Recently my family went on a five-day camping getaway and in preparation, I did something highly unusual for me: I “saved” a book I couldn’t wait to read for the trip.
Usually, my approach to the reading life looks more like the readerly version of Annie Dillard’s writing philosophy. In her weird and wonderful little book The Writing Life she writes, “One of the things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now.”
When it comes to my reading life, I don’t “save” the good stuff. If I desperately want to read something, I read it! I spend it, shoot it, play it, right away, as often as I can. (The real trouble comes when I desperately want to read a dozen books all at the same time, but that’s another post for another day.)
That’s why my approach to my camping reading felt out of character. I’m not accustomed to saving what seems good now for a later time unless I really have to, but this time I did. The book I was hoarding—of course I know you want to know the book I was hoarding—was Carrie Soto Is Back, the new release due out August 30 from Taylor Jenkins Reid. It sounded like excellent vacation reading for me: she’s become one of my must-read authors for compelling family stories with interesting settings, I’d already heard great things from a few bookseller friends, and it’s set in the world of professional tennis, a sport I know well, as I played competitively when I was younger.
In short, it embodied the characteristics I often look for in a vacation read: it was long, absorbing, and good.
We had a wonderful camping trip. But honestly, going in, my attitude was perhaps not the best—and saving a much-anticipated book meant I had an extra little something to look forward to.
And so I brought Carrie Soto, along with my then-current tome with a too-soon library due date, a paperback ARC with a looming endorsement deadline, and two fall releases I was eager to read. Usually I don’t like to bring books I “need” to read on vacation, but this time I did, and it worked out well enough. (I wasn’t wild about those new fall releases—but you’ll hear about that later.)
It’s funny how akin my camping reading is to my reading rhythms on a beach vacation, so let me tell you how we usually approach such a trip. At the beach, we have lots of reading time, and we want to be able to read at whim. This isn’t always easy to do on vacation, when we don’t have a house full of books at our disposal, but Will and I give it our best shot with this method that we’ve now used for nearly twenty years.
The week before our trip, we pull out an empty milk crate, and as we move through the week we fill it with magazines, library books, and books from our own shelves that we might want to read while we’re away. We pack things we think we’ll probably read and others we might want to read, and when we arrive at our destination, we see what we’re in the mood for. (My well-stocked Kindle is not pictured in the above photo, but it’s become more and more important to own own travel reading.) I like to read all kinds of things on the beach, but mysteries, literary fiction, and memoir factor prominently in my selections, especially if they promise to be long, absorbing, and good.
We visit bookstores when we travel, so sometimes I purposefully pack light, book-wise, so I have room to bring back new ones. (Sometimes this backfires: last summer I wanted to read Mary Lawson’s A Town Called Solace on our trip and planned to buy it at a destination bookstore, but because it was longlisted for the Booker days before our visit, it was all sold out!)
We have an airplane trip coming up soon, which means we’ll have to leave the milk crate behind and vet our potential travel reads more carefully. I’ll be relying on my Kindle and one or two carefully-chosen paperbacks, which isn’t as limiting as it sounds because these trips typically allow for less reading time than our more relaxing beach trips. As a nervous flyer, I read differently on airplanes than I read on the ground: I want plotty, fast-moving stories with lots of action, humor sure doesn’t hurt. Christina Lauren, Jasmine Guillory, and Kate Clayborn have served me well in the past, and I’m always on the lookout for new-to-me titles that might work in this challenging setting.
Talking about choosing vacation reading has me so excited about the good books I’ll get to read during time away this summer! Now I’d love to hear from you.
How do YOU choose your vacation reads? Do you have a memorable vacation reading experience to share? Tell us in comments!