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Return of Television, and Book 21: London Falling

Let’s make something clear: I love television.

I don’t know if that’s something that I’ve specifically declared on this blog before, but an astute reader may have picked up at least that I am not against television from references I’ve made to, for example, Doctor Who. The thing is, it feels like a taboo thing to admit on a blog that is mostly about books. The general cultural attitude seems to be very either/or: TV people don’t read books, and book nerds don’t watch TV.

I know that, in some cases, it’s true. There are plenty of people who do one or the other. I honestly don’t know how much overlap there is, though it’s been a long time since I’ve met someone who didn’t have at least one show that they enjoy. Even the people who say “Oh, I don’t own a TV” generally follow it up with something like “But I love Orange is the New Black on Netflix!” or “I watch Doctor Who online the next day, though.”

I’m here to stand up for those of us who really like books and also really like TV. I know it’s not just me.

I identify as a story addict.

So what do I like about TV? Let’s set TV apart from movies, because I’m not a big movie person. “But you’re a story addict!” Yes, I know. I’m getting to that. The difference is time. If a movie is 3 hours long, that’s a really long movie, but by the end, I usually haven’t had a chance to get to know and care about the characters yet. The development tends to happen all at once, which, while sometimes interesting, gets old quickly. TV, on the other hand: Even a show that gets canceled unjustly after one incredibly wonderful season has 13 episodes, 45 minutes each, that you can get lost in later on. And when you do, you get to know the characters, and you see them grow and develop naturally over the course of the story. You develop a familiarity with them, which is difficult to do in the time it takes to watch a movie. (Movie series, however, I tend to like a lot more. Go figure. Of course, they’re usually based on something else now, because god forbid anyone have a creative thought.)

Watching one episode a week just makes the story last longer. I like a story that lasts. And even the quickest, most addictive read generally takes up a full day of reading time. (I’m thinking this may be another reason I didn’t love The Fault in Our Stars as much as I was supposed to–I read it in five hours! That’s not enough time to develop a connection to anything!)

So, yeah–I love TV, because it’s just another way for me to get my story fix.

However, it’s not my preferred way. And now that seasons of more shows are starting up again, I’m looking back and realizing how much I read during the hiatus season (you know, summer), and I’m feeling torn. Because I can’t imagine just no longer watching Once Upon a Time, or Supernatural, or Doctor Who, or Sherlock (actually, ignore that, Sherlock seasons don’t last long enough to really count), or Agents of Shield. They’re amazing stories with amazing characters whom I’ve come to love. And then there are shows like The Mindy Project, New Girl, and The Big Bang Theory, which are all great when I just want a once-weekly “please empty my brain of all this stuff and fill it with silly nonsense instead.” They serve a purpose. And the remaining shows that I watch (this seems like so much, but it’s one show a day with an occasional comedy binge) are shows that Mike also watches, so they’re the stories that we get into together, and I like that. So while I don’t think I’d miss NCIS if I stopped watching it, I would really miss Burrito and NCIS Night (or whatever it will become now that we don’t have an easily accessible burrito place).

So my goal, with the return of television season, is not to have that hour-ish a night cut into my reading time. I would much prefer for it to cut into other screen time, whether that be Pointlessly Staring at Pinterest on my Phone Time, Diners Drive-ins and Dives Marathon Time, or Turning On My Computer and Getting Lost in Cracked Articles time. I’ll get more enjoyment out of watching TV than I will out of these things, which I do anyway because it feels like it lets my brain recharge. My brain can recharge while I stare passively at a TV and at least take in a good story, rather than just look at the exact same “40 Ikea Hacks!” pins that I’ve seen over and over.

Also, I feel I should mention this to anyone who got here by searching for Ikea Hacks: Painting something to make it a different color is not a hack, even if it does make said thing look nicer.

Book 21: London Falling by Paul Cornell

Paul Cornell is proof that it’s okay to like many different forms of media. He’s written for TV, including a few episodes of Doctor Who (because, I mean, he’s British). He’s written comic books. And he’s written novels, including, again, a bunch of Doctor Who stuff, and more recently, this. (And then a sequel, but I haven’t read it because I waited for this one to come out in mass market paperback and now I can’t get the sequel yet because it’s still in hardcover and the books in a series have to match. I’m looking at you, re-releases of every Terry Pratchett book.)

London Falling is an amazing book. Cornell is clever, and he tells things to you as he or his characters really see them. He is not going to tell you that a baby that has literally just been born five seconds ago smells like a honey-lavender ice cream, because that’s not what a baby that has been born five seconds ago smells like. Want to know what a baby that has been born five seconds ago smells like, according to Paul Cornell? Read the book, he mentions it at some point, and it’s wonderful.

The story itself is relatively straightforward. It’s a supernatural police procedural that takes place in London. It draws a whole lot on British culture–the history, the art, the other stories that have been created there, and the tendency to both want to apologize to something but also feel like it owes you an apology. It’s funny, and it’s creepy, and at times it’s a little heart-wrenching. Overall, it’s incredibly enjoyable.

Now, I recently read a short article about book recommendations that completely miss the point, and they made me want to read the books listed more than most real reviews ever have, so here goes.

You should read London Falling if you like: anything related to the Tudors, piles of dirt, waiting at bus stops, or gang violence.

Coming Soon…

22. Neuromancer by William Gibson
23. Exercises in Style by Raymond Queneau
24. The Cuckoo’s Calling by “Robert Galbraith” a.k.a. J.K. Rowling
25. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
26. Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
27. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
28. Deus Irae by Philip K. Dick and Roger Zelazny
29. The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson
30. The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker
31. The Alchemyst: Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, Book 1 by Michael Scott
32. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
33. The Magician: Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, Book 2 by Michael Scott
34. The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
35. The Sorceress: Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, Book 3 by Michael Scott
36. MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood
37. The Necromancer: Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, book 4 by Michael Scott
38. Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante