Top Ten Jailhouse Reads (That You Can Get on Amazon & Read Too)

Have I mentioned I was locked in a tiny cell for all but an hour and a half each day? Have I also mentioned that I was reading almost an entire book? Every single day. Sometimes more, depending on the length of said book. That's a lot of reading (over 88 books). At one point, my parents told me I needed to slow down so they could keep up with sending me books from Amazon.

I won't regale you with a complete list of all of my jailhouse reads, but I'll give you the highlights in case you want to recreate my experience at home. If you want to be super accurate, make yourself lukewarm coffee from Nescafe Instant Coffee Packets and put on a blue jumpsuit. Also, make sure you're sitting on a very hard, very uncomfortable stool. Or you can be belly down on a hard surface. I like to read sprawled out on my belly.

There you go. Now you're ready...

10. Brain Surfing: The Top Marketing Strategy Minds in the World by Heather LeFevre

I told my parents I wanted books on marketing and marketing strategy, and I would say they delivered in spades when they picked out this book. When you're a bohemian spirit and travel-loving girl locked in a cage all day, you need something that lets your mind wander to far off places and stimulates your creative juices. This book did the trick and is the inspiration behind LotusLabs, my consultancy firm, particularly the day-long workshop concept.

9. Biting the Sun by Tanith Lee

Ms. Lee has been one of my all-time favorite authors since I was about 13 or 14. She's not well known, but she is one of those authors whose beautiful and unique prose stands the test of time. I never forgot her, and when my sister asked for a list of books to send me, this one was a no-brainer. It's about a supposedly utopian society where the rules are like Fight Club: there are no rules. A high tech society run by robots ensures that no one faces consequences for their actions, and the Jang spend their days seeking pleasure. One daring young woman challenges the status quo with amazing results. 

I've loved this book ever since I read it the first time. Tanith Lee has some amazing work. If you like Biting the Sun, you should definitely check out The Black Unicorn

8. The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt by Ian Shaw

I may have studied Medieval and Renaissance Studies in college, but my true obsession is Egyptology. I've read books on hieroglyphics, women in Ancient Egypt, and Egyptian religious beliefs. Did you know that the Ancient Egyptians and the Ancient Greeks traded frequently? In ancient times, trade meant the exchange of religious and cultural ideas. I encourage you to dig into that. It's fascinating.

On top of all of this, one of my favorite movies is The Mummy. I am basically Evie. Scratch the whole Charlie's Angels thing. This is totally me...

Evelyn: Look, I... I may not be an explorer, or an adventurer, or a treasure-seeker, or a gunfighter, Mr. O'Connell, but I am proud of what I am. 
Rick: And what is that? 
Evelyn: I... am a librarian. 

She's drunk, by the way. And very attracted to the adventurous Mr. O'Connell. For the unfortunate one percent of you who haven't seen this film, Evie and Mr. O'Connell end up together. In the sequel, they have a kid, and Evie is more badass than ever before. Rachel Weisz, you're my hero. You give street cred to geek girls.

Anywho, back to the book. What I like about this particular study in Ancient Egypt is that they preface the history part with an in-depth exploration of the techniques they use to date everything. It satisfied the girl in me who always wanted to be an Egyptologist.

7. I Heard God Laughing: Poems of Hope and Joy by Hafiz (translation by Daniel Ladinsky)

People, please don't freak out because the title says God. My little sister is probably an atheist, possibly agnostic. She's certainly not religious.

I honestly don't care what she is because she's the best human being I know. She was the one who recommended this book to me. Apparently, it's being passed around cool kid circles in New York City. In her words, it really doesn't matter if you're religious or not--Hafiz's message is timeless and inspiring. We owe part of this timelessness to the truly on point translations by Daniel Ladinsky. Pay attention to the title because Hafiz has a sense of humor. In his poems, camels fart, and God likes to laugh as much as the rest of us. Hafiz, by the way, is Muslim. 

I read Hafiz's poems in my darkest hours in jail. When I was hyperventilating after my attorney (aka, the Godfather) told me I could be in jail for six more months to a year (this was two weeks before I got out of that place), I practiced meditative breathing and read Hafiz's poetry on my bunk bed. I cried. I laughed. I took deep breaths. I remembered that, no matter what your belief system (or lack thereof), there are some beautiful people in the world. I focused on the important stuff, which was already inside of me. The sense of humor. The wonder at the universe. The love too big to contain in one tiny little body. 

And I made it through. Thanks, sis, for picking this one out. My heart and mind may not have made it out of jail without this book.

6. Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

Laughter is the best medicine. I make it a point to seek out humor every single day as part of my healing process post-trauma. This book is crazy, zany, and hilarious. I will keep this one short. If you like people with the ability to see the humor in the wild and unlikely, you will love Jenny Lawson. She's a truly amazing human. She's funny as hell. You should read this book.

5. The Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey

I really, really love dragons. I've been obsessed since I was little. If I want to be accurate, my spirit animal is probably a labrador retriever or a black cat (don't question it), but my spirit animal's spirit animal is a dragon. And maybe a direwolf too. I think my spirit animal is allowed to have two spirit animals. Since it's my blog, I'm gonna go ahead and make the rules here.

When I was in 7th grade, I read my first Anne McCaffrey book. It blew my mind. Dragons that imprint with their humans, have a psychic connection with them, and can transport between like f'ing Harry Potter in the damn sky???!!!! Yassssss. Her books also have fire lizards. Fire lizards are mini-dragons. They're like dogs. But they're dragons. I want one. As I'm sure everyone knows by now, women love things in miniature. Fire lizards are no exception. I am no exception.

P.S. - You're only allowed a certain number of books in your cell at any given time. This book is a three-in-one deal. Ha. I win, Orange County Jail. Actually, my sister wins because she came up with this genius trick.

4. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

I warn you, this book will make you cry. A lot. But it's a beautiful love story that made me forget how horrible my situation was for all of one day.

3. The Royal We by Heather Cocks

Pure fluff. But still pretty enjoyable, and you need a little fluff after you've been framed for a crime.

2. Back on Track by Abby Gaines

Okay, okay. Technically, this book is pure fluff too. But it was damn good fluff. In case one of my previous posts wasn't clear, I love cars. I really liked this particular romance because there's a cute, old-fashioned vibe to it that struck my fancy. I promise you that if you like cars and people falling in love, you will enjoy this book. I really resonated with the main character.

1. Outlander by Diana Galbadon

This book was the only one that lasted longer than a day and was so deeply satisfying that I could read it all day, every day and never once get bored.

I started reading this book about two and a half years before I landed in jail. He-who-shall-not-be-named thought Outlander was stupid. He also thought my leather jacket was stupid. So I never watched the show when I was with him, and I got rid of my leather jacket. I guess that's the first lesson I would teach any young woman about relationships. If he doesn't let you read or watch Outlander and he doesn't like your leather jacket, he's bunk. 

This book is amazing but problematic. Amazing because, on top of telling the most stunning love story I've ever read, it had so many odd parallels to my story. Claire and Jamie are constantly being thrown into jail, and Claire is accused of being a witch at one point. According to her friend, the triers will poke them with needles to see if they bleed. If they do, then they aren't witches. Claire comments that this is great because she will definitely pass the test, but her friend warns that the tests are rigged with fake needles. She will be found guilty whether they pass the tests or not. "Wow," I thought as I read this. "It feels a lot like what I'm going through."

Oddly enough, I read this part of the book about a week after I had written the first draft of the article I was preparing for the OC Register entitled "Frame Up Turned Witch Hunt." 

This story is complete with a sexually depraved sociopath named Jonathan Randall, lots of very steamy scenes (between Claire and Jamie, to be clear) good enough to satisfy a girl locked in a cell for three months, and a hunka burning love Scott named Jamie Fraser. Jamie is basically a brave boy scout with a heart of gold who calls his love, Claire, "Blood of my blood." And he made me realize: I need to hold out for a Jamie Fraser, which may mean I'm holding out forever because I'm not sure this creature exists in the male species. Thus the problematic side of this book. 

Outlander will also make you cry a lot. As a side note, I read book 2 and got half way through book 3 before I was released. They are all just as good as the first one.

Happy reading, raptors!