I’m heading on a vacation soon, and I’m looking for a few good books to read. While I have no shortage of reading material right now, I do have a shortage of vacation reading material right now. I’ll explain in a bit.
The only book I am planning to bring at this point (I need at least one more) is Living the Resurrection, by Eugene Peterson. His writing always seems to clear my spiritual sinuses, so I can smell the wonders of God a bit better. That, to me, is a large part of what a vacation should be: a time to put aside work in order to remember that I am loved simply because I exist, that the world does fine without my constantly managing it, that trees are beautiful. So that’s my one book, but I need at least one more, and I’m at a loss as to what to bring.
Two years ago I read Eats, Shoots, and Leaves by Lynne Truss. It was fantastic: a quick read, extremely funny (especially for a grammar geek), and had me looking at the world differently. That was a great vacation book.
Another great vacation book was Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink, which is all about how we make intuitive decisions very quickly, and how very often (but not always) those snap judgments are better than the decisions we make if we get all the facts and take a longer time to decide. Another fascinating book that made me look at the world differently. Plus after reading it I knew about loads of obscure scientific experiments that are great for starting conversations at parties.
So what makes a good vacation book?
- It cannot be about theology or church leadership or postmodernity, etc. In short, it cannot spur my thoughts toward my work. I’m on vacation, after all.
- That said, it can be theological in the sense that it can say things about God, and life with God. That’s different from my work. That’s something I’d have even if my vocation was not what it is.
- It should be at least slightly outside the boundaries of my normal reading diet (I once read a "layman’s" book on superstring theory and quantum physics. I only understood 50% of it, but I loved it!)
- It can be a novel, but it can’t be a classic novel (Dostoevsky is worthwhile reading, but not vacation reading).
- If possible, it should provoke audible reactions from me, like laughing out loud, or "Huh!" or "No way!" or "Hm?" or "Ahhhh!" The only audible reaction the book should not cause would be snoring. Other than, audible reactions are generally a good sign.
Given the above criteria, anyone have any suggestions?
I read EM Forester’s A Room with a View (and Howard’s End, but that one is a bit more deep) on vacation a year ago. I know it’s a classic, but it is hilarious, and a fairly quick read. Any of Jane Austin’s shorter novels are also great. Even Chris loves them!
I also liked The Book of the Dun Cow.
Ben Sternke says
Thanks! I don’t know if I’ll be getting the classic novels, but The Book of the Dun Cow looks pretty interesting. It’s sequel, the Book of Sorrows, seems to have made many Amazon reviewers weep.
“A Soldier of the Great War” by Mark Helprin is my favorite book. 🙂
When are you going to be here!
“…great for starting conversations at parties….” You too?
-Life of Pi,
-All the little Graham Cooke books,
-To End All Wars
-and Isaac Asimov’s The Tyrannosaurus Prescription (a collection of essays).
I hope you have a nice vacation. 😉
Perhaps not what you are looking for, but how about a great art book? Peter and I love Andy Goldworthy’s A Collaboration with Nature. The artist sculpts with natural materials, including leaves and twigs, so it ties in with your intention to appreciate trees. 😉
Benjamin Sternke says
Thanks! Great suggestions, y’all. But now I have to spend my entire vacation reading! Just kidding – the suggestions are very much appreciated.
Another book that made me see things differently is “The Design of Everyday Things” by Donald Norman. You’ll start seeing examples of bad (and good!) design all around you!
Bob Harvey says
I checked with Tim and he recommends “Freakonomics” or “First, Break All The Rules” as interesting reads along the “Blink” line. He has copy that you can borrow if you wish.
Tim also highly recommends “Execution, The Discipline of Getting Things Done” but not as a vacation read.