Don't judge me but I want to read more Dan Brown
January 22, 2017 6:51 PM   Subscribe

I hereby admit I just read two Dan Brown novels and they satisfied my depressed chronic brain fog reading level perfectly. Badly edited and badly written but enough of a plot and history and conspiracies that it held my attention on days I was bed bound. What other junk food books are in the same style?

I just want to read garbage novels. Usually I turn to Star Trek universe novels but caught up on all those for a bit. I've read all the main crime authors works (Sandford, Deaver, Lee Child, French, Jo Nesbo, etc) and it kind of feels that I've run out of things to read that isn't urban romance, urban fantasy, erotic fantasy, etc..I'm not into basically what most of the books I see in Goodreads lists and I've read all the big ones of the past year.

I've tried the Preston-Child series hearing that it was semi-like dan brown but then at the end it turned out to be ancient monsters and that put me off. I want a tad of conspiracy and a bunch of vast historical stuff (that vaguely rings of the truth even if it isn't) and a satisfying tied up ending with little to no romance. Any suggestions? Oh and no real bad things happening to children and no bad things happening to dogs too please :)

Feel free to PM me your guilty reads if too ashamed to admit to in public & tried searching so hope hasn't been asked before.
posted by kanata to Media & Arts (53 answers total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
1. The rest of the Dan Brown books
2. The Magicians series (first one is best, they get worse, a little dumb romance though)
3. Justin Cronin's Passage (and sequel, first is good, second is semi-garbage)
4. Everything from this thread. Not garbage actually but not super complex reading for the most part. High interest, but good also. Specifically Last Policeman trilogy.

What about Wool? Lots of pages there.
posted by jessamyn at 6:58 PM on January 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

You are not alone.

When younger I was a big fan of the Dirk Pitt novels by Clive Cussler (link) It's mostly about manly men going scuba diving and fighting for money or treasure or something. If you like Dan Brown I think you'll be happy in this world. Good Garbage ++++ would read again!
posted by soylent00FF00 at 7:02 PM on January 22, 2017 [7 favorites]

If you stick with the Preson-Child series after the first couple books it stops being ancient monsters, but eventually swings into being very Pendergast-centric.

Clive Cussler?
posted by CoffeeHikeNapWine at 7:02 PM on January 22, 2017 [4 favorites]

Michael Critchon (rhymes with "frighten" according to the book jacket) hits the same spot for me. It's the "this will engross me through a long plane ride but I wouldn't mind leaving this on the seat for the next person" type of book.

Anyway, basically all his stuff. Some is better, some is worse, but all scratch that itch. I recommend anything other than Jurrasic park though :)
posted by raccoon409 at 7:03 PM on January 22, 2017 [7 favorites]

Oh! I posted my comment without seeing the one above me! I wasn't questioning the suggestion.... I was actually suggesting his books. (Glad to see I wasn't alone in my idea and so sorry if it ended up looking sarcastic!)
posted by CoffeeHikeNapWine at 7:05 PM on January 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh, and if you are into Sci-Fi - the worst worst worst author that I love is the Alex Benedict series by Jack McDevitt (man these books suck objectively!) but kind of like Doritos they go down really nicely when you just need some chill time.
posted by soylent00FF00 at 7:05 PM on January 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

sorry if it ended up looking sarcastic

I think that's hard to avoid in a thread about trashy reading recommendations!

What's important is that now I know I'm not alone. :-)
posted by soylent00FF00 at 7:06 PM on January 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

If you haven't read Sue Grafton's Kinsey Milhone series (A is for Alibi, etc) they are a total delight. And there are lots of them.
posted by something something at 7:15 PM on January 22, 2017 [5 favorites]

You want Steve Berry- The Templar Legacy, The Charlemagne Pursuit, the 14th Colony- very satisfying...
posted by SyraCarol at 7:16 PM on January 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

I think you would like Katherine Neville's books. "The Eight" is her best (and best known), and "A Calculated Risk" is lots of fun. (I didn't like A Calculated Risk" or "The Fire" much but you might.) Lots of historic capers, secret codes, chess, nuns, the French, secret societies...
posted by PussKillian at 7:20 PM on January 22, 2017 [8 favorites]

Seconding Clive Cussler and Michael Crichton. James Patterson scratches that itch too.
posted by AFABulous at 7:21 PM on January 22, 2017

So I'm just going to say it and then start a new account. John Grisham. Does he count? I don't think I saw him listed above.

I had cataract surgery a couple months ago and the best way to train my new eyes was to read. Read and read and read. But I too had brain fog and vertigo and generally felt crappy, so anything decent was just too much to track. And couldn't read anything on a screen.

I bought maybe eight Grisham books at a local thrift store for 50 cents each. They were awful, but that guy writes A LOT, have to give him that. And it held my attention. And it didn't kill me. I even got used to him in a strange way.

So maybe also go to the thrift store and see what's cheap.
posted by crankyrogalsky at 7:32 PM on January 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

The Joe Tesla series by Rebecca Cantrell is also good.

+1 for Steve Barry

The Judas Chronicles series by Aiden James (a little supernatural stuff, but it is kind fun and younger in cheek)

(I could probably just share my kindle library, this kind of stuff is my guilty pleasure/escape.)
posted by CoffeeHikeNapWine at 7:43 PM on January 22, 2017

Dan Brown cites The Doomsday Conspiracy, by Sidney Sheldon, as the book that inspired him to write thriller fiction. I read it three or four times when I was in middle school; it's very much in the same vein as The da Vinci Code et al.

I have not read any of Sheldon's other novels, but the impression I've gotten is that they're not dissimilar: not all of them are international spy/conspiracy intrigue, but all are compulsively readable. The L.A. Times once called him "prince of the potboilers", which seems to sum him up pretty well.
posted by Johnny Assay at 7:44 PM on January 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett reminded me strongly of Dan Brown.
posted by bq at 7:45 PM on January 22, 2017 [4 favorites]

Also, Wikipedia has a list of authors of "airport novels", which might give you some more ideas.
posted by Johnny Assay at 7:50 PM on January 22, 2017 [5 favorites]

Some older recommendations: Harold Robbins, A.J. Cronin -- the latter is not garbage, but he was a bestseller in his time and is very easy to read. I shamelessly adore "The Citadel," and always thought of him as sort of a poor man's Somerset Maugham -- somewhat similar, but much more easy reading, airport novels of their time.

When "The Bridges of Madison County" came out I found a copy at a smart, very literate friend's house, and cruelly mocked him. On being called out for being too harsh, I agreed to read it myself. It is, of course, utter shite. But it may be just the right sort of junk food. I fully agree with this line in Wikipedia: "Other reviewers criticized the novel as sentimental slush: featuring "contrived, unrealistic dialog", and a "trite" storyline." However, I admit to reading it pretty quickly and finding it a bit of a page-turner -- in part because I could not wait to see how much worse it could get. Filed under "so bad it's good."

If non-fiction would suit, light social histories can be good -- the book of (it was also a TV series) The Worst Jobs In History is something I re-read when sick and in a fog.

If graphic novels would suit, the full run of Alison Bechdel's Dykes to Watch Out For is excellent. You can probably skip the first two (or, never mind, they're in anthology format now); it takes a bit to get going into an absorbing soap opera -- and once it takes off in that direction it's a delightfully absorbing saga. Far from a guilty read -- it is quality stuff -- but still excellent 'please take my mind off things without demanding a great deal from said gently fried mind' reading.
posted by kmennie at 8:07 PM on January 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

The Sookie Stackhouse series and anything else by Charlaine Harris. "True Blood" was based on her books and there's a new series coming out based on some of her other books. Because she's good!
posted by areaperson at 8:18 PM on January 22, 2017 [5 favorites]

I'd turn to the oldies but goodies: manly men, gripping tales and infinitely better written. Check out Hammond Innes, Desmond Bagley, (early) Alistair MacLean, Gavin Lyall and the like.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 8:20 PM on January 22, 2017

Yes to Sydney Sheldon. I haven't read his stuff in a long time but I remember his books being 1) very trashy 2) very easy to get into and hard to put down.

For quality reads that are approachable and enjoyable, I suggest Strangers in Paradise (graphic novel series about star-crossed lovers, international crime, etc. If you like watching powerful women kick ass in a way that's enjoyable and not entirely realistic, it's great) and the works of Terry Pratchett (I find I can read his stuff on a deeper level, where I think about the philosophical implications, or a much shallower level, where I just enjoy the werewolves and dragons and jokes).
posted by bunderful at 8:31 PM on January 22, 2017

Some folks might argue that these isn't garbage-y enough, but they're definitely quick, easy reads, many of which would benefit from more editing:

Have you read Raymond Chandler's eight Philip Marlowe novels, set in a gritty LA of the 1940s? They're excellent (and excellently written light reading). You might also like Robert B. Parker, who edited/finished the last of the novels, and has many of his own.

Tales of the City by Amistad Maupin is another good, trashy, if slower-paced choice. There are about eight of these books, all told in vignettes that were originally serialized in the newspaper, all set in a kind of trashily over-romanticized San Francisco of the seventies, eighties, and I didn't get far enough into the series to see if she makes it to 2000-or-so, but she probably does.

Anything by China Mieville, who writes what I'd call Marxist-leaning steampunk fantasy set in London and the like.

Neil Gaiman also writes lovely fantasy novels that are fairly well written, though I think his characters (especially the bumbling, well-intentioned male protagonists who just can't believe they've stumbled into this frightening situation in which they must grow up and save the world..) are the trashy part.

Neal Stephenson's earlier books are trashy in a delicious, carefully done way (his later ones are doorstops in bad need of editing). He's arguably the godfather of cyberpunk.
posted by tapir-whorf at 8:31 PM on January 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you want books you can tear through in a single sitting: The 39 Steps by John Buchan and Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household have yet to be surpassed.

Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose will hit the spot for a longer read. Ken Follett's Pillars duology will keep you busy for weeks.
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:36 PM on January 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

The Hunger Games series
posted by CrazyLemonade at 8:53 PM on January 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

Taylor Stevens' The Informationist is a page-turning trashy good time. Very violent and not conspiracy-ish, so maybe not your Dan Brown replacement. (Do NOT read the second book in the series, it's about child abuse.)
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:00 PM on January 22, 2017

I really enjoyed what I have read of the Rivers of London series.
posted by munichmaiden at 9:55 PM on January 22, 2017 [5 favorites]

Anything by Robert Anton Wilson.
posted by Malla at 9:59 PM on January 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've enjoyed Dean Koontz's work on a number of long car rides, specifically Velocity and Life Expectancy. Koontz is a horror writer but I found them both to be more thriller than horror, for what it's worth.
posted by suetanvil at 10:42 PM on January 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you want "little to no romance," then the Hunger Games series is NOT for you.
posted by dondiego87 at 10:57 PM on January 22, 2017

Replay by Ken Grimwood and, in a similar, more recent vein, Stephen King's 11/22/63. Total page-turners, not super-trashy, can't-put-them-down reads.
posted by nilbog at 11:27 PM on January 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

This list from the Berwyn Public Library blog about readalikes for Dan Brown is one that I've used many times to great success. Every patron who came in looking for what to read after they'd raced through all of Brown found a book or author (sometimes several) that they liked. Several of the suggestions in this thread (Max Berry, The Eight) are on there along with my standby rec for Dan Brown lovers, The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason.
posted by clerestory at 12:09 AM on January 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

Arturo Perez-Reverte is very reliable for fast-paced historical reads. The ones I've read that have a high historical content are Captain Alatriste and The Fencing Master (both set in the past), and The Nautical Chart (set in the present day, but with its head in the past). Can I also put in a word, though, for his The Queen of the South, which is entirely contemporary but which had me on the edge of my seat for days?
posted by kelper at 12:35 AM on January 23, 2017 [3 favorites]

I came to recommend The Eight. I also enjoyed A Calculated Risk but the most recent book, title escapes me, I thought was shite.
posted by kitten magic at 1:47 AM on January 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Another vote for Clive Cussler. I find Dan Brown unreadably bad, even for airplanes, but Clive Cussler is exactly bad enough. And much better plotted stories.
posted by fshgrl at 2:58 AM on January 23, 2017

I will admit my like of the Dan Brown novels as well. If you like the conspiracy theory angle a lot, I saw Umberto Eco was mentioned above and The Name of the Rose is a great book, but Foucault's Pendulum would scratch that itch a bit better, imho. I want to second Robert Anton Wilson, especially the Illuminati Chronicles.
posted by ZureaL at 3:42 AM on January 23, 2017

Not much history in these, just straight-forward, conspiracy, crime-y stuff: Harlan Coben. His books aren't BAD, per se, just formulaic and really really pleased with themselves. They're great. :-)
posted by chainsofreedom at 4:21 AM on January 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Nelson de Mille scratches this itch for me. In fact, I may need to hit the library this evening...
posted by easy, lucky, free at 4:57 AM on January 23, 2017

+3 for Steve Berry. And for those who enjoy Steve Berry, you might also enjoy Brad Thor and Alex Berenson. I actually found a Cotton Malone (Berry's recurring hero) mention in a Brad Thor novel when I first started reading Thor's books--that was pretty funny.
posted by Autumnheart at 6:09 AM on January 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Pillars of the Earth Might be worth giving a miss if you have trouble with sexual violence at all.
posted by Artw at 6:51 AM on January 23, 2017

Another vote for John Grisham, that is my go-to "trash" reading. If you haven't read them, you might also like Michael Connelly's detective novels.
posted by skycrashesdown at 6:57 AM on January 23, 2017

I really liked The Pelican Brief.
posted by latkes at 7:38 AM on January 23, 2017

Ack, this is silly coming back to an old comment, but I goofed - Katherine Neville's books The Eight and A Calculated Risk are good, her two others are The Fire and The Magic Circle, both of which I was not very excited about.

I will add another rec of an author I absolutely love and have touted before, and who doesn't seem to get much attention: Judith Merkle Riley. While her books aren't in the thriller category, they may scratch the history/mystical side of things. Her books are both lighthearted and yet emotionally very powerful. My favorite is The Oracle Glass, about witches in Paris in the 1600s (based on the real-life Affair of the Poisons). Honestly, though, I adore all her books.

Another you might like is The Mask of Atreus, which is very much in the ballpark and features museums, mysterious artifacts, Nazis, and a female lead. They have other books but I haven't read them yet.
posted by PussKillian at 7:40 AM on January 23, 2017

A lot to nth in terms of recommendations here for what I call "popcorn reading" - it's tasty, you can't put it down, and eventually you finish and are left feeling somehow wanting.

Grisham is great for this, and I have one or two of his titles around for re-reads when I'm too sick or exhausted for anything harder. Worth noting as well that Ken Follett has a new series out (The Century Triology), starting around WWI. I read the first one - The Fall of Giants - and got a very similar feel as I did from Pillars, so if that is up your alley, his new stuff might be as well.
posted by nubs at 7:45 AM on January 23, 2017

Another vote for Cussler and Crighton. Although they don't have the historical aspect, Lawrence Block's Bernie Rhodenbarr series (almost all the books are titled "the burglar who [insert action here]" also would fit (they're very much popcorn crime books). If you haven't read him yet, Elmore Leonard is a great crime writer.

Also, when cleaning out my dad's books, I found a lot of Dean Koontz. I have no idea how good they are, but given that he was a huge fan of this type of book, I'd say he might work for you too. Although I can't guarantee them to be child and dog friendly.
posted by Hactar at 2:01 PM on January 23, 2017

Both the Harry Bosch and Lincoln Lawyer series(es?) by Michael Connelly are fun.
posted by slidell at 2:09 PM on January 23, 2017

Tales of the City by Amistad Maupin is another good, trashy, if slower-paced choice. There are about eight of these books, all told in vignettes that were originally serialized in the newspaper, all set in a kind of trashily over-romanticized San Francisco of the seventies, eighties, and I didn't get far enough into the series to see if she makes it to 2000-or-so, but she probably does.

The last one came out a couple of years ago and was, yeah, set around the time it was published. (I feel like the first maybe three books are a great deal of fun, then for a while you're just reading out of nostalgia because the main "wow it's such a small town" gimmick of the series wears thin, but the last one made a nice end to things.)
posted by Smearcase at 2:13 PM on January 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

I Am Pilgrim isn't so historical, but the conspiracy elements kept me completely gripped. Robert Harris' An Officer and a Spy was very enjoyable - it's about the Dreyfus Affair, which I didn't know anything about before (beyond "J'accuse").
posted by featherboa at 2:31 PM on January 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

J. F. Penn's Arkane series. They are very Dan Brown-y.
posted by mixedmetaphors at 2:35 PM on January 23, 2017

Can't believe no one's mentioned Jeffrey Archer! His short stories with a twist in the tale are particularly satisfying and an easy read.
posted by low_horrible_immoral at 4:11 AM on January 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

Mario Puzo's The Godfather is a recurring guilty read. Terribly written? Check. Longer than it should be? Check. Will I read it again? Check.
posted by Gratishades at 6:52 AM on January 24, 2017

The official (and really, not often used) sub-genre for those books is "Code and cipher stories". You can try searching a library catalog for those. Or, here's NYPL's. That should give you a start.

Some of the less popular (ie, not Dan Brown) ones should give good read-alike suggestions on Amazon.
posted by timepiece at 1:01 PM on January 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

My cousin who loves Dan Brown also loves Matthew Reilly. She loves Reilly so much she actually went and bought the Australian editions of some of his books because she didn't want to wait for the US edition to come out. I haven't read any Reilly or Brown so I can't personally vouch for the no bad things happening to dogs or kids and the no romance conditions. I can say my cousin is not the type who would enjoy books which had those things. His Australian publisher says his books are for fans of Cussler, Clancy, and Crichton. Nine of his books available in the US from Simon & Schuster.

Downloadable PDFs of some of his short stories are available here at the bottom of the page. There are also links to descriptions of his books and they sound fun.
posted by Constance Mirabella at 7:47 AM on January 28, 2017

Hey! Updated to say I am currently losing myself in the junk food world of Steve Berry and despite being oddly put off by the Cotton name (was expecting crappy southern cliches) they scratch the right itch for conspiracies! powerful church suppressing evidence! history! A friend picked up a whack from the library for me (and another british series who I forget but was irish! loner man! corrupt police!) and it's so far proving to be about the right level of reading. Bad things happen (sometimes to kids but never in detail) and the flawed hero always saves the day with his intelligence more than his might. Oddly comforting right now. So many good suggestions that I'll be returning to this year. Thanks!
posted by kanata at 3:49 PM on February 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

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