Beach reading for snobs
January 25, 2011 7:53 PM   Subscribe

I need extremely light and easy reading, but I am a snob.

My life is insane hectic until the end of the semester (grueling school schedule, single mom, working, etc). Still, I have occasional free time, and I don't want to spend all my wind-down time reading facebook. What is some easy, enjoyable, popular fiction I can get from the library?

The big caveat is that I am a huge fucking snob and I hate reading badly written fiction. However, I have read some popular fiction in my life and enjoyed it - Stephen King (many years ago), John Grisham (pelican brief, something else I forget), Lawrence Block, Sara Paretsky, lots of sci fi/fantasy when I was in high school. That's all I know. So all suggestions, any genre, welcome!
posted by serazin to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (88 answers total) 142 users marked this as a favorite
The discworld series by Terry Pratchett if you haven't read it.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 8:00 PM on January 25, 2011 [13 favorites]

It's maybe not exactly the genre you're looking for, but Crome Yellow by Aldous Huxley is short, funny, and very well written. I read it a while back when I was extremely sick with food poisoning (yay...), and it made a great distraction.
posted by phunniemee at 8:02 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

My guilty pleasure - The "Myron Bolitar" series by Harlan Coben...I'm totally addicted.
posted by victoriab at 8:03 PM on January 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

P.G. Wodehouse.
posted by elsietheeel at 8:03 PM on January 25, 2011 [20 favorites]

Agatha Christie mysteries - I especially like Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple mysteries. I also heartily second Terry Pratchett. I also really like Maeve Binchy for light reading, not sure if she'll meet or fail your snob level though.
posted by Salamandrous at 8:06 PM on January 25, 2011 [6 favorites]

Beat me to it! Seconding Pratchett, but for the love of all that is holy, DON'T dutifully start with the first book in the series and aim to read in sequence. They can pretty well be read out of sequence. Try Small Gods or Hogfather to start.
posted by maudlin at 8:06 PM on January 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

I think any Kurt Vonnegut might fit the bill, but I'd recommend him to anyone.
posted by sunshinesky at 8:07 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Hunger Games series . . . YA lit., but absolutely positively fantastic reads. I started the first book before going to bed one night and couldn't sleep til I'd finished it.
posted by WaspEnterprises at 8:09 PM on January 25, 2011 [11 favorites]

I like Martin Cruz Smith's Arakdy Renko series and Frank Tallis's Max Liebermann series for just this sort of thing (aside from a few awkward sex scenes in Smith and overwrought descriptions of Viennese pastries in Tallis).
posted by scody at 8:09 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

May or may not be to your taste, but I always love reading young adult (or even children's) novels for something "lighter." They tend to read a lot faster than adult novels, and they tend to be very tightly-plotted, and there are some really excellent authors doing fantastic YA these days. (Depending on how old your kids are (kid is?), it could even make for a nice discussion if you both read it.)

Recently I particularly enjoyed Scott Westerfeld's Uglies/Pretties/Specials/Extras series. Also The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate (can't recall the author), and pretty much anything by Garth Nix.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:10 PM on January 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'd recommend Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy et seq., if you haven't already read them. Nick Hornby (especially High Fidelity) is also fairly light and enjoyable.
posted by Johnny Assay at 8:11 PM on January 25, 2011

Oh, and along the young-adult line: Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie.
posted by Johnny Assay at 8:12 PM on January 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

Short stories. Go find yourself some books of collected short stories by any given author (I just finished re-reading stories by Dorothy Parker and some others by Ernest Hemmingway) and just dip into them. Otherwise, Sherlock Holmes stories are fun to revisit, OR get into detective novels from the early 20th Century (Dorothy L. Sayers is my favourite, but for some slightly trashy fun there is always Georgette Heyer).
posted by Alice Russel-Wallace at 8:13 PM on January 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

Also, if by some chance you haven't gotten around to it yet, the Harry Potter series is a another good option.
posted by WaspEnterprises at 8:13 PM on January 25, 2011 [7 favorites]

Jennifer Crusie's romances are full of banter and wit, and she has a deep back catalogue to explore. Faves: Anyone But You, Welcome to Temptation, Bet Me.

Dick Francis wrote dozens of enjoyable mysteries set in and around the world of horseracing. (Well, his wife wrote them, but that's a discussion for another day.) Faves: Straight, Banker, Decider. Avoid anything post-1999.

Julia Spencer-Flemming has a very well-written mystery series about a female ex-army helicopter pilot turned Episcopal priest. Start with In the Bleak Midwinter.

David Levithan writes some terrific YA, often with gay characters/themes. Faves: Boy Meets Boy, Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist (co-written with Rachel Cohn) and Will Grayson, Will Grayson (co-writen with John Green).
posted by Georgina at 8:14 PM on January 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

If you want something that's a quick read, yet sophisticated enough to be engaging (and if you like dogs, I suppose) I think you'd enjoy The Art of Racing in the Rain. I share your taste in reading, and found it charming and amusing.

(h/t another MeFite)
posted by DrGail at 8:16 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, and continuing with the historical mysteries, Boris Akunin's Erast Fandorin series (originally written in Russian) is great fun as well.
posted by scody at 8:17 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

I worry that this question might be a little too open-ended without first knowing a little bit more about what you mean by being a snob and how you define badly written fiction. Still, I'm happy to throw a few things out there.

Genre fiction is an easy bet, and it's not all bad writing. There's Gene Wolfe, Stanislaw Lem, China Mieville, Kelly Link, Jonathan Lethem, Ken MacLeod, even G.K. Chesterton...

Meanwhile, bear in mind that beach reading doesn't have to come from the airport bookstore. There are plenty of so-called literary novels that are also fairly engaging: Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman, Roberto BolaƱo's The Savage Detectives, Adolfo Bioy Casares's The Invention of Morel, Horacio Castellanos Moya's Senselessness, Vladimir Nabokov's Pnin, Venedikt Erofeev's Moscow to the End of the Line.

You could also take a different tack and look for well-written nonfiction; for example, the journalism of Ryszard Kapuscinski or John McPhee, the essays of Eliot Weinberger, or maybe something like the Paris Review interviews.
posted by cobra libre at 8:22 PM on January 25, 2011

I love Mapp and Lucia by E.F. Benson. These are stories about two insanely competitive women in two small English towns. They are petty and horrible people, and the books are very funny. Also any of the van Wetering Amsterdam Cops mysteries, but especially Tumbleweed. And, while it could be read with great intensity, The Third Policeman, by Flann O'Brien, can also be read for the pleasure of its words and for its dreamlike absurdity.
posted by Francolin at 8:22 PM on January 25, 2011

You might also consider subscribing to some short story magazines like Asimov's Science Fiction. You'll get new stuff in your mailbox every month but the stories aren't as long as novels and thus don't require as much of a consistent time commitment. (It sucks when you're in the middle of a novel and have to take a long break and when you get back to it you've forgotten most of the plot and characters.)
posted by Jacqueline at 8:26 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Read all the Kate Shugak novels by Dana Stabenow!
posted by rtha at 8:30 PM on January 25, 2011

The discworld series by Terry Pratchett if you haven't read it.
Discworld is where I go for the good reading before bed. Sadly, I'm running out, and I don't think anymore is coming. Seriously, if you want light reading that doesn't suck, Terry Pratchett is your man.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 8:33 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Are you seriously recommending Gene Wolfe and China Mieville as "light and easy reading"? Are you reading them in a different translation, or what?

Seconding Pratchett. I also like Charlaine Harris (although only the Sookie Stackhouse and the Real Murder books are "light" - everything else of hers I've read tends to be heavy on the rape and/or trauma, although not in a bad way necessarily.) I also get a kick out of the Kelley Armstrong books - witches, werewolves, demons, pick your poison.

My go-to airport bookstore series is Janet Evanovich's numbered series (Lean Mean Thirteen, etc etc.) I usually describe them as "slapstick romance." Totally fluffy, completely implausible, totally readable. I also tend to enjoy Rita Mae Brown's cat-based mysteries - they're more full of small-town gossip and drama than talking animals, although they do have plenty of the latter. (And yes, it's that Rita Mae Brown, of Rubyfruit Jungle and other serious novels.)

Anything by Tanya Huff, particularly if you find a queer sensibility refreshing. And there's definitely something soothing about finding your favorite high school comfort food novel and seeing if it holds up. It usually doesn't, but that doesn't stop me from rereading the Belgariad every couple of years.
posted by restless_nomad at 8:34 PM on January 25, 2011

Michael Chabon. My favorites of his so far have been The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier and Clay and The Yiddish Policemen's Union. This is literary fiction, not genre, though the latter is a mystery. But not, like, a Mystery mystery - if Sara Paretsky ever read it, she probably cried in shame.

And Flannery O'Connor. Sure, she's on the high school reading lists, but her stories are so approachable, and say so much in such plain langauge. Love love love. A lot of people also swear by Raymond Chandler.

I also am willing to give just about any of the past Oprah's Book Club selections a try (within reason, of course, I'm not talking about A Million Little Pieces), and if something wins the Pulitzer or the National Book Award that's definitely points in my book. The Man Booker Prize, too.

Another good way to find interesting fiction is to check Barnes & Noble or your local big box bookshop's "Paperback Fiction Favorites" table - it's usually jam packed with all the "good" stuff that people are reading these days.
posted by Sara C. at 8:39 PM on January 25, 2011

I blew through Among Others by Jo Walton in a couple of days around a 68-hour work week and I cannot recommend it enough, especially if you were a teenage SF fan.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 8:42 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

You might try the Bridgerton Series by Julia Quinn; the fourth book "Romancing Mr. Bridgerton" is my particular favorite, but they're all more fun if read in order because you get more attached to the shared characters. They're Regency romance novels (just about the guiltiest of guilty pleasures) written by a smart, terribly witty person. There's love, banter, naughty bits, and happy endings about truly delightful characters, and they're like catnip to me when I went to turn my brain off, but not so off I start to feel brain dead.
posted by mostlymartha at 8:43 PM on January 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

Maybe Nick Hornby?
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 8:44 PM on January 25, 2011

Margaret Atwood or Zadie Smith
posted by KokuRyu at 8:58 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's hard to gauge what "huge fucking snob" exactly means here, but if you haven't read Alexandre Dumas yet you might give him a shot. I sort of think of him as one of the original beach-novel writers though I am sure that's not chronologically true.
posted by furiousthought at 9:12 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! I knew mefi would come through on this one (although some of you'ses definitions of lowbrow makes me feel a little wimpy).

I'll print this out before I go to the library Thursday or Friday - looking forward to whatever else you all come up with too!
posted by serazin at 9:27 PM on January 25, 2011

I also think of myself as a snobby reader. For beach reading I'd recommend anything by David Sedaris. Me Talk Pretty One Day should get you a good feel for his writing.

He's technically not writing fiction, but fantastical autobiographical stories. Most of his books are collections of short stories which are perfect for picking up for a spare 20 minutes here and there. He may not be crafting great literary works of art, but he knows his way around the english language. They're mostly light and humorous, but tempered with self-depreciation and intimate revelations.
posted by fontophilic at 9:31 PM on January 25, 2011 [6 favorites]

Oh man, we have pretty similar tastes. I'd recommend Philip K. Dick in addition to the Vonnegut, if you haven't read him already. I'd also recommend the following YA fiction, which I'd say is the best of the wealth of YA fiction I've read over the past few years: Pamela Sargent's Earthseed and Farseed, Patrick Ness's The Knife of Never Letting Go (and its sequels), Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials (and the sequels to those, too), and Feed by MT Anderson. You might try Octavia Butler's Lilith's Brood series, too, if you like sci-fi that has the spookiness of Stephen King.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:31 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

terry pratchett - the post office one was my first and continues to be my favorite.
posted by crankyrogalsky at 9:31 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: And OK, I guess I need to be more clear - although I'm enjoying all these recommendations even without clarity!

I'm looking for stuff that I can read fairly quickly, that is engaging and fun to read, that does not feel like work to read, that makes me feel good, or excited, or distracted from my life. Yet, it can not be rife with too many cliches, or stupid stereotypes, or, I don't even know how to define bad writing - but I don't want bad writing.

At the moment I'm also not looking for something that will take me 2 or 3 months to finish, or that has dense, complex prose that I'll have to work to follow, or that I would benefit from thinking deeply and critically about (even though I do often like reading this sort of stuff in the rest of my life).

Hope that's enough direction but honestly, there are tons of helpful recommendations already in this thread and even if I don't get to them all (I wont) in the next few months, I can keep at this for a good while to come!
posted by serazin at 9:32 PM on January 25, 2011

Oh, if you haven't you might try Philippa Gregory's first few Tudor books. Ignore the terrible movie of The Other Boleyn Girl. It's actually an immersive, fun, deftly-written book (though not totally historically accurate). Also, Never Let Me Go? You might dig that one, too.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:41 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Snob value: B+
Good writing A (Would be A+ but the man needs an editor)
Fun to read and addictive like popcorn: A++++

Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series. Start with Master and Commander, it is the first (and nothing like the movie). It takes a couple of chapters to get into the rhythm, but it rocks.
posted by SLC Mom at 9:42 PM on January 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

The Best American Nonrequired Reading series. The Best American... series in general has a ton of good options to meet a variety of interests, and it's easy to find old editions cheaply in used bookstores.

I love MFK Fisher for food writing that's only partially about food.

Gary Shteyngart and Imad Rahmad are both funny and smart.
posted by lalalana at 9:45 PM on January 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm half asleep right now, but it occurs to me that you should check out The Eyre Affair. It's often recommended around these parts and is a fun story about a futuristic reality-shifting world and the cool chick cop who tries to keep it safe. Awesome.
posted by Night_owl at 10:03 PM on January 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

Also, I really liked Runaway Jury by Grisham. And if you haven't read any of him yet, Dean Koontz is pretty fun. I got to him through a gateway of Stephen King, but Koontz is more thriller and less horror. Also a lot lighter on the themes.
posted by Night_owl at 10:06 PM on January 25, 2011

Another thought: give Lee Child a shot. His books are not without cliche or trope, but they are really fun cliches and tropes. The writing isn't brilliantly literary, but it stays out of the way. I've gulped down every one like the delicious candy they are.
posted by rtha at 10:31 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Chick lit can be easy to read but still very satisfying. Marian Keyes and Elinor Lipman are two of my favorites. These authors have a great sense of humor and their stories have just enough depth to please my inner snob.
posted by kbar1 at 10:52 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Everyone who is saying Terry Pratchett is absolutely right.
posted by reductiondesign at 10:58 PM on January 25, 2011

My (current) favorite author for light reading is probably Jim Butcher, who recently finished the Codex Alera series and is currently writing The Dresden Files.
posted by junques at 12:18 AM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Georgette Heyer's regency romances are hilarious, well-written, and very fun.

Dorothy Sayer's mysteries.

Richard Stark's crime novels (pen name of Donald Westlake).

Diana Wynne Jones' YA novels.

Barry Hughart's fantasy novels (Bridge of Birds is the first).

Seconding Martin Cruz Smith - he really is an underrated writer.

Glen Cook's Black Company novels are fun - and available in omnibus form!

All of the above writers are good writers. Good, and easy.
posted by smoke at 12:32 AM on January 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Oh and Anne Tyler's books. Wonderful writer.
posted by smoke at 12:32 AM on January 26, 2011

Seconding YA fantasy and Garth Nix, with the caveat that I loved the Abhorsen trilogy (Sabriel/Lirael/Abhorsen) but utterly loathed the Keys to the Kingdom 'days of the week' series.
posted by corvine at 1:28 AM on January 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Definitely Pratchet. And Douglas Adams.

Neal Gaiman is good, too.
posted by porpoise at 1:37 AM on January 26, 2011

Early Henry James "The Europeans" and any of his short fiction.

Checkov, too is a not-too-too strenuous read and immensely rewarding.
posted by From Bklyn at 2:09 AM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

This really is what Wodehouse is for.
posted by OmieWise at 5:38 AM on January 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

You might enjoy Lauren Willig's flower series--it starts with The Secret History of the Pink Carnation. They're fun and light, and go quickly.

Also, has nobody mentioned Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series? They may not meet your criteria for good writing, but they're fun, too.
posted by Lycaste at 6:14 AM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I came in to recommend the Hunger Games Trilogy.

You might also like Christopher Moore. Lamb is awesome, but his other stuff is great too. It's a particular style though - funny, fantasy, sometimes kinda dark? I'm not sure how to explain it.
posted by dpx.mfx at 6:17 AM on January 26, 2011

I am ALSO somewhat of a snob... I have found that genre books from Dennis Lehane (mystery/detective) and Michael Marshall Smith (sci-fi) are invariably ripping good reads... and they're both legitimately good writers, too. It is easy to offend my stylistic sensibilities, and they've never done so. Added bonus: their books are all in the ~$6.50 price range, instead of the (egads!) $15 or so which is more typical for the fancy-schmancy paperbacks I usually read.
posted by julthumbscrew at 6:43 AM on January 26, 2011

I love, love, love the Claire Ferguson/ Russ Van Alstyne mysteries. They are snappy reads, with satisfying mysteries that are neither so complicated you have to think about them nor so simple they frustrate you, and with none of the kinds of failures of writing style that can make a book so difficult for us snobs. And they have a great forbidden/tortured love plot that endures through something like six books--one of my favorite features when I'm looking for pure-entertainment is "will they ever get together?" plots, and these books have a good one between two characters you like who are really decent people.
posted by not that girl at 6:52 AM on January 26, 2011

How could I have forgotten Dennis Lehane? Yes!
posted by rtha at 7:00 AM on January 26, 2011

Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell. A mob hitman goes to medical school. Plus, there's footnotes. My wife stayed up almost all night to finish it in one sitting.
posted by crLLC at 7:17 AM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Lauren Willig's The Pink Carnation series are frothy and fun Napoleonic-era romances/tales of intrigue and espionage.
posted by purlgurly at 7:33 AM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

George MacDonald Fraser's Flashman books.
Tove Jansson's Moomin novels.
Cold Comfort Farm, by Stella Gibbons.
posted by Iridic at 7:45 AM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

My standbys are anything by Octavia Butler, Margaret Atwood, Kurt Vonnegut, Charles Stross and Neal Stephenson. I also really love Andrea Lee's 'Interesting Women,' though I think it's out of print.

At the moment I'm loving Paolo Bacigalupi's 'The Windup Girl.'

I haven't read 'Cold Comfort Farm' in years and now I totally want to.
posted by nerdfish at 8:04 AM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Harry Potter series, and anything by Jasper Fforde.
posted by booknerd at 8:37 AM on January 26, 2011

I'd like to give a +1 to Dick Francis, Janet Evanovich, Harlan Coben, Lee Child, Cold Comfort Farm, David Sedaris and the Hunger Games.

Dennis Lehane writes beautifully, but is only light reading if you are hoping to end your day in a state of deep despair. He's the reverse of escapist fiction for me (to be fair, I work in child protection, so books like this feel like reading about work, with the worst possible ending. YMMV). Love Gene Wolfe, but he sure ain't light: his prose is thick and complicated and books are often very grim.

On a completely different note, I love L.M. Montgomery for real escape (she of Anne of Green Gables). The Blue Castle is sweet and romantic and completely unrealistic, but is the secret favorite book of several of my picky-reader friends.
posted by purenitrous at 9:05 AM on January 26, 2011 [4 favorites]

I have to put in a plug for John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee series. Sure, they're dated and somewhat sexist, like early James Bond movies, but damn, they're well written and every one is just so fun to read.
posted by gottabefunky at 9:38 AM on January 26, 2011

When I need a "fun" read I pick up an old mystery - Dashiel Hammett or Raymond Chandler. They are short, well-written, funny and light.
posted by radioamy at 9:48 AM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh yes also any of David Sedaris's books - they're so funny!
posted by radioamy at 9:49 AM on January 26, 2011

The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror collections always have many gems, and not much genre trash. They include lots of snob-friendly writers such as Joyce Carol Oates.
posted by benzenedream at 11:55 AM on January 26, 2011

Oh, the Dozois Year's Best Science Fiction is consistently mindbending, too.
posted by restless_nomad at 11:57 AM on January 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Anthem by Ayn Rand. It was a quick enjoyable yet thought provoking story.

The Mortal Instruments were a lot of fun.
posted by Sassyfras at 1:06 PM on January 26, 2011

Forgive me if these are repeats but: anything by John Irving (best is world according to garp, followed by hotel new hampshire followed by owen meany). Also Anne Tyler writes light painless books and Elizabeth Berg's books will make you cry. I know what you mean (I think) with snobbery in light reading- you need to be able to immerse in the book without going 'what the...' due to some weird cliches or broken writing styles. David Sedaris will make you laugh like crazy. Amy Tan's books...yes, read those. They are great for immersing yourself in while more or less being transported to another world (even if that world is modern san francisco vs ancient china)and the mother-daughter-relations descriptions are spot on. Happy Reading!!
posted by bquarters at 3:07 PM on January 26, 2011

James Herriot is great for feel-good easy reading.

Lisa See's Red Princess mysteries--I've only read one so far but no reason to suspect the rest aren't as good (I started at #3 by accident, so #s 1 and 2 may even be better...)

Philip Pullman, as above, but don't stop with His Dark Materials, try the Sally Lockhart mysteries. (Technically YA, but they don't have a YA feel. They're a bit lighter than His Dark Materials.)

Greg Iles for spies, and Kathy Reichs or Patricia Cornwell for forensic mysteries, are fine. I don't recommend reading more than one book by any of them in a row, though, as the plots are repetitive. But they're all good for pulling you in and taking you away from your thoughts. (I'd say they're comparable to Grisham, quality-of-writing-wise.)

Short stories are also good for this. I like Emma Donoghue, Jhumpa Laihiri, Helen Dunmore, Rose Tremain... check out your favourite literary authors, they may also have a couple of volumes of short stories, for bite-sized reading.
posted by equivocator at 4:12 PM on January 26, 2011

What immediately comes to mind is "His Majesty's Dragon" by Naomi Novik. It is about dragon welfare during the Napoleonic Wars. (I wouldn't recommend the follow-up books in the series necessarily, as the stories become more pensive/gruesome.)

If you go for YA fantasy, Patricia Wrede is also a very good bet.
posted by of strange foe at 10:02 PM on January 26, 2011

Can't believe I forgot Alan Bradley's Flavia de Luce mysteries, featuring a precocious 11-year-old chemist/aspiring poisoner in the 1950s English countryside. Tons of breezy fun.
posted by scody at 10:56 PM on January 26, 2011

Post Office- Bukowski (Most of his books are short and funny. You also might like Women and Ham on Rye)

No One Belongs Here More Than You-Miranda July (Short, enjoyable, and the content will appeal to the snob in you. I don't promise that you'll get the humor or even like many of the characters).
posted by penguinkeys at 12:46 AM on January 27, 2011

Robin Hobb - The Farseer Trilogy
posted by DrtyBlvd at 2:55 AM on January 27, 2011

If you haven't read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas you are in for a treat.
posted by joyride at 6:09 AM on January 27, 2011

What is some easy, enjoyable, popular fiction I can get from the library?

See lists like What Is the Best Work of American Fiction of the Last 25 Years? and What we were reading for good clues.

Most of that is good, simple, easy stuff to read and enjoy and all of it should be in any biggish library. Stay away from the bloated ones. Try some shorter novels by Philip Roth, Martin Amis, or Ian McEwan, some Raymond Carver short stories, and, even though you asked for fiction, some Don Paterson poetry.
posted by pracowity at 10:51 AM on January 27, 2011

In a previous thread, someone recommended the Jacky Faber series of YA lit. The first book in the series is Bloody Jack. It fits your guidelines perfectly. It's about an orphan girl in 18th century London that dresses up as a boy to become a sailor. Then she fights pirates.

I'm through the first two books so far, and they are a super-fun read. Very breazy, tightly plotted and lots of FUN. Plus, very well written. I read through one of the books in a DAY (and it was nearly 500 pages).
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 12:46 PM on January 28, 2011

Pick up any Bill Bryson book. Though preferably one of his travel ones, bonus if its the country you're in.
He is funny in a way that makes you snort at random intervals (and get stared at by prim n proper germans on a train to Stuttgart)
posted by glambo at 3:12 PM on January 28, 2011

The Jack Reacher books by Lee Child, start with the older ones. Mystery/incredibly tough and smart hero/involving stories but definitely not heavy. Also, the Kinsey Milhone books by Sue Grafton (A is for Alibi etc).
posted by cherrybounce at 6:54 PM on January 28, 2011

I've always really enjoyed the 87th Precinct novels by Ed McBain.
posted by Deathalicious at 10:45 PM on January 28, 2011

I really enjoyed Arianna Franklin's Mistress of the Art of Death series for the mystery department, about a female doctor solving murders in medieval England. Carol Berg writes beautiful, original fantasy worlds, and she's fairly prolific. Start with "Song of the Beast" for a stand-alone novel, or "Transformation" of the Rai-Kirah series if you're in the mood for a trilogy. And, as mentioned a couple times previously, anything by Bill Bryson ever, even though it's nonfiction.
posted by syanna at 12:05 AM on January 30, 2011

It isn't fiction, but "A Year in Provence" is incredibly light and easy going. In terms of relaxed, easy reading, that's as good as it gets for me. It also helps to read it on a beach.
posted by jmugrapler at 9:27 AM on January 30, 2011

I recommend any collection of short stories by Zelazny in the new wave of sf; his Amber novels are light and rollicking fun, but the series may be more than you're looking for.

Second (third? Fourth?) Georgette Heyer's Regency and Georgian romances; I have not found her mysteries compelling.

Chabon's Gentlemen of the Road was a fun romance and much lighter than Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.

Nth'ing Pratchett. His style has never bothered me, and even when he's preaching you can't tell or don't care.

Seconding Naomi Novik's first. Dragons as Napoleonic ships-of-the-line! How can you resist?

I hate to disparage others' recommendations, but I must save you from the overwrought Pink Carnation series. I found the writing cringeworthy and put it away after 100 pages. Also, Farseer is a bit heavyweight for your purposes. Philip Pullman is preachy, but unlike Pratchett, his characters serve the message, and only one character came alive for me in His Dark Materials, and he did not appear until the second book. Every other main character is revealed to be a two dimensional puppet by the end of the third book.

I won't disparage Gene Wolfe as a choice if you read his short stories, but the novels reward careful reading.
posted by gentilknight at 6:47 PM on January 30, 2011

Get a copy of "Replay" by Ken Grimwood.
posted by chanology at 7:01 PM on January 30, 2011

chiming in again to suggest the hysterical Joe Keenan.
posted by scody at 2:54 PM on January 31, 2011

I found the "Alchemist" by Paulo Coehlo to be just a classic book I can keep re-reading again and again.
posted by MikeBrendon at 8:47 PM on January 31, 2011

Response by poster: Hey all, this thread has been keeping me alive! School is really, really hard right now. Light fiction is now my end of the day strategy for turning off my brain. So far I've tried:

-Pratchett who I agree is kind of addictive - I'm on my third (and as a bonus my 8 year old is super into him too and even read Going Postal after I finished it)
-Faye Kellerman (Got to love a mystery that culminates in the perp getting beamed with a talmud)
-Wodehouse (great silliness with a little class critique to boot)
-The Alan Bradley mystery was really smart and good.

Next up I've got Henry James and Julia Quinn. Good combination, eh? I can't wait to work my way through all the other stuff you all have suggested. Thank you!
posted by serazin at 8:22 AM on March 6, 2011

Chiming back in to suggest adding David Nicholls' One Day to the list. I just read it and found it very enjoyable -- funny, well-written (including moments of painfully close-to-the-bone recognition of myself and certain unrequited love affairs of A Certain Age), and surprisingly thoughtful. Plus it was inspired by a Billy Bragg song, so there's no arguing with that.
posted by scody at 2:35 PM on March 19, 2011

Response by poster: Bill Bragg is all you had to say. Just put in a request at my library.
posted by serazin at 4:05 PM on March 19, 2011

Response by poster: Bill? Billy.
posted by serazin at 4:05 PM on March 19, 2011

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