This year’s vacation saw me going from my pajamas to a pair of jeans and t-shirt and hiking boots for hikes in the forest or walks on the windswept beaches of the coast of Oregon. There were no pretty sandals or colorful beach bags packed in my suitcase but, rather, a stack of books, virtual or paper, writing implements and some music. The only pretty pair of shoes I brought (just in case) never saw the outside of the suitcase. A few weeks ago I found myself in an actual bookstore and, despite the piles of books that are doubling up as pieces of furniture at my house, and those still neatly propped unopened on my iPad shelves, I felt compelled to buy some more. Because it’s Summer, and heavy reads are banished, this is what ended up making my vacation list:
The Redeemer by Jo Nesbo
The name might ring familiar – “The Snowman” was at the top of best seller lists for a long while. I actually never read it but sofagirl has been going on about how much she likes it so, when I saw “The Redeemer”, recently published, I picked it up. This is one in the Harry Hole series and it precedes “The Snowman”. You will most likely fall in love with Harry Hole, Norwegian detective with addiction problems, an imperfect life and killer instincts. I am not usually a fan of detective novels but this Hole character intrigued me – what I liked most about the book, that kept me turning pages at relentless speed, is the intricacies of the plot, which involves murders, the Salvation Army and Croatia, and the unexpected twists and turns that a good thriller should deliver plausibly. If you like Harry Bosch, you will love this Nordic Harry.
One Day – David Nicholls
Because of my tendency to buy books by the dozens and forget about them until I am ready to read them, I often get to best-sellers long after their sell by date. This English novel came out in 2009, was a great success and was made in a movie I never saw). It sounded light enough for a beach read without being mindless and it did not disappoint. A girl and a boy get together on the last day of University, just after graduation, on July 15 1988 but don’t consummate their fling. Every chapter takes place on subsequent July 15, starting in 1988 and ending in 2004, revisiting the characters at different stages of their lives and their relationship. It’s also a walk down England’s recent history but, above all, it will have you reminiscing what you were doing and who you were, or you were with, in 1988, 89, 90….
Titles I just started or haven’t read yet in my vacation pile:
The House of Mirth – Edith Wharton. Somehow I missed this, not sure how – I must have a period piece or my vacation wouldn’t feel complete.
The Marriage Plot – Jeffrey Eugenides. Found in a discount bin, I bought it because “Middlesex” is one of my favourite books EVER. If you have never read it, you must. When it came out, I was briefly working for a bookstore and I put it in the hands of every single customer who asked for a recommendation. What is it about? they would ask. A hermaphrodite but, wait, you must believe me, it is brilliant. I am hoping the Marriage Plot is half as good.
The Shining Girls – Lauren Beukes. Downloaded on my i-Pad when I came across, without looking, a heap of excellent reviews from many different sources. An unlikely thriller about a drifter in Chicago who stumbles upon a house that opens on to other times and that pushes him to stalk and kill girls, until one of them survives and hunts him back. I am a sucker for a strong heroine so I hope this Kirby Mazrachi does not disappoint me.
Music – Yeezus by Kanye West
Much to sofagirl’s annoyance, I cannot tell one Kardashian from the other and, more often than not, Kanye West’s braggadocio gets on my nerves. But. The man is talented. My relationship with rap has always been fraught with reservations for the outlandish display of misogyny and a certain distance from a culture I cannot even pretend to belong to. But. Beauty is beauty, no matter where it comes from, and “bitches” notwithstanding, “Yeezus” is a masterpiece. Spare, innovative, with a drop dead gorgeous production, this is a piece of music that will forever define Kanye’s talent. In the words of Lou Reed “it contains moments of supreme beauty and greatness”. Only an extremely confident artist would have combined Nina Simone singing “Strange Fruit” and his own vocals – again, in Lou Reed’s words “that is fascinating, aurally, nothing short of spectacular”. Take it or leave it, it’s a work of art.
And what is in your suitcase?