My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and the founder/president of Data & Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

Relevant links:

Archive

delectable brain floss?

Last night, I took a break from dissertation writing and went to the bookstore. At midnight. I wasn’t alone. Dozens of teen and early-20s girls took their wrist bands and lined up to buy Breaking Dawn, the fourth and final book in the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer. It was relatively calm, especially compared to the Harry Potter extravaganza that I witnessed in Harvard Square when Book 7 was released. Still, I was quite happy to see folks standing on line for a book. Go dork pride!

The Twilight series is what my friend Irina calls brain floss (a.k.a. brain candy). It’s the kind of yummy tasty book that makes you want to stay up all night and whip through it. All 700 pages of it. But that ruins its power as brain floss. Brain candy books must be used sparingly to be brain floss (or else you’d have to call it procrastination). So I’m only allowed to read 50 pages a day. Irina’s convinced that brain floss is necessary for dissertation reprieve. It gives your mind a break from the intense social theory reading that it must do while writing. The focus is on the storyline and character development. It’s easy to consume and takes absolutely no thinking whatsoever. Crunch crunch crunch… tasty.

Personally, I lurve YA brain floss. I mostly have little patience for the images of money, fame, power, and love presented in most adult brain floss. Of course, when I’m feeling the need to humor myself with Hollywood’s absurdity, I will sometimes grab a Jackie Collins. But that can’t be admitted to out loud so shhh.

I’m about to finish the Twilight series, so I have a question. What good brain floss do y’all recommend? Think the guilty pleasure book reading you do at the beach that is pure junk brain candy. Feel free to comment anonymously if you’re embarrassed. But bring on the trash!

Print Friendly

21 comments to delectable brain floss?

  • There is a great Australian YA series by an author named John Marsden. First book is called Tomorrow When The War Began. I’ve read the first three books (I think there’s about seven in total), and am also writing a PhD dissertation so may take your/Irina’s Brain Candy advice and get back to reading the others 🙂

  • Amy

    I’m reading The Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margret George, also whilst doing my dissertation. Its a totally all-involving and fascinating escape into the world of ancient Egypt and Rome- perfect for transporting me out of any everyday mind churns before bed.
    Also, Citizen Girl by the authors of the nanny diaries: it could be considered ‘brain candy trash’, and it is really really entertaining and easy to read, but i think its also a very clever and spot-on insight into the trials of work/life for gen x/y girls.

  • Penny

    I love Tamora Pierce’s YA “Lioness Quartet” and “Wild Magic” series 🙂

  • Angelle

    I am mortified to be admitting this, but I find Laurell K. Hamilton to be meaningless fun with an extra-extra helping of smutty. I prefer her Merry Gentry fairy war novels to her Anita Blake vampire-werewolf sexcapades, but to each their own.

    To be sure, the plot is grindingly incremental and the sex doesn’t always hold up to the laws of physics, but when I need to leave my higher-order thinking for a bit, I want Hamilton.

  • Oh my. The two Christophers — Christopher Buckley and Christopher Moore — are my favorites right now for just plain fun reading.

    I also love memoirs and good (fiction) family dramas for brain floss… reading someone else’s tortured life makes mine seem so much more manageable, haha. My friend Kate Veitch’s Australian bestseller just came out in the US, and it totally did the trick: http://www.powells.com/biblio?isbn=9780452289475

  • jason d

    The idea of being stuck somewhere early in the morning with a bunch of free time had me grabbing “Armies in the Night” by Norman Mailer when I headed out the door. I’m just gullible for cultural movement reads.

  • I second Tamora Pierce, especially the Protector of the Small quartet.

    Gordon Korman writes terrific YA. It’s zany and fast-paced, just the thing for when you’re tired, scared, or down. You could start with the more humorous “Don’t Care High,” “Son of Interflux,” “No Coins, Please,” or his more dramatic “On the Run,” “Dive,” “Everest,” or “Island” serieses.

    The She-Hulk and Runaways comics (available in trade paperback form) have up-to-date banter and varying requirements for emotional investment.

    Are you already a Scott Westerfeld fan? The Uglies trilogy is pageturner YA fantasy.

    If you haven’t already read “Jane Eyre”, don’t underestimate its trashy potboiler qualities.

    Jeffrey Archer’s “The Prodigal Daughter” is a classic airport novel. High finance, politics, love, sex, social drama, college, etc. In case you run out of Jackie Collins.

  • I would say Pratchett, as I can zip through one of his novels in an evening, but they do tend to leave an aftertaste of subtle anthropology.

    So I’ll say “Three men in a Boat”, “Diary of a Pilgrimage” and “Three Men on the Bummel” by Jerome K Jerome, and the time-travelling prequel, “…to Say Nothing of the Dog” by Connie Willis.

    Willis’s novella “DA” was just published too, and I think it’d qualify as a YA mental floss, if it didn’t beautifully illustrate a subtle problme of success.

  • Yashima

    *de-lurk for a moment *
    I am currently reading the Rhapsody series by Elizabeth Haydon (it’s from 2000). I also enjoyed the Kushiel series by Jacqueline Carey a lot. I also devoured Trudi Canavan’s Black Magician trilogy as well as the Age of Five trilogy. Those are all pretty well-known fantasy series I think, so you probably know them.

    Another type of fantasy author is Tim Powers. Try “Last Call” or “The Drawing of the Dark”. It’s not quite as candy-like I would say but still fun and easy reading.

    Have fun.

    Bye
    Yashima

  • NancyH

    personally, i don’t like those Stephanie Meyers books. My sister loves them and gave them to me to read. i will admit i still read the whole thing(there were 3 books at the time). i got stuck wanting to know what happened while simultaneously wincing at the teenage drama and overwroughtness of it all.

    To Say Nothing of the Dog, mentioned by Kevin, is *brilliant*, as is much of Connie Willis’s other work. Usually a silly madcap romance wrapped around a big idea.

    as for brain floss i tend to go right past YA fiction back to actual kids books that i read when i was little, or my mom read aloud to us such as:

    definitely older Gordon Korman as Sumana mentioned(No Coins Please, the Macdonald Hall ones, I Want To Go Home, Son of Interflux are my favs); Jean Little(Look Through My Window, From Anna, Mine For Keeps); The Secret Garden, Anne of Green Gables, Trumpet of the Swan, Miss Happiness and Miss Flower, The Indian in the Cupboard, The Rats of NIMH.

    and a more recent one(not from my childhood, that i fell in love with as an adult.. The Secret Life of Owen Skye (and others) by Alan Cumyn.

    good luck with the dissertation!

  • I read the “Uglies” trilogy at your recommendation and loved it. That said, having just finished “Breaking Dawn,” I am officially quitting Stephanie Meyer. I actually started counting the number of times she used the words flich, wince and cringe, and lemme tell ya — it was way way too many. I felt like I needed to wash my brain out with soap after finishing the series. And The Host? Even worse!

    My favorite young adult brain floss book ever was “Feed” by M.T. Anderson.

    But I’ll definitely be checking out some of the other recommendations in this comment feed!

  • This got me thinking of being a young adult and the disparity between what we’re told we should like/read and what we really like/read. I was on the receiving end of the Judy Bloom books – most of which I loved. These were great books that spoke to my intelligence and issues as a young girl. But at the same time, they didn’t give me thrills I sought. So I would secret away copies of those terrible VC Andrews books up to my grandparent’s cottage. Those books were creepy and gothic and trashy all at once. I tore through them. I’m currently checking out Feed and plan to read Little Brother and the Pretties series. But these are smart YA novels. Seems many adults rave about them. I wonder how teens are responding …

  • I like Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone. He has three books. The most recent, The great derangement, may be his best yet. It’s nonfiction but I find him thoroughly entertaining. It’s organized in essay format for optimum flossability!

    I also recommend Cormac McCarthy’s the road, if you’re looking for a post-apocalyptic adventure that will leave you very depressed. But there’s a reason it won the pulitzer in 2006. The prose is expertly crafted. There is an economy of words that approaches elegance. The story literally flies off the page. It’s one of my all time favorite books.

  • I agree that Tamora Pierce’s series are lovely brain floss — I too like the Protector of the Small series the best

    Angelle said Laurell K. Hamilton to be meaningless fun with an extra-extra helping of smutty. — I like the first five or six in the Anita Blake series, then it just gets to be boring.

    Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series suits me fine — always with the slapstick. (Evanovich: “If Mickey Spillane wrote Archie and Veronica, Stephanie would be Betty.)

    Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse (barmaid and telepath, with vampire and shapeshifter lovers..) novels are good beach reading fodder, as are Patricia Briggs’ Mercedes Thompson (VW mechanic and shapeshifter…with vampire and faerie friend).

    If you are in the mood for period mystery, Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series is satisfying.

  • I love to dive into YA material for mindless fun. I’m currently 50 pages into Breaking Dawn and must admit, it’s a little scary that I’m so sucked in I don’t want to put it down. As for other brainless fun – I’m a big supporter of Juliet Marillier; she’s an Australian author and she’s only written a few YA novels but I like her style of epic romantic fantasy. Also on the list of guilty pleasures are Emily Giffin’s novels.

    Will have to check out some of the other recommendations and just to note: this is the second place today I’ve seen a recommendation for “Uglies”. Will have to give this a look.

  • I’ll de-lurk for a minute too. 🙂

    I looove Meg Cabot’s Princess Diaries series–I started reading it in high school and have stuck with it in the years since when I’ve had time. It’s not really fantastical besides the fact that the main character has to take princess lessons and everything associated with that, but otherwise, I love the books. Mia, the main character, is in high school and mostly talks about her friends and the two boys she likes, but being socially-aware and nerdy, not to mention impossibly neurotic (though not to hopeless Bella-like levels), Mia is a character that’s pretty down to earth and fun to read. It’s not trashy, but it’s fun and light YA reading.

    Second on the Stephanie Plum series. Evanovich is always good for laughs.

  • sy

    My wife recommends a series of books by jacqueline carey that start with “kushiel’s dart” (something like that anyway).

  • Amy

    The Series of Unfortunate Events (Lemony Snicket).

  • I highly suggest Nancy Farmer novels. They’re YA, and so so good. Usually somewhat dystopian. My tfirst was “The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm”, but I love “The House of the Scorpion” more. But only by a little.

  • I can highly recommend Tamora Pierce, especially the books set in Tortal. If you don’t already know about her, she looked at YA sci fi and fantasy in the 1980’s and asked ‘where are all the heroines?’ then wrote them as she couldn’t find any.

    I love the books, have done since I was about 12 (27 now) and keep going back to them for comfort reading. It’s like visiting with old friends.

  • While working on a directed research project this summer, I’m enjoying Linda Berdoll’s books continuing JA’s Pride & Prejudice: Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife, and Nights & Days at Pembereley.

    I cover them with book sox so no one will know what I’m reading LOL!