As a university lecturer, writer and translator, I spend a great deal of time reading: news articles, scholarly papers and reports, and a fair amount of marketing content. When I clock out, I clear my head with a long walk followed by more reading. No, not more high-fibre non-fiction, but delicious brain candy. These days, I’m on a Scandinavian crime fiction jag.
My work gives me a lifelong license to learn, for which I am grateful daily. That said, learning requires reading a high volume of non-fiction. Every day, my reading runs the gamut from fascinating to mind-numbingly complex to downright dull. To unwind, I indulge my favourite pastime: reading. Nothing too challenging, fiction mostly and, truth be told, not the loftiest genres.
No, during my down time, I prefer to consume brain candy, novels that make me feel a tad guilty but satisfy my cerebral sweet tooth. These days, as suits my essentially compulsive-obsessive nature, I am on a Scandinavian crime fiction jag.
My obsession with Nordic noir started innocently and intellectually enough with the Norwegian writer Knut Hamsun when, a lifetime ago, I attempted to read any and every bit of fiction written by master craftsmen worldwide in alphabetical order (no, not kidding). Winner of the Nobel for Literature in 1920, Hamsun revealed the life of common folk in his homeland, although I don’t remember him taking any special interest in quirky gumshoes or plot lines rife with murder and mayhem.
In the early 90s, I “discovered” Peter Hoeg, a Danish writer whose work met my pretentious literary criteria. Smilla’s Sense of Snow did, however, involve a mysterious death.
Roughly a decade later, I grabbed a book at the library, on impulse and without knowing what I had my hands on, and unwittingly got sucked into Stieg Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy. At about the same time, a friend addicted to the TV series Wallander got me hooked on books by Henning Mankell.
When Detective Kurt Wallander was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in The Troubled Man, thereby ending the series, I was devastated, and frantic to find other Scandinavian crime novels. I headed back to the library, hunted down, borrowed, and read everything by any author with a last name ending in –ssen or –sson or otherwise identified as or identifiably Scandinavian.
Then I bought a Kindle. Marketed as a simple yet highly functional reading device, for brain candy junkies, a Kindle is a diabolical enabler.
The summer has barely started but, already, I have consumed what some might consider a toxic quantity of brain candy including the entire Harry Hole series by Jo Nesbo, three Inspector Sejer novels by Karin Fossum, the Reykjavik Murder Mysteries by Arnaldur Indriðason plus, while waiting for Oblivion, the next in the series, to be released on July 9, Operation Napoleon, and have just cracked the Department Q series by Jussi Adler-Olsen (two down, three to go).
Although not as physically detrimental as eating fistfuls of yummy Swedish fish gummies from Ikea, and ignoring for the moment the dangers of sedentarism and eye strain, brain candy does have nefarious side effects. For example, I have become increasingly intolerant of my Kindle’s prompts to review the book I just finished. For the record, all the books I have read to date have been just fabulous. Moving on.
I also lack the patience to scroll through the willy-nilly display of titles on my device as I search desperately for the next book in a series. The filters don’t help. Thank goodness for the Order of Books site.
And then there’s the dizzying ease with which one can purchase the next book. See the big button in the middle of the page labelled “Buy!” There you go. Could satisfying an addiction be any simpler? Could anything be more detrimental to one’s financial health? I think not.
So far, my addiction to brain candy has not derailed my professional pursuits. Honestly, I think taking a break from serious reading now and again improves my ability complete to professional tasks more efficiently. In that sense, downing a bit of vitamin B and C daily, as in “brain candy”, might in fact be healthy. Or maybe I’m just in denial.