I’m going on vacation soon, which pretty much everyone I’ve spoken to in the past month knows. I’m that excited. I’ve taken one day off work in all of 2018–and it was a “use it or lose it” carryover vacation day from last year. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to some quality time away from New York and my work email.
That has me thinking about what I’m going to read. I’m headed to Hawaii, which screams “BEACH” even if I’m not exactly a beach gal. I like the water, but I hate sand on wet feet. I have never tanned in my life, but I burn exceptionally well.
Vacation, for me, means time to get swept up in a good story: sometimes it’s the real one right in front of me, and sometimes it’s many miles or centuries away.
And that makes me think about “beach reads.” I’m not a fan of the moniker, which is a demeaning term meant to belittle women’s stories and their reading habits simultaneous. It conjures froth and frivolity–a breezy read with little substance. But who cares? Sometimes I like a light read, something to lift my mood. I believe that reading–no matter what the genre–should be fun. I read for entertainment and edification. Every book I’ve read has taught me something. Books without substance rarely get published.
But I also rail against the concept of a “beach read.” I don’t always love a fast, quick read on vacation. I want something immersive. Men read at the beach, too, and no one has ever referred to my dad’s military history books as “beach reads.” And this year, the books I plan to bring on vacation don’t strike most people as “beach reads.”
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles- I’ve written (and spoken) extensively about how much I loved Rules of Civility, and I’ve been saving his sophomore bestseller for the right time. Days (in a hotel) overlooking the ocean feels like the right time.
Perfume by Patrick Suskind- Obsession? Murder? Historical setting? Sign me up!
Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami- I am deeply embarrassed to have never read any Murakami, so I’m looking to fix that.
Less by Andrew Sean Greer- The most recent Pulitzer Prize for Fiction winner! And the rare comic novel to win. Plus, travel is essential to the plot and structure of the book, so it seems like a perfect travel read.
The Three-Year Swim Club by Julie Checkoway- My mom and I will be taking part in a book club in Maui, and this is our read. It’s fascinating and engrossing so far.
The last time I visited Maui, I brought only four books with me, and I finished them all before the long plane ride home. I won’t be making the same mistake this time! My iPad with Alexander Chee’s Queen of the Night, Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, and Dana Schwartz’s Choose Your Own Disaster will be coming with me. (I’ve always said I had eclectic taste.)