Summer Reading! What Should I Take on Vacation?

I have about two hours max a day (subway time) to get all the work-related reading I need done: 50-65 titles a season, three seasons a year. Luckily, I’m a fast reader.

My lack of free time does mean that other reading has to go. The only magazines I still get at home are food-related. Subscription to The New Yorker: cancelled (couldn’t take the pressure of having to finish an issue a week). Books I am personally interested in languish in the “hold for vacation reading” pile. And then, when the vacation comes, I have to be incredibly selective. Because I won’t have two hours a day to myself anymore; on vacation with my family I will only have stolen moments. So the pile must be whittled down to one special book.

This year’s contenders:

Don Winslow‘s latest, Savages, is on the short list. Don was a Knopf author until a very short time ago. You might know him from previous books like California Fire and Life or The Life and Death of Bobby Z. His mysteries are smart, fun and a bit wicked. Could be just the ticket.

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman won the National Book Critics Circle Award and countless fans. I can’t tell you how many people have recommended this one to me. The office pool is deadlocked: I have one passionate you-should-read-it vote (“if you like books that will add meaning to your life”) and one you-should-read-it-but-not-on-vacation-too-much-of-a-downer vote (“don’t you want to read something fun?”). Hmmm.

I admit I may be one of the only people not to have read The Time Traveler’s WifeHer Fearful Symmetry is the most recent book from Audrey Niffenegger, and frankly, sounded a bit more interesting to me. Ghosts! Sign me up. Was all set to take this when a colleague bought me The Time Traveler’s Wife (and said it was better). Again with the dead-locked office pool: one vote “it’s a love story, a book you’ll go back to again and again” vs. “don’t ghosts sound more interesting than a love story?” Toughie. Gift book may edge out the other.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Full disclosure: I apparently don’t get out much. Haven’t read this one, either. Hear it’s good.

One Day by David Nicholls. Should this even be in the running? Currently being made into a movie with Anne Hathaway. Now that I typed that sentence I suddenly am reminded why it is in the running: it’s light. And maybe like a romantic comedy, that elusive but wonderful pleasure.

When Will There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson. I know I’m not the only one out there who loved Behind the Scenes at the Museum (thanks, Ellen) and keep hoping for more of the same from Kate. The title of this one is putting me off a little, but BTSATM was so good I may have to dive in and try again.

So there you have it. What’s your vote?

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3 Responses to “Summer Reading! What Should I Take on Vacation?”


  1. 1 Scott August 5, 2010 at 11:41 am

    I can vouch for The Help; it’s the only one of these I read. I read it in the winter, but it definitely struck me as a good potential summer read because it’s not too taxing on the brain cells, but it’s still meaty enough to last long enough to be a satisfying summer read. These are definitely characters you want to spend some time with and enjoy.

  2. 2 Ellen August 5, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    I’ve read both the Atkinson book and Symmetry. Atkinson is totally doing the detective novel thing these days, and if you like detective novels, that’s super, they’re great; but if that’s not what you’re into, it’s just not. It’s not like Behind the Scenes, really. Don’t know if she’s gonna be writing like that again.

    Symmetry is a pretty fun read, although I found the ending unsatisfying. It’s sort of one of those books you read and the day-to-day experience of reading it is fun, but overarchingly the story seems a little whack. It’s a great book to read between cocktails, but it won’t make you a better person, that’s for sure.

  3. 3 Amy August 5, 2010 at 3:43 pm

    I read The Help and Time Travelers Wife and enjoyed both (The Help was a unanimous “like” with my book club girls)…but if I had to chose from those two, I’d go with Time Travelers.


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