It might not be true that you have relied on books to rescue a jinxed vacation, as I recently did when I tried to go hiking during a veritable monsoon. But it is definitely true that you view books and vacations as inextricably and happily linked.
Reader responses to my column of Oct. 25 drew a tight connection between a good vacation and a good book.
Some years ago, Bev Bachel of Minneapolis spent a month in Paris, “most mornings in the Jardin du Luxembourg sipping coffee, taste-testing croissants and reading books set in the City of Light. ‘The Paris Pilgrims,’ ‘Paris to the Moon,’ ‘A Moveable Feast’ and ‘Sylvia Beach and the Lost Generation’ remain top of my mind. I then spent the afternoons wandering through the neighborhoods and museums I’d read about, all the more delightful due to details I’d learned while reading.”
Joanne Stohl also likes to match books with destinations. “One of my favorite pairings was to the Amazon River in Peru. I spent many an afternoon rocking in a hammock reading ‘Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter’ by the Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa. Wonderful memory and a wonderful book.”
Others, such as Angela Scaletta of Minneapolis, choose books specifically for their cabin trips. “I love Helen Hoover’s books, and for several years I saved them to read when we were Up North,” Scaletta said. “Usually I burn through an author’s work all at once, but it was more fun to read her books near where they took place.”
Nancy Vernon said that books have long been a “critical part of the cabin experience. … Guests would often abandon books there, and we accumulated a small, random library.
“One summer, we ran a ‘worst book of the summer’ contest. Among the finalists was the book that a New York Times reviewer described as ‘the worst thing written since man first scratched in the sand with a stick.’ And that wasn’t even the winner!”
(Sadly, a cursory Google search does not reveal which book this is.)
On her way to “a remote resort in the Caribbean,” Robin Lenz panicked. Worried that she wouldn’t have enough to read, she shipped a box of books to the place where she was staying.
“Needless to say, it did not arrive, and I had carried only one book with me, which I read three times that week: ‘Outlander.’ The box finally showed up the day I was leaving, and I left them all (and ‘Outlander’) for the folks who worked there.”
Meanwhile, Stephanie Wilbur Ash deeply needed books to get through a Vegas vacation when she was six months pregnant and unable to partake in most of the Vegas-style fun.
“Though there was the pleasure of five-dollar buffets, everything else was obviously off-limits. No free drinks. No amusement park rides. No raw shellfish,” she said.
“I spent most of the time digesting buffet calories in hotel beds reading ‘Goodnight, Nebraska’ by Tom McNeal. It’s about the agony and ecstasy of life and loss and redemption in a small rural town. I remember lying in a crappy motel room on Lake Mead crying my eyes out when the protagonist gives his children each a small mint before they go to bed (while the rest of my party drank rum and Cokes in the blistering heat).
“It was a bummer of a vacation for me, but it was a lovely book that taught me how rural Midwestern stories are full of drama and love, just like other people’s stories. It was unforgettable and influential, and it kept me from mindlessly pulling slots and losing my (maternity) shirt in the process.”
Laurie Hertzel is the Star Tribune senior editor for books. On Twitter: @StribBooks. On Facebook: facebook.com/startribunebooks.