My favorite part of taking a vacation is figuring out what books to take. Beach vacations are especially tricky, because I know I will have a lot of time to read, but I’m never quite sure what I’m going to be in the mood for until I get there. Sometimes all of the books I carefully curated before I left turn out to be not quite the right thing once I arrive.
I also don’t like traditional beach reads: since I’m always very happy on vacation, I’m willing to read bleaker books than I usually want to read at home. In fact, I seem to prefer it.
The best part of vacation reading is the serendipity. I’ve been lucky to stay at beach hotels with lending libraries, and I find I often prefer to abandon my own stack in favor of the books others have left behind.
Graphic novels are such fast reads that I don’t usually take them on vacation, but they’re also very thin and easily slip into the side of a suitcase. After enjoying Blue Is the Warmest Color on a beach vacation, I now make sure I have at least one graphic novel with me when I travel.
At Large and At Small is a wonderful collection of “familiar essays” by Anne Fadiman, ranging from Charles Lamb to insomnia to coffee. Vacation requires a balance of books to dip into and books to get lost in, and an essay collection offers opportunities for both.
Richard Price’s Lush Life is one I found on the shelf of a hotel lending library. Urban crime fiction, even very literary urban crime fiction, is not my usual cup of tea, but I liked it so much I came home and read Price’s Samaritan, also very good.
The Madonnas of Leningrad combines two of my weird reading shelf interests–the siege of Leningrad and what happened to art during World War II.
If I had read the dust jacket description of Lost in the Forest, I never would have read this book. There are at least five things in the book description that would make run in the opposite direction. But Lost in the Forest turned out to be so absorbing that I came home and read another Sue Miller novel.
I love Nick Hornby’s writing about books for The Believer, so it shouldn’t have come as such a surprise that I also loved his novel Juliet, Naked.
I should probably read Happiness Is An Inside Job every year. Wise, warm, thought-provoking, Boorstein manages to both comfort and challenge.
I love everything about Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. I still marvel at how many different problems and issues Medina threw into this book, yet they all work together to progress the plot, themes, and character development. Such an impressive YA novel.
I’m pretty sure I’m the only person in the world who would take Pearson Hesketh’s Skye High: The Record of a Tour Through Scotland in the Wake of Samuel Johnson and James Boswell to a beach in Mexico. It’s the kind of book I used to read a lot in my teens and early twenties, so there’s a nostalgia factor there that’s quite pleasant. It’s also quite pleasant to read about blustery Scottish weather while baking on Mexican sand.