March 2014

Hawaiian Holiday Reading

by Ruth Austin

One of the great joys of going on vacation is the act of selecting books to take along. Perhaps it's some kind of a Pavlovian hangover from childhood (we were always encouraged to bring books on family trips) or perhaps it's the prospect of sitting for hours on a beach or a deck and really, properly soaking in the book. Who knows? All I know for sure is that there's no feeling quite like the choosing itself; to a nerd like me it's more exciting than opening my birthday presents.

P and I are going to Hawaii on what will be our very first 'proper holiday' in a long, long time. It's hard to anticipate the mood and pace ahead of time, so I try to make my holiday reading a bundle of assorted styles.

Here, in no particular order, are the books I've gathered together so far:

  • Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
  • The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie
  • Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson
  • The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2013 edited by Dave Eggers and a bunch of high school students who have much savvier taste than I did at their age.
  • Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber

You might spot a couple of themes here. While the David/Dave thing is purely coincidental, the Pacific Northwest vibe isn't. Sherman Alexie is a huge deal up here, but much less well-known in the U.K. and his work was recommended to me by someone whose taste I thoroughly trust. The Guterson I remembered from my bookselling days: it was a huge deal at the time and, although I sold many copies, I never quite got around to reading it.

Nonrequired and Debt were gifts from P last year and have been sitting on my 'to-read' pile for just such a trip. I was actually in the middle of reading Debt when my old kindle expired (I actually smashed it on a London Underground train platform in fact, but let's pretend otherwise), and I had to get around to buying a new one before finishing it.

Life After Life was recently the selection of a local book club – one I joined, but haven't yet managed to attend a real meeting of. I wanted to bring along another literary novel, something newish but without the hefty commitment (and physical weight!) of a book like The Luminaries and was intrigued by the sound of this.

I really want some Hawaiian history or stories too, but then I figure the place to find the best books about Hawaii is going to be Hawaii, so maybe I’ll pick up a little something there and read it when I’m back in rainy Seattle . . .

Ruth Austin

Freelance editor and writer. Often found in a corner scribbling on bits of paper.