Vacation Reading Can Be Depressing
Three weeks ago I was in one of my favorite places: beautiful, sunny Barbados.
Like I do with every vacation, I packed my books first. Because priorities. I went with these five:
- Merchants of Culture: The Publishing Business in the 21st Century by John Thompson
- Smoke Gets In Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty
- The Man Time Forgot: A Tale of Genius, Betrayal, and the Creation of Time Magazine by Isaiah Wilner
- Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot by Masha Gessen
- Still Lives by Maria Hummel (the only fiction on the list)
As I packed them, I fully intended to finish all of them in the week I was gone. Between the seven-hour flights each direction, basking in the beach sun, and lounging at the pool, I thought I’d have plenty of time.
I started with Merchants of Culture and didn’t quite realize what I was getting into until I had already committed to reading it. It’s dense—lots of statistics, tables, and in the weeds, nuanced info about the publishing industry. If you’re fascinated with publishing, as I am, and want to learn more about it, I highly recommend it, but if you’re not 110% on board, it can be a slog. I was into it, but it ended up being a slower read than what I was hoping for on vacation. Not bad, it just took a while to get through.
And by “a while” I mean the whole week. I only read that one book while actually in Barbados.
I finished it early on the plane ride back, so I started Smoke Gets In Your Eyes and finished it before we landed back at home. It wasn’t an in-depth nuanced look at the funeral industry, but it was a memoir of Caitlin Doughty’s experience working at a crematory. It was informative and oddly hilarious; more of what I was looking for in a vacation read.
It didn’t bother me that I’d only read two books until I got back home and unpacked the other three. I’d given up souvenir space for them to be there, so I was disappointed that I didn't get around to reading them.
The impetus behind me packing so many books is because I fear running out of things to read and not being able to get to a bookstore. Which, depending on where you're going, is a legitimate concern. (I didn't find out until the trip was nearly over, but there was a used bookstore called The Book Den within a mile or so of our resort.) I still think it's better to pack too many than too few, but it's a bit demoralizing to have to unpack all the books you didn't get to.
Does this ever happen to you? I want to hear about your vacation reads for the year.