Critical Mass

Vacation Reading


Greetings from the breakfast room of the Ramada Inn, Anchorage. Morning #1 of vacation. The coffee here is really terrible.

For weeks I plotted which books I was going to bring with me on a 2-week family trip. Out of several dozen candidates, these are the titles that made it into the suitcase, and why:
When Will There Be Good News? Kate Atkinson. The answer to her question appears to be: Never. I started this one on the plane, and so far, it’s chilling and terrific. This is Atkinson’s third novel featuring private eye Jackson Brodie. (The first was Case Histories.) She manages to be arch, tragic, extremely dark, and cruelly funny all at once, and I’m trying to figure out how.
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, David Wroblewski. I opened this a month ago—a boy, a dog, a farm—and loved it as far as I got. But man, it’s long! It’s one of those novels you need acres of free time to immerse yourself in.
The Bin Ladens, Stephen Coll. This should fill in some gaps in my understanding of the last seven years. Plus, Richard Price liked it.
Taking on the Trust, Steve Weinberg. I know next to nothing about Ida Tarbell, but after hearing Steve talk about this project over the last few years, his bio is at the top of my reading list.
On the Pleasure of Hating, William Hazlitt. NBCC Board member Maureen McLane put this in her critical canon a few months ago. I’ll quote: “Conversible, perspicuous, socially as well as aesthetically illuminating. Hazlitt is a joy and a goad.”
Wonderland, Joyce Carol Oates. I have a lifetime goal of reading all her books. I don’t actually know why I picked this particular title off the library shelf. Maybe because it weighed less than Blonde.
Lights Out, Peter Abrahams. As with Oates, I’m trying to read everything he’s published and I’m down to a just a couple of titles. He writes smart psychological thrillers that are also low-key and quite funny. For children, I highly recommend his Echo Falls series, featuring girl sleuth Ingrid Levin-Hill.