? Well, half of it is, I think, your own personal state of mind. When you read it, what kind of place your are in and where you are in your life, these factors have a heavy say in whether or not you find something just scary or bone-deep terrifying. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have the same reaction to this tale now as I did when it was first told to me. At that time, though, and being the person I was, this story came off like the most horrifying thing that could ever exist.

I’m not sure it’s too widely known. It’s writer was, and the collection it was printed in definitely held other stories that were considered classics. This one story, though, holds a deeper place in my psyche than any of those other works, a dubious honor it worked very hard to earn.

I am talking, of course, about Dr. Seuss’s “What Was I Scared Off?” which was better known in my family as the “Pale Green Pants” story. In it, some teddy bear-esque Dr. Seuss creature is stalked by a pair of green pants just empty and floating there. They follow this little guy all over. He sees the pants in a whole bunch of different places, many of them very isolated spots, and  each time the little teddy bear guy sees them, freaks out, and runs away. It’s only at the very end that he sees the pants are actually scared too and they laugh it all off and become best friends. Don’t judge a book by it’s cover kids! A stranger’s just a friend you haven’t met, and other heartwarming lessons like that.

Except no, I never took any of that “heartwarming” crap at the end seriously. How could I? I mean, whimsically imagined creatures are one thing, but a floating pair of pants that just happens to show up in the darkest, eeriest, and creepiest landscapes I’ve ever seen in a Dr. Seuss story? Nuh-uh. Nope. Not having that. It’s not like they’re just showing up in one neighborhood or area. They show up in some random forest, a random town, a random lake, wildly different places. Even if we are to believe that these pants are just some innocent, non-demonic, silly storybook character, it’s still pretty hard to really tell whether a pair of pants are just chilling out and minding their own business, or if they are eerily watching you, demonic serial-killer style. They had no face guys, no eyes. Nothing except the void. For all we know, we cut the story off not at the happy ending, but right before the furry guy realizes the pants were creepy stalkers and befriending him was only phase two in a process that would eventually lead to the pants eating him or sending him to the Shadow Dimension.

My imagination just ran with that story, and probably not the way Dr. Seuss had intended it to, unless he was more messed up than I ever thought. The worst part is my parents read that story to my sister and I several times, because it was in the same book as that story about the Sneetches and the woman who named all her kids Dave, really cute stuff. Adults just don’t have a very good gauge for what could actually scar a child for life and what’s kooky fun when it comes from a source they trust and is smushed between actual harmless and kooky fun. However, I don’t really  blame my parents for this..not anymore… and not too much. I’m a stronger person now, stronger for having to deal with the horror of the “pale green pants with nobody inside ’em!”

Could We Handle Hogwarts?

Alright, I know I just wrote a back-to-school post, but I didn’t realize this special day was coming up. Yesterday, September 1st, was the day Harry Potter and all the other Hogwarts students would have to get on the Hogwarts Express and head back to school. Right now, the little first years are probably surprised they made it through their first night in this crazy castle and all the returning students are happily reuniting with friends and yawning through their professors reading the course syllabus. If we’re talking the year 2016, I bet a bunch of muggle born  wizards are probably  bemoaning the lack of cell phone reception and wondering how the heck they’re supposed to play Pokemon Go out there.

That’s one of the things that I always wondered about Hogwarts. Really, I wondered it about a lot of the fictional schools for magic or supernatural arts I read about in so many YA and children books, but Hogwarts has a notable population of students from something like our world. The school isn’t in a fantasy world completely different from our own, like Unseen University in Discworld, or only accessible to people born into the more magical sides of life, like the Institutes in Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunter series. Technically, the Potter series takes place in the nineties, so you wouldn’t have new muggle born students complaining about cell reception. Still, I feel like there definitely should’ve been more students complaining about having to use quills and parchment roles instead of ball point pens and notebooks like sane people, or maybe smuggling in walkmans, but Rowling remained frustratingly quiet on that front. Is being able to turn mice into teacups so fun that you really don’t miss being able to take notes with a simply clicky pen?

If it was bad in the nineties, I can only imagine having to be a student at Hogwarts now. The idea of an eleven year old who is probably used to typing essays on a computer suddenly being faced with a quill and rolls, not even pages but rolls, of parchment is crazy.

Also, I’m positive Hogwarts does not have a wifi network set up, and I’ve never heard the Scottish countryside praised for it’s stellar phone reception. I can’t imagine all those magic enchantments on the school that cut it off from the outside world make it any easier. Sure, Dean Thomas probably missed watching soccer matches on TV, but today’s students would have to deal with missing Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, and all the other ways they used to be able to instantaneously stay in touch with the outside world. I can imagine one wizard with muggle friends crafting a statement each year, explaining how it’s off to their mysterious, remote boarding school so no social media at all for the rest of the school year.

I would be absolutely fascinated to hear about any way Hogwarts has gotten around this strange block. Maybe the Muggle Studies department made it a project to install internet for some people to use so there’s no explaining the strange radio silence of so many students. Maybe they just got around to installing magical pay phones. Maybe some professors are lenient enough that a student could turn in an essay written in a gel pen on notebook paper taped into a roll and they’d only raise an eyebrow. I don’t know for sure, but some of this stuff must be happening in a wizarding world forced to confront muggle advances.

Honestly, as much as I fantasized about going to Hogwarts as a kid, learning magic and having my own owl, I just don’t think I could do it without some serious trouble. It’s not just that, at age eleven, I would’ve balled my eyes out at being sent away from my family for months on end. There would be such a culture shock and, frankly, too many useful muggle devices I could not live without, no matter how many magical substitutes I could find.

Seriously, I’d like for you to take a moment right now and honestly consider whether you could give up all the stuff you have in your cushy muggle life and try your luck at Hogwarts without breaking down and getting into a fight with a “proper” wizard about the pointlessness of their faux medieval aesthetic.

Happy National Library Week!

Hey everyone, did you know this was National Library Week? Guess I should’ve tried to let you know sooner. Are you having flash backs to Mother’s Day or Father’s Day? Don’t worry, there’s still time. Run to Hallmark to grab a card and flowers! Go, before they think you don’t love them!

Just kidding. As far as I know, gifts are not required for National Library Week. I mean, I didn’t check too closely anyway, because I wouldn’t be in any sort of shape to give my local library anything nice.

“Oh, hey, that nice college girl left us a chicken flavored Cup Noodle! What a sweetie!”

No, National Library Week is more of a time to appreciate everything libraries do for us. Libraries generally have programming and the like this week to celebrate that. I try to treat any and all libraries in my vicinity beca second home to me, so I am definitely the sort who should be thanking libraries for all they’ve given me. Hopefully that will be as good if not better than instant ramen packets with bows tied on them.

Libraries are a place I can walk in almost anytime and be welcomed. They don’t ask for money or special membership. Anyone is encouraged to come in, and I’m lucky enough that these amazing, welcoming buildings all have books in them, and people ready to help you find whatever book you want. It feels like a crazy miracle when I take a step back and look at it like that. As far as I know, there’s no place you can borrow a free puppy or motorcycle, so libraries really are a special place, and I’m lucky enough to be in love with what they have to offer. Not everyone else with a passion can say the same.

There’s this chair in the public library I hang out at now. It’s a low down, comfy, reading chair in a sunny reading room. My name’s not on it or anything, but I’d sit there every time I found some spare time to spend and a good book to sit down with, (okay, that second one isn’t so hard.) I went through some pretty dark times when I first came to the neighborhood. Sometimes, the only thing I could look forward to was sitting down in that chair and reading for a while. Sometimes, I wasn’t even sure I could get any joy out of that, but I kept coming, day after day. Chair buddy was always there. Chair buddy didn’t care how I felt or looked when I slouched over to sit down and read a while. It accepted me and my tired ole butt every time. I fell in love with that chair, and I suppose the library as a whole, because of how good it felt just to have a place that welcomed me whenever I came in, especially when I didn’t feel all that welcomed anywhere else.

As much as I love books, I love even more that there is a place, or rather, hundreds of hundreds of places across the country that will welcome me and my love of books, regardless of how many Cup Noodles I can or cannot get them for their special day.

If you feel the same way, now’s the perfect time to let them know. Happy National Library Week.

Harper Lee’s Passing

My first dog was named Scout. I didn’t pick that name. My parents named her. I was maybe a month old or so when they took home puppy Scout, (because what new parents don’t need an untrained puppy to make raising their first ever child that much more exciting,) so I didn’t really have any say in the matter. I first thought they decided to name her Scout because she always insisted on running ahead of everyone and “scouting” things out. Only later did my parents fully explain to me that they called her Scout so they could feel like Atticus Finch and/or Gregory Peck whenever they had to sternly yell “Scout!” at our misbehaving dog. Yeah, she proved just as adventurous and mischievious as her namesake.

To Kill a Mockingbird was one of my parent’s favorite books and movies of all time, so Harper Lee affected me through her work before I even read her stuff or knew who she was, as demonstrated by my beloved dog I had before I even knew the beloved book character. There’s not a whole lot of artists that can claim that level of influence on my life. Reading the book for the first time made me feel a deep connection with my family. Reading any book you know changed someone’s life or has an otherwise very personal connection for a person close to you is always such an enlightening experience. When I read that book in middle school, it was one of the few times I contemplated my parents as people while in the rather pouty haze of early puberty.

I must also say that I enjoyed the book immensely myself. I still haven’t come across very many writers who can put their adult prejudices aside and so perfectly capture the mind of a child. On top of that, of course, there was that beautiful message at once encompassing and transcending political and racial issues of that time and beyond. Don’t kill mockingbirds. Don’t harbor hate and loathing for people and things that only want to help people, be kind, or live their life.

When I heard Harper Lee died just a week ago, I wasn’t even sure how to take it. How do you handle the death of a hero that connects you so intimately with your family, your past? Sure, she was 89, and another lesson I’ve learned from my own family is that, at a certain point, there’s always a time where death is expected day to day, perhaps not even with that much fear or regret, but legends can’t die, can they? They can’t go through all the stuff “normal” people do, not when they’ve made such beautiful things for us, those mockingbirds.

At least, unlike a birdsong, Lee’s words are preserved and sure to continue singing that beautiful song on for many more years, maybe just to bored middle school English students, maybe to old fans, or, even better, to a new and curious little birds ready to drink in a beautiful new song to sing.

I just hope her work will continue to affect people like it did me, and my parents before me, and so many other people before. I don’t know if I have the right words to say how I really feel at a time like this, so allow me to use the words of someone who truly knew how to say things right:

“Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father’s passin’.”

-Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

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Harper Lee signs off

 

Why I Read Historical Fiction

I’ve been busy as a bee, or perhaps a bookworm, recently, stuffing as much reading time into my summer as possible while I can still control what I want to read. While I haven’t consciously focused on any type of book in particular, I have noticed that one genre has been taking up much of my time recently, one that I haven’t really enjoyed in a while; historical fiction.

When I was young, I loved to read books that took place in different times. In particular, I read the My America and Dear America series. These books were all written as diaries of kids, usually girls, that were thrown into the thick of the action during events as early as the settling of the United States and the revolutionary war and go all the way through to World War II and the Vietnam War. I loved feeling like I was right in the middle of those historic moments. I probably learned more about the Civil War from all those escaped slaves and soldiers’ daughters diaries than I ever did from a textbook at school, at least until I hit AP US History.

Sadly, I read so many of those books and that I read myself flat out of that series and historical fiction in general by middle school. I didn’t read a whole lot of history books after that, especially American history, with exceptions for must reads and big hits like Devil in the White City.

Recently, though, I got into a ridiculous trend of reading five or more historical, (fiction and non-fiction) books at a time, without quite realizing what I was doing at first.  I started with interesting looking reads and books I got recommended to me, like the books of Geraldine Brooks, who wrote some fantastic historical books like Caleb’s Crossing and Year of Wonders. Some of the other odds and end I can recommend are The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan and some other such sundries. I’ve read some bad ones too, books, I cannot recommend or name in good company, but reading those too made me realize just what I once found so compelling in historical fiction, and what I’m probably ready to fall in love with again.

With a well-researched historical book, one that doesn’t just throw on some petticoats for aesthetics, you can be transported to a wholly other world something kind of parallel to a fully fleshed out sci-fi or fantasy world.  Like good sci-fi or fantasy, historical fiction put the reader in a unfamiliar place, or at least one that differs greatly enough from their everyday life, but leaves enough recognizable hints and shades from the reader’s world that they can feel this setting’s connection to what’s there when they put the book down.

The themes and messages carried from a foreign place stick that much harder in my head, maybe because I could never see them quite so clearly in everyday life. The cycle of life and loss in A Year of Wonders, the strange bonds of the Western nuclear family in the Poisonwood Bible, the sometimes painful but always unbreakable connection between mother and daughter in the Joy Luck Club, that stuff sticks with me, along with each writer’s brilliantly rendered image of this or that time and place.

Even in the less inspiring reads, though, historical fiction brings forth an extra advantage unique to this borderline non-fiction genre. If nothing else, you can learn something new from them. It’s kind of odd, really, but I’ve noticed that, whereas a shoddy sci-fi or fantasy story will have a shoddy, unformed setting, plenty of historical fiction authors put such ridiculous effort into researching their books that, I find myself presented with a pretty complete picture of, say, Regency era England, no matter how bad some Jane Austen wannabe mucks it up with a sadly predictable romance. Whether it’s a labor of love, or these writers feel more accountable when writing about a time and place that actually happened, this attention to detail has pulled me through a number of more poorly written storylines in a way a bad sci-fi book just could not. Maybe that’s just my inner nerd showing through there, but I enjoy learning something new, if it doesn’t feel too much like learning. (My inner nerd is a bit lazy.)

I urge you too to check out the historical fiction genre. If you find the recommendations I just made above too much like stuff your grandma reads in her book club, fear not because I have a father that won’t read much of anything if it hasn’t got WWII or some guys in chainmail and armor in it. Conn Iggulden’s Genghis Khan series or anything by Bernard Cornwall should be plenty edgy and violent for you, my more masculine. I have those on my to-read list.

Did I miss anything? Let me know if you’ve got a historical series I should sink my teeth into, now that I’ve finally got the taste for them once again.