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.