FullSizeRenderIt’s WWW Wednesday, where I (sort of) answer these questions:

What did you just finish reading? What are you currently reading? What do you think you’ll read next?

I’m visiting my mother (and enjoying some beautiful weather) in Hilton Head, South Carolina, so it’s been a treat to be able to read outside. Yesterday, I spent some time on the beach, where it was fun to see real-life “beach reading” — lots of people stretched out on the sand, reading trashy books and magazines. My unscientific survey showed that 90% of the beach readers found their reading material at a local grocery store (mass market paperbacks by Danielle Steel, David Baldacci, James Patterson, Debbie Macomber) or on the shelves of their rental house (The Red Tent, The Black Swan, The Hot Zone,The Shack).

9781594633669MThe other 10% — including my niece — were reading The Girl on the Train. (One of them was reading an ARC, and I was dying to ask her how she came by it, but I thought it was time for me to mind my own business. People were probably already wondering why I kept walking by and craning my neck to see the titles of their books.) My favorite beach reader was a little boy who dug a big hole in the sand (possibly trying to reach China), then climbed in, and curled up with Rick Riordan’s The Lightning Thief.

the-childrens-crusade-9781476710457_lgNobody seemed interested in what my husband and I were reading, but if they had been, they would have seen that I was engrossed in The Children’s Crusade, by Ann Packer. I’ll be posting a full review of this wonderful book, which focuses on four siblings raised by a loving, attentive father and a neglectful mother. In today’s New York Times review, Katie Kitamura says:

How do we become who we are? There are many ways of approaching this slipperiest of questions, from the experimental rigor of cognitive neuroscience to the teasing excavations of psychoanalysis. It is, of course, natural territory for the novel, and though The Children’s Crusade follows one nuclear family, its scope is broadened by its attempts at an answer . . . After a brief prologue, in which the origin myth of the family is related in some of Packer’s best and most rapturous prose, childhood emerges as the true sacred space of the novel — not because it represents innocence, but because it might contain the key to decoding the adult self.

9780767919418Jeff’s beach book was One Summer: America 1927, by Bill Bryson, which he’s thoroughly enjoying — even though he typically reads serious history books, the kind that have lots of footnotes. He’s been sharing fun facts with me as he goes along — for instance, that the 1920s were “the golden age of reading”. Some reviewers tend to be a little snobby about Bryson. The Washington Post disdainfully compares One Summer to a Danielle Steel novel, a Cracker Barrel pamphlet, and CliffsNotes. Lighten up, Washington Post!  A lot of us may be part of that “mass-circulation audience” who enjoy and “need more accessible, easy-to-read history”.

9781605986883My mother is not a fan of the beach, but she has plenty of comfortable reading spots at home. She’s reading and enjoying The Listener, by Rachel Basch, which I absolutely loved. Unlike so many novels I’ve read recently, every sentence in it is necessary. I feel like I read many novels that are slightly bloated . . . just a little too long, with elements that don’t contribute to the development of the plot or characters. The Listener is about our need to be known. A psychologist, the widowed father of two grown daughters, treats a college student who is confused about his gender identity. He becomes romantically involved with the mother of this student — without knowing she is the mother of his patient. Complications ensue, involving his daughters and their shared past. The resolution is not pat and tidy, but it’s perfect. I thought Tricia Tierney’s comment was apt: “Rachel is one of the smartest writers around with such a finely honed craft delivered with heart. Don’t you find yourself re-reading her sentences?” (Tricia manages events at the Westport, Connecticut Barnes and Noble and blogs at Tricia Tierney’s Blog.)

1000H-9780805095159It’s time for me to pack up and head back to Chicago — currently cloudy and 41 degrees. On the plane, I think I’ll finish reading Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal. There’s no better time to contemplate mortality than while flying above the clouds, right? I can also indulge in a favorite travel activity, walking up and down the aisle to see what people are reading. Too bad for me that e-readers have made it much more difficult for me to snoop. I saw very few e-readers at the beach, by the way — must have been the fear of sand and water damage. I’d love to know what you’re reading — on the beach, at home, or anywhere!


19 thoughts on “WWW Wednesday — Vacation Version

  1. I love this post. Vacation reading is the best! I check out what others are reading too. If it looks like something I’d read or something I’ve read I will sometimes comment but not always.

    I am glad you are liking The Children’s Crusade. I have the ARC and I am trying to get to it quickly.

    I just finished The Book of Strange New Things which was wonderful. I then dove right into Blue Sun, Yellow Sky which surprised me with how much I like it. Almost done with it. Next up? The Bullet of The Children’s Crusade.

    1. I love vacation reading — when else do you get to read for hours, uninterrupted? I have heard great things about The Book of Strange New Things — curious about Blue Sun, Yellow Sky. The Bullet sounds like a terrific page-turner, which may be what I’m in the mood for next because although I adored every page of The Children’s Crusade, it’s a more thoughtful, leisurely book. Thanks for the recommendations!


  2. I guess I have never understood the concept of a “beach read.” Unless you are watching little kids, I feel like its the one time where all your attention can be focused on the book and you can read something a little deeper…just my thought…Anyway, I just read “The Winter Horses” by Philip Kerr, which is a YA novel by an author who writes wonderful adult novels. Part historical fiction, part folk-tale, it was beautiful. I am currently reading “Black River” by S.M. Hulse…about halfway through and really liking so far…enjoy!

    1. Totally agree with you. I have never wanted to read anything different on the beach than I would anywhere else. But apparently a lot of people don’t think that way, judging both from what I’ve seen at the beach and from what people ask for when they come into the bookstore! I’ve really enjoyed Philip Kerr’s adult novels — The Winter Horses sounds wonderful. And so does Black River — just read some reviews. Thanks so much for the recommendations!


  3. I just returned from an overly scheduled week away and didn’t get much reading time. Knowing that it would be that way, I did choose the lighter “beach read” and returned to JoJo Moyes for One Plus One. Not a lot of substance but her writing always keeps me engaged late at night when everyone is asleep and I am alone with a book. I returned home and immediately picked up Anne Tyler’s latest, A Spool of Blue Thread. I love the way she writes about such normal everyday life yet finds a way to make it so interesting that I can’t put it down! I will either read Lives of Others next or the Buried Giant. If anyone has read either, I would be interested in hearing thoughts.

    1. I am so looking forward to A Spool of Blue Thread — I know I will love it. I have Buried Giant to read too and I’m a little nervous — I know it’s supposed to be wonderful but it might be a little too fantasy-oriented for me?

  4. Just finished Americanah and thought it was excellent. A great read for a foggy week by the lake in Evanston, Illinois. Where is spring? Ruth

  5. Welcome back to the gloomy Midwest! We’ve got occasional rain storms here in Michigan. Sounds like some great reading going on at the beach! I’m afraid to read ‘The Girl on the Train’ because I believe it’s been overhyped to me. I don’t want to be disappointed. Thanks for participating in WWW Wednesday and happy reading!

    1. I read the ARC of Girl on the Train before I heard anything about it — I loved it and read it in a day. But now I can hardly remember the plot. So . . . I’m thinking maybe it has been overhyped. I’ve read quite a few books since that have stuck with me more. It’s always mysterious how some books gain momentum and others, that are just as good, don’t find an audience.

  6. Very jealous of your time in Hilton Head. My husband has been at our beach house in Myrtle Beach this week while I’m home with the kids 😦 Can’t wait for summer vacation when I can do some beach/pool reading! Just finished Brown Girl Dreaming and even though I’m not a reader of prose, this deserved the National book award……so well done! Currently reading The Unraveling of Mercy Louis and enjoying it so far.

    1. Sounds like maybe you get the short end of that marital stick! Got home to Chicago last night — 45 degrees and pouring rain. I need to read Brown Girl Dreaming — you and everyone else have told me it’s amazing. And I’ve been hearing great things about Mercy Louis too. It sounds like my kind of book. Hope you get some beach/pool time soon!

  7. Ha – there are so many things about this post that I loved! 1) I love that you book stalk people on the beach and on planes…I do that too! 2) I love your assessment of the reading material of everyone on the beach. 3) I love your dig at the Washington Post…I’ve more or less stopped reading mainstream media book reviews b/c they’re often so hoity toity about how “intellectual” a book is…and don’t focus on how enjoyable it is to read….and because they often give away way too much plot info.
    Finally, I was a bit underwhelmed by Children’s Crusade. I loved Clausen’s Pier, so had high expectations, but thought it started too slowly and she spent way too much time focusing on the mundane details of the children’s lives when they were young. I did like the parts with the adult children and wished she’d focused more on that.

    1. I love the term “book-stalk” — will be using it all the time now! Funny, what I loved most about The Children’s Crusade was all the detail about the everyday lives of the children. I savored every sentence. To each her own! 🙂

  8. Thanks for the shout out, Ann! I’m going to share this with Rachel – I love your review of The Listener – right on the mark. I’m a book-stalker too – I might actually miss riding the NYC subway for this reason … naah, I don’t.

  9. I finished “Black River” and would highly recommend it! Now I’m on to the latest Maisie Dobbs book – can’t go wrong there….

  10. There’s no better reading than on a beach! Glad you are liking the Packer book. I want to get to it. I put down Smiley’s Some Luck after 25 pages, argh. Not sure if I will return to it. But I did like The Girl Who Was Saturday Night by Heather O’Neill. I love how you snoop on what others are reading on the plane. I do too. Ha. http://www.thecuecard.com

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