Now Auditioning

Over the years I have perfected the vacation read. This has been difficult, arduous science. Many vacations gave their delight because I picked the wrong books for the setting. A relationship ended because he didn’t understand the importance of vacation reading. In some cases, the Mister and I have driven around places looking for a bookstore (used was fine) and bickering because there was a lack of understanding between:

“none of these books work right now, I badly miscalculated. I need another, a better book. I need this right now!”


“you have books. They have words and pages and covers. How is it that those can’t work and we are driving around this strange city in rush hour, with you yelling at me?”

Vacation is by its nature, a changeable thing. You need options. You need to match the novel to the pace, to the scenery. Sometimes you match the book to the location (which is why I found myself in Tofino, wishing desperately for a copy of Margaret Craven’s I Heard the Owl Call my Name)

You can, for example, read about a hot Spain summer in Jasper in the winter, while your loved one ski’s. You cannot do that in the summer sitting by a lake in Alberta slapping mosquitoes. Camping, with the need to poke at the fire and lose yourself staring at scenery calls for something you can pick up and put down. That is most often either a critically acclaimed book that everyone around you has read so you know how it ends anyway, or something you have already read and want to come back to, so that you can put it down, stare at the blue sky over the trees and the smell of woodsmoke and wonder if you have changed or if the book has.

And you need different pacing for different days. In a perfect vacation, I will get this exactly right, starting out with something that carefully unwinds my mind, reaching for a book on the last few days that is as languid as I am, allowing me to turn pages in a semi-somnolent state, looking up from sunscreen smudged pages filled with gritty sand to stare at the light bouncing off the waves, averting my eyes before the brightness burns me.

Hawaii is coming this week and I find myself considering my options. I am looking for the perfect set of books, bearing in mind that I read extraordinarily quickly – somewhere around 600 words a minute.

Careful thought and calculation suggests that for an 8 day trip, including 10 hours of flying time, I require a minimum of 7 book types:

  • Something I’ve read before
  • Something critically acclaimed
  • Something I’ve been meaning to Read
  • Something Non Fiction
  • Something silly
  • Something weighty (fiction or non)
  • Something someone strongly recommends

In that vein, I have:

  • Something I’ve read before – Carol Shields, the Stone Diaries
  • Something critically acclaimed – Elanor Catton, The Luminaries
  • Something I’ve been meaning to read – Somerset Maughan, Of Human Bondage
  • Something Non Fiction – Jaron Lanier, Who Owns the Future
  • Something Silly
  • Something weighty (fiction or non) – Virginia Wolf, To the Lighthouse
  • Something someone strongly recommends – I think something by CJ Sansome. I’ve had 3 people strongly recommend him in the last 2 months.

Can you help with the something silly? By silly I mean light and fluffy, possibly some sort of a thriller. Nothing weighty literature (but no 50 Shades of Grey either). The kind of book that requires no great thought and no great investment of energy. Clive Cussler was the ultimate vacation read.

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12 Responses to Now Auditioning

  1. Peg says:

    Artifact by Gigi Pandian. It’s a new mystery series that is light and funny, fast paced and interesting. The heroine is an Indian-American named Jaya Jones. I too need light and fluffy and the first two books in the series have totally hit the spot. Enjoy!

  2. JP says:

    Silly – “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir)” by Jenny Lawson.

  3. Aunt Deb says:

    Barbara O’Neal would be my choice for light and nice. Here are 3 titles:
    How to bake a perfect life
    The lost recipe for Happiness
    The garden of Happy Endings


  4. debby says:

    The Mitford Series by Jan Karon. They are sweet and light, and just pleasant meanderings.

  5. a says:

    Not sure how your sense of humor works, but if it tends towards the ribald and extremely silly, Christopher Moore is good. Some of his stuff is long, some is short. I recommend A Dirty Job – it made me laugh out loud. The Stupidest Angel is also very entertaining, and fairly brief. Something to read while you’re getting a pedicure, maybe?

    Another not-so-light, but really good thing I’ve read lately is Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. And Stardust, by Neil Gaiman.

  6. Ms. Fab says:

    If you like Clive Cussler as a vacation read have you tried any Robert B. Parker novels? He wrote the Spenser for Hire series. Just a great, good old fashioned PI yarn.

  7. Mr. Spit says:

    Patrick Rothfuss – The Name of the Wind
    Amazing first fantasy novel by this author. Wizard with words, great and epic story.

  8. JP says:

    Also… Have you ever read anything by Terry Pratchett? His books have entirely too much depth for just “silly” but they are amusing and if you aren’t in the mood to think deeply, you don’t have to do so to enjoy the books. I’d start with “Making Money” if you’d never read any Pratchett before.

  9. Ren says:

    I would either pick up the latest teen series that has made it’s way to the movies – such as “Divergent”. Maybe a romance novel? The last time I needed something fluffy I read “Beautiful Creatures” which ended up in me reading the whole series. I have also heard good things about “City of Bones”

    I totally understand the need for multiple books, which is why I love my Kobo. It doesn’t replace that feeling and smell of reading a book, but it does let me bring lots of reading material with me to any locale.

    Oh, I have also started reading – “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir)” by Jenny Lawson, which like her blog is fantastic.

  10. Maureen says:

    13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson. And the sequel The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson.

    It is about a final gift that an aunt leaves for a teenage girl (and her exploring Europe on her own).

    I read these on vacation, quite by accident (I ran out of books, only had a lousy Wi-Fi connection, and these two books were the first two that popped up on the “Available for Checkout” on my library’s website.) They are very fluffy, quick reads (maybe too quick really in this case for you). At the conclusion, I decided they were really perfect for my vacation read (that was an ocean beach vacation).

  11. Christa says:

    How about the Adamsberg mysteries by Fred Vargas? They have fun characters and kind of deus ex machina solutions (in case that bothers you). I do not like to try to solve they mystery while I read it, so am not so bothered by this, and do appreciate the growing cast of odd characters that the series builds up. Also, not silly, and I’m not sure if they are your taste, but the novels by Robertson Davies (try Fifth Business first). If you like them, you are in luck because he writes long trilogies, so you have a good deal of material to work with.

  12. Needles says:

    Hyperbole and a Half by Ali Brosh.

    Very light. Very silly and it touches your heart.

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