Greetings from the tail end of a reading drought turned binge. In the last few months various life events have conspired to prevent me from reading anything longer than a cocktail menu. It was the strangest thing. My whole life is based on several principles, the main one being that a book and a glass of seltzer, tea or wine will cure what ails you. Apparently, 2013 Jen’s brain has subtly shifted because I couldn’t focus on books to save my life. Forget about anything challenging, airport novels were beyond me. YA sci-fi was too much, and forget about the ultimate easy comfort reading – pithy memoirs. A Jen Lancaster book took me a week!!
Now this isn’t to say that I didn’t read at all. I recently re-subscribed to the New Yorker, and that was an incredibly good call. Even when I couldn’t buckle down and read a book…any book…I could read about them or take in a short story or two. I also found myself incapable of remembering anything I had read. I’d be in a middle of a book discussion at work, and I wasn’t able to even remember who had written the story that I was raving about. Yikes.
Anyhoo, I recently had the opportunity to go on a trip and re-charge, and I did just that. Despite promises to my HG that I would take the iPad + one extra paperback and nothing more, I ended up traveling with the iPad and 7 extra books (and 4 magazines). Hahaha I guess he’s used to it by now. Frankly though, if our plane went down on Lost Island and all of our devices died, my library would be golden in this age of fancy e-readers.
To that end, these are the books I read on vacation and used to get my game face back:
Sharp Objects – Gillian Flynn – Sorry to go all Mugatu on La Flynn, but I’m beginning to wonder if she can only write one freaking story. While I absolutely love the misanthropic menagerie she has created, and Gone Girl will always be a book I recommend to folks looking for a quick awesome read, it’s getting way too easy to figure out the ending. I loved Sharp Objects, but I’d pretty much figured out the whole story in the first 10 pages not because it wasn’t well written but because I know her, and I picked the character who seemed most like her type of murderer.
Light Years – James Salter – For some reason, books about failing marriages set in then 60s really float my boat. They’re basically longer episodes of Mad Men, and I can’t get enough. This was my first Salter, but I’m definitely going to read the rest of his books.
Drinking With Men – Rosie Schapp – I kind of expected to hate this one. There have been too many quickly published memoirs about “different,” women. I go into each one expecting to dislike it, but I read, and I find that, once again, I’m wrong. Rosie likes drinking in dive bars with men, and she tells a good story. (As usual, extra points for being primarily set in New York.)
After The Music Stopped – Alan Blinder – I can’t resist books written about the Great Recession. It’s basically the same story over and over again, but the fact that all of this happened still confounds me. So much went wrong. Banks made bad loans, and people made bad decisions. Blinder attacks the topic from a pure economic/regulatory point of view that’s written clearly enough for laymen like me. I wouldn’t be surprised if this made its way into high school classrooms someday.
Anna Dracula – Kim Newman imagines the future if Jonathan Harker & Co. failed and Dracula was able to take over Victorian England. This is fun book with a lot of cameos from gothic literature mainstays. Good times, easy on the brain, and the first book in a trilogy.
Vampires in the Lemon Grove – Karen Russell – It’s funny, I’ve never been a short story person, but now I find myself reading more and more of these books. Karen Russell is an exquisite writer. If you love magical realism as much as I do, you should go read all of her books….now.
Paris To The Past – Ina Caro – Caro’s book is an incredibly useful travel guide. She details the various day trips one can take, originating in Paris, utilizing public transportation. If you’re going to Paris, this is a 100% worth the read. However, her writing makes me want to flick the earlobes of the editor who sold this no doubt assuring publishers that she was the next M.F.K. Fisher. Caro is clearly an intelligent person with a love of history and research, but she loses something when she writes. Out of all of the books I brought, this was one that I wanted to read the most, and it was such a disappointment.
So those were my main vacation reads. While I didn’t love all of them, I will say that reading so much in such a short period of time definitely got me back on the ol’ reading horse.