The beach where I did NOT read Mother Goose last week. (Photo by my wife, Laurel Cummins.)
Vacation reading! If you’re not constantly sightseeing, you might have more time to read than when you’re home. There might be long hours to fill on plane rides, too.
So, what’s the strategy? Tackle a challenging novel or two? Go for the “comfort food” of escapist reading? A combination of the two?
I vividly remember a Cape Cod vacation four years ago sitting on a pond beach wading through Henry James’ The Ambassadors, day after day. Ultimately a subtly interesting novel in many ways, but difficult and at times boring. Some of the convoluted sentences were longer than the vacation. 🙂
The next year, I switched reading approaches by enjoying two escapist Gorky Park sequels on the plane rides to and from France and during non-sightseeing moments amid two weeks in La Rochelle and Paris. “We’ll always have…Martin Cruz Smith.”
I also “did” escapist during a family-vacation return to Cape Cod this past week, July 17-24. I finished Colleen McCullough’s stellar historical novel Morgan’s Run (which I wrote about last week) and then read much of The Mammoth Hunters — the lengthy third installment of Jean M. Auel’s always-compelling “Earth’s Children” series. (I had recently read the first two novels: The Clan of the Cave Bear and The Valley of Horses.) There’s something very soothing about continuing a book series on vacation; one already has a comfort level with a particular author’s storytelling and characters, even as there’s the excitement of new plot developments.
Of course, few escapist novels are totally escapist. Auel’s series and Morgan’s Run and Martin Cruz Smith’s books have quite a few distressing moments. But they’re escapist in the sense of being very readable and very absorbing, with little mental strain involved in following the plot (even as the novels can also have a good amount of literary value). After all, vacations are for relaxing — at least in part.
Then there’s the comfort of rereading. I haven’t done that on vacation for a while, but remember rereading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix while on a train from Paris to Venice in 2004. That rail ride sure seemed to go fast, but a drawback was concentrating more on J.K. Rowling’s riveting fifth Potter book than on the amazing scenery outside the train window. 🙂 But I did look up from the pages fairly often.
What are your vacation-reading preferences? Challenging, “comfort food,” or both?
My literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.
In addition to this weekly blog, I write the 2003-started/award-winning “Montclairvoyant” local topical-humor column for Baristanet.com. The latest weekly piece — about children’s book characters coming to life in the reopened children’s section of my local library 🙂 — is here.