As I write this, I am packing for a vacation in the Sierras with a bunch of my friends from high school and all our families. I run a consulting business for writers serious about publication and a virtual online education company for writers serious about their craft (learning to write is education, right? Or maybe it’s entrepreneurship? Personal growth? All of the above?) and there is never really a day off. People come through our door 24/7 – and as any of you who are engaged in the act of writing know, there are often emergencies: crises of faith, dark nights of the soul, agent offers out of the blue, editor requests on tight deadlines, the sudden good news of a BookBub feature or a TedTalk invitation. The point of all this is that I’m in the habit of being ON all the time, and I’m not very good at taking one day off, let alone the five I have coming up.
It’s not that I don’t enjoy time off – I do! I love to hike and play board games and have long meandering talks with my kids and my friends and friend’s kids. I also love having time to sit on the porch and dig into a book that I haven’t had the time to dig into at home.
But which book? Which is the best book to take on vacation?
My taste in books runs all over the map, and I often follow something heavy with something light, something practical with something more frivolous, and after nonfiction tend to gravitate to fiction. So when a vacation falls in the overall flow of my reading life is going to impact my choice. Lately I’ve been reading a lot of books about business (RocketFuel, She Means Business) and writing (My Life with BOB, How to Market a Book) and productivity (The Coaching Habit) and systems (okay this wasn’t a book but an online course I took with a lot of reading) and also a lot of books about difficult cultural realities (Born a Crime, Between the World and Me) and I’m ready for something easy that isn’t going to take too much brainpower.
This rules out Phil Knight’s Shoe Dog. I doubt the book about the founding of Nike will be heavy from a moral, cultural, or intellectual standpoint but it will make my brain spin about building a business and a brand and I think my brain could use some rest from the spin.
This also rules out Hillbilly Elegy, even though my husband just finished it and we have a sweet little book club of two and I don’t want to fall too far behind. But it’s too much for me for right now. I think if I had come off a season of lighter reading, and I was traveling on a plane or a train or somewhere rainy I might pick it. The same must also be said about Sheryl Sandberg's Option B. I’ll read both these books but not on this vacation.
I’ve got Harlan Coben’s Fool Me Once on my list because I recently wrote about the opening pages. I was looking for a book to illustrate the passage of time and grabbed this one off the shelf, even though I’d never read it or anything by Harlan Coben. Studying the opening made me want to keep reading to see where the story goes – and also to see why he sells a gazillion copies of every book he writes.
I’ve also got The Girl Who Drank the Moon on my list– a middle-grade book that just won the Newbery. I am really drawn to the book because of the beautiful cover; the fascinating interview I heard the author give about how she writes for both kids and the adults who read to them; because my older daughter (she’s 24) adores this kind of book and I like to read what my kids are reading, since there is no better way to know them and to honor them; and because I have two clients who are writing for this age group right now so it would be good to immerse myself in the award-winning titles; and because in the book I just finished – My Life with BOB – the author, Pamela Paul, editor of the New York Times Book Review talked about the book club she helped start for adults who love to read children’s books, and I was reminded how many books I have enjoyed reading that are not written specifically for adults.
So The Girl Who Drank the Moon is the clear winner. I think it's interesting to note how the reasons we gravitate to books often pile up like they did for me for this book. You hear multiple people mention a book, or see multiple ads for it, or read a review and then hear the author on the radio. It’s like a pinging in your brain or an alarm going off – read this book, read this book, read this book.
Of course as a writer, you always want to be thinking of whose brain will ping for your book, and why, and to make sure you are giving them what they want – but it’s vacation, so we won’t talk about that!
Oh and in case you’re wondering, I only read actual books. I don’t own an e-reader. I buy a lot of hardbacks. And I happily schlep them around on planes, trains, and automobiles.