All the latest news, ideas, and opinions from Denver's Independent Literary Center: lighthousewriters.org
I’m going on vacation next week. There will be long days where we do nothing more strenuous than decide whether to order passion fruit martinis or wine with our dinner. Cards will be played. Dominoes are under discussion. I may try surfing (again). My husband and I will jog along a particular stretch of beach most mornings. We will hike through a bamboo forest. Mostly, though, I will read. I will have the absolute freedom to read as much as I want for 10 whole days. I am giddy.
To prepare, I am loading up the Nook with novels and short story collections that people I respect have recommended. In my experience, a good rule of thumb is to bring along one novel-length book for every two days of vacation, plus one book for each travel day. I once finished my last book on the next-to-the-last leg of a trip, only to find myself stranded for hours in the Houston airport with nothing to read. I panicked, and paid too much for something terrible at the magazine stand. Never again. Ideally, I always have enough reading material to turn away from anything that isn’t holding my attention. As one of my best friends in the world often says: Life’s too short to read bad books.
I know some people recommend “beach reads” for beach reading, but I’m partial to angsty doom-and-gloom-with-just-a-smidge-of-hope stories. To that end, I’ve loaded up the Nook with books by Colson Whitehead, Tom Perrotta, Joyce Carol Oates, Nicole Krauss, Alice Munro and others. I have a backlog of New Yorker short stories awaiting my attention.
Probably, I have enough. Still, there’s that little frisson of panic in the back of my mind that tells me I have not yet acquired the book I must read. You know the one I mean, the one that you can’t stop thinking about, the one that is so unexpected and fresh that comparisons are impossible, the one you can’t put down even though you are hungry and thirsty and the whales are putting on a show. If you’ve read that book recently, please tell me about it. I have just about one week to update my vacation library.