Books that do not require much brain
March 13, 2018 4:27 PM   Subscribe

I have a concussion, so pretty much all I can do is read -- tv/computer screens make it worse -- and I can't focus on anything even slightly complicated. I'm looking for engrossing books with one main plotline and one narrator and not more than two timelines. Some domestic thrillers fit, cozy mysteries, maybe YA romance? I'd like to stay away from anything with significant worldbuilding, so no SFF please.
posted by jeather to Writing & Language (32 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Try anything by Mike Gayle - he specialises in gentle real-world fiction which I think fits the bill really well. They are engaging but easy reads.
posted by daysocks at 4:43 PM on March 13, 2018

"The Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho?
posted by Seeking Direction at 4:50 PM on March 13, 2018

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith might fit the bill.
posted by northernish at 4:54 PM on March 13, 2018 [12 favorites]

In the cozy genre, try the Her Royal Spyness series by Rhys Bowen.
posted by backwards compatible at 4:54 PM on March 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

I love reading but for various reasons have struggled to focus (on anything) this past year. In that time the only book I've been able to just sit down and read for hours was The Royal We. What are you gonna do, the heart wants what it wants.

Celebrity memoirs have also been good. Also Joshilyn Jackson, which is not-too-romancey romance. Also the recent adult Princess Diaries sequel. It's been a rough year. Good luck!
posted by goodbyewaffles at 4:55 PM on March 13, 2018

Lee Child's Jack Reacher series is straightforward airport fiction and is enjoyable, consumable, and forgettable. You won't be bending your mind on these thrillers.
posted by Sternmeyer at 4:57 PM on March 13, 2018 [3 favorites]

When I was having severe concentration problems in the past (for a different reason) I found it easiest to re-read things I'd already read, and liked, and that had repeat appeal. For me that meant things like the Hitchhiker's Guide collection and Sandman comics. YMMV of course but that's an approach to consider.
posted by traveler_ at 4:59 PM on March 13, 2018 [6 favorites]

The Nothing Girl by Jodi Taylor is exactly that. And if you like it, she's written a lot of others.

Also anything by Jeanne Ray.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 5:01 PM on March 13, 2018

If I recall correctly, The Maltese Falcon is fairly straightforward.
posted by mhum at 5:03 PM on March 13, 2018

I feel like YA is great for this. I recommend The Fault in Our Stars and other John Green. Rainbow Rowell is good. I also LOVED Everyday, though the movie adaptation that's out right now looks terrible.
posted by thelastpolarbear at 5:08 PM on March 13, 2018 [3 favorites]

i know you asked for reading type books, but what about daily comic book compilations? far side books, calvin and hobbes, zits, etc.
posted by koroshiya at 5:08 PM on March 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

audio books? when I can't focus, they're soothing.
posted by tilde at 5:16 PM on March 13, 2018

Joan Aiken - she wrote YA and lots of novels for adults. You might have the most luck finding her work for adults at the library, I rarely see it in bookstores.
Seconding Rainbow Rowell.
Also agree that re-reading familiar and comforting works might be a good move. Wodehouse is fantastic for this, I laugh out loud even when re-reading.
And have you read Dorothy Sayers? I have worn out several sets of second hand mass market editions of the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 5:38 PM on March 13, 2018 [4 favorites]

Any of Lillian Jackson Braun’s The Cat Who books are simple and cozy. Bonus: cats!!
posted by MexicanYenta at 5:46 PM on March 13, 2018 [4 favorites]

I'll second the Wimsey books; I'm starting a stressful job right now and they've been my go-to for books that don't take brainpower, but that are still clever and entertaining.
posted by thesmallmachine at 6:27 PM on March 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

Alan Bradley's Flavia de Luce series.
posted by sarcasticah at 6:53 PM on March 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

Seconding traveler_ on rereading stuff. After I had major surgery I just could not really concentrate to read. I wound up rereading some old favorites, and also reading some children's classics ... so stuff like Little House in the Big Woods, or The Princess Bride, or Mary Poppins ...
posted by gudrun at 6:55 PM on March 13, 2018 [3 favorites]

posted by Don Pepino at 7:16 PM on March 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

Anne of Green Gables
posted by pinochiette at 7:54 PM on March 13, 2018 [3 favorites]

Jeff Resnick Mysteries by L.L. Bartlett!
posted by Sassyfras at 8:04 PM on March 13, 2018

I’ve been listening to Murder on the Orient Express on audiobook and it’s been great for chilling with. It’s on the short side but I’d bet other Poirot stuff would also fit the bill (haven’t read any others yet).

It is technically fantasy but I also started reading Howl’s Moving Castle a while back and that might be a good one too. It’s simply and straightforwardly written and is like a warm cup of tea to me.
posted by caitcadieux at 9:21 PM on March 13, 2018

Agatha Christie are always my go-to for reading when I'm A) sick or B) on an 8-hour-plus plane flight. They're easy to read, entertaining, and you can either pay lots of attention to guessing whodunit or just skip speculation entirely.
posted by andraste at 9:35 PM on March 13, 2018

My friend's doctor suggested she avoid reading when she had a concussion, so she listened to podcasts / books on tape instead. I really like the Another Round podast.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 11:16 PM on March 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

Diana Wynne Jones (except Hexwood, which is time-bendy and confusing). Robin McKinley. Her earlier books are better written, but if you don't have much brain you may not mind the increasingly lengthy and repetitive and slow-moving things she has come out with more recently. Agree with Sayers and Christie, also I like Ruth Rendell's Wexford books for this (not her Barbara Vines or the ones without Wexford, they tend to be darker). If you can find them in the US, Kerry Greenwood's Phryne Fisher books (the source of Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries) are perfect. Her Corinna Chapman books are also good.
posted by Athanassiel at 1:09 AM on March 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

My guilty pleasure: Dick Francis - simple, uncomplicated good guy jockey heroes, usually set in British horse racing scene. Plot lines not fancy, but somehow hold your interest. From the 60s and 70s, so possibly no longer PC - he always gets the girl, but the women are interesting in and of themselves and not one dimensional.
posted by Gnella at 6:00 AM on March 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

The "Skeleton in the Family" series are extremely cozy mysteries, with a sentient talking (but not spooky) skeleton who sometimes gets packed into various pieces of luggage so he can help his human friends investigate.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 6:21 AM on March 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

Harlan Coben writes simple, engaging mysteries. He's one of my favorite airplane reads. I'm always kind of doped up on benzos when I fly, so he might work for you.
posted by Mavri at 8:08 AM on March 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

Nevil Shute, try Trustee from the toolroom
posted by dhruva at 10:31 AM on March 14, 2018

Non-SFF non-complicated YA I have enjoyed recently that you don't appear to have rated on goodreads, in roughly the order (most recommended first) that I would suggest them:

A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend by Emily Horner (f/f romance, one POV, two timelines, author is a MeFite)
Silhouette of a Sparrow by Molly Beth Griffin (f/f romance, historical fiction, 1 POV, 1 timeline)
The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton (non-romance, 1 POV, 1 timeline)
Taking Flight by Sierra Maley (f/f romance, 1 POV, 1 timeline)
Unspeakable by Abbie Rushton (f/f romance, 1 POV, 1 timeline)
Ostrich Boys by Keith Gray (non-romance, 1 POV, 1 timeline)

(... I appear to have preferences.)
posted by kyrademon at 7:33 AM on March 15, 2018

This involves slightly LESS plot than you asked for, but I often recommend the Calvin and Hobbes collections for folks who need undemanding stuff to read. They're delightful, they do have a BIT of plot (story sequences across strips), but you can easily put them down whenever you feel like stopping.

Your library might have some of the collections.
posted by kristi at 12:37 PM on March 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

This isn't in one of the genres you're asking for, but have you read James Herriot? His collected stories about life as a vet in rural Britain are surprisingly engaging, and just very charming, cozy, and comforting.
posted by snorkmaiden at 7:15 PM on March 22, 2018

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