Thursday, March 19, 2020

So You're Social Distancing Pt. 3

Have you binge watched too much Netflix yet?

In the 21st century it's can get real easy to eat up the hours of a day wrapped in a warm blanket, your doggo by your side, a big bowl of popcorn, and your favorite streaming service just chugging through episode after episode. It's a great way to get through a day or two, but eventually we all need a break from the television. Giving your brain a chance to engage some different areas is important to your mental and emotional health.

I'll make a pretty bold statement, I'm (Paul) a pretty nerdy guy. I'm a bit of a bookworm. I love movies, TV shows, and video games too, but my first type of entertainment love is a good book. Luckily I married someone that shares my love of reading, and we passed that love along to our daughter. If memory serves we've got ten floor to ceiling bookshelves in our 1,700 square foot house, and they're all full. We have plans to renovate the house to turn our entire 500 square foot addition into a library.

For today, I'm giving you some social distancing tips based around my love of reading. Here's how I would start.

Much of this will be easier if you have an e-reader, smart phone, laptop or tablet because I'll be mostly sharing some of my favorite e-books, some places to find free or cheap e-books, and ideas about what to do when you've finished reading a book.

First, I recommend signing up for a Goodreads account. I was really late to the game where it comes to Goodreads, and I kind of kick myself for it. It's a great tool that lets people rate, review, and track books they've read; build a "virtual library" of books they want to read, interact with a huge population of like-minded book lovers, and even interact with authors. I'd start my journey here if I had to do it all over again.

Second, Amazon is probably the next best place to start. If you already have an e-reader you can still find a wealth of discounted e-books on Amazon. Plus they've got just about ANYTHING you could be looking for. Honestly it can be pretty darn intimidating. That being said if you don't have an e-reader, the Kindle is relatively inexpensive, functions great, and will probably get to you pretty quick. If you're looking for some of my favorite books, I'm tossing Kindle edition links down a little further in this email.

For those of you that are thrifty or simply want the option to get some free books and not wade into the dense labyrinth of Amazon; I've got some great places for you to look. OpenLibrary is pretty much an online e-book library that let's you virtually "borrow" up to five books at a time. It does require you sign up for a membership, but I haven't had to pay any fees. Many of the books are image scans, that allow you to simply use any device to read the book. You can securely download versions if you want to read the book offline. BookBub is a way for authors to get their e-books to readers quick and usually a little cheaper than other sellers. They have a pretty big repository of free or discounted e-books along with standard print books that can be purchased. Again you'll have to sign up for a membership but it's free. One great thing about BookBub is they often have HUGE authors selling their e-books at heavily discounted prices. OpenCulture doesn't just have books, it also has a wealth of educational resources. It's geared heavily towards education so many of the e-books are classics that you might need for high school or college classes, but if you love classic literature this is a place you should check out. It's an older site so it looks a bit clunky, but it does the job. It pulls much of it's e-book catalog from Gutenberg so you can simply use Gutenberg, but some of it is direct download.

Lastly, I'd say circle back around to Goodreads once you've loaded up on some free or discounted e-books and start posting reviews. In no time, you'll be interacting with other readers, and you can engage in some socializing while social distancing. All based on your shared love of books.

Some of Paul's Favorite Books

I won't overwhelm you with a ton of books. For the most part these are Amazon links to some of my favorite authors or books that are currently on sale or free. After the links I'll put up a list of authors that I love if you want to simply to a search for those authors and see if they pique your interest. In no particular order here's my list:

I'm not a huge horror fan, but I have been lucky enough to hang out with a lot of horror authors and they're pretty great people. One horror book I have read that I absolutely LOVE is The Final Reconciliation by Todd Keisling. It's an amazing blend of rock and roll (I'm also a music lover) and cosmic horror that I quite literally read in a single sitting; I just couldn't put it down. It's probably one of my top five books of all time. It's just that good. Todd also edited Greetings From Moon Hill by Anthony Rapino which I haven't finished but is also a really good collection of horror short stories.

I'm much more at home with a Science Fiction or Fantasy book in my hands. I love a good space journey especially if it mixes blasters, swords, space piracy, and a general feel of a fast paced action movie. Simon R. Green's Deathstalker books are all of that an then some. Sure there's some Star Wars like elements, but there you can find homages to black and white pirate movies and high fantasy in the Deathstalker series. You're going to want to start with book one, Deathstalker, it's only $5.99 on Kindle which might seem like a lot but this is a 400+ page book so you're getting your money's worth.

If you've ever wanted to see what it would look like if Ocean's Eleven and Game of Thrones had a baby, The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch is the book you're looking for. Not only that the two sequels ratchet up the swashbuckling and heisting to otherworldly levels. $3.99 on Kindle for a 700+ page novel of awesomeness? Heck YES!

In the mood for some fantasy-trope spoofing Fantasy? Something that combines humor and wit with razor sharp writing? You need any and all books by Sir Terry Pratchett. Sadly, he's no longer with us, but he left us over 20 books in his famed Discworld setting. Adventures that range from city guards, to bumbling wizards, dry-witted witches, conniving reporters, and so much more; the Discworld books are some of my absolute favorites. Two that are heavily discounted on Amazon right now are The Color of Magic (the first Discworld book) and Wee Free Men, I highly recommend both.

I love Noir and Mystery almost as much as I love Fantasy. In 2000, Jim Butcher did the amazing and he combined those three together when he released Storm Front, a supernatural, noir-ish fantasy about wizard/detective Harry Dresden who runs a detective agency in Chicago and helps out the Chicago P.D. with supernatural crimes. I know it sounds cheesy. But the series has fast become one of my favorites and as time has gone on the characters have become more nuanced and multi-faceted. The entire series is a must read in my opinion. You can grab the first for $2.99, less than a penny a page.

Other authors I love include but are not limited to: Lee Child, Preston & Child, Clive Cussler, Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum, Michael Connelly, Harlan Coben, Greg Iles, Dan Brown, Steve Berry, Brandon Sanderson, Patrick Rothfuss, David Anthony Durham, Steven Brust, Melanie Rawn, C.S. Friedman, Robert Jordan, Brent Weeks, Peter V. Brett, Joe Abercrombie, Janny Wurts, Fred Saberhagen, Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman and many others.

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