Vacation Reading List

Very important choices had to be made this morning: Which books should I take on vacation?

A week is a long time. Especially if your days are free, and more time can be given to reading. I can’t just bring one book. I need many.

I thought about finishing off Reflections on the Revolution in France but then thought to myself: Sheila. It’s a vacation. LIGHTEN UP.

I decided to move back into the realm of fiction.

The books I have packed are thus:

Notes from Underground – by Dostoevsky. (I know, I know, this contradicts my ‘LIGHTEN UP’ comment … but a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.)

I also have brought AS Byatt’s latest novel The Whistling Woman. Love AS Byatt, primarly because of Possession, and her short stories. We’ll see how this latest one is.

I’m bringing Winner of the National Book Award, a novel that takes place in Rhode Island and sounds hilarious.

And lastly, I am bringing My Dark Places – by James Ellroy. This one’s a true crime book, not a novel. James Ellroy’s mother was murdered when he was 10, the murderer was never found, the case remains open to this day – and in this book he teams up with a retired homicide detective to see if he can resolve the case.

Very excited for that one.

What are you all reading this summer?

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42 Responses to Vacation Reading List

  1. Skillzy says:

    Blogs. I’m reading blogs this summer. It’s too hot for all that page turning.

  2. Mr. Z says:

    Okay, I took a look at your “buy me stuff” link, just to see what your other options are besides the ones listed and have come to the following conclusion:

    Your reading list lacks whimsy.

    The classics are fine – I’m a history major and most of my reading is what most people would describe as “dreadfully dull” – but sometimes you just gotta laugh until milk comes out of your nose. I find I appreciate the drama in life more if I frequently remind myself that it ain’t all drama. A good belly laugh is just as theraputic as a good cry, and the intellect can still be stimulated while the funny bone is being tickled.

    As a remedy, I prescribe the following:

    A steady vacation diet of Pratchett, Hiaason, and, naturally, Adams. I beat the Adams drum incessantly, but I can’t help myself.

    When it comes to Terry Pratchett, I recommend “Small Gods,” “Hogfather,” “Moving Pictures,” and his collaborative effort with Neil Gaiman, “Good Omens.”

    My favorite Carl Hiaason is “Stormy Weather,” basically because of Skink. I’m reading “Sick Puppy” now and am loving it.

    As for Douglas Adams, while most people are intimately familiar with the Hitchhiker series, not to be overlooked are the two Dirk Gently books. I LOVE crime novels (Hammett, Chandler, MacDonald), so a Adams-penned detective book is just about as good as it gets.

    Hope this helps!

  3. Mark says:

    You know, when I was a kid, I never understood the concept of the Summer Reading List. Why is there no Spring, Autumn and Winter reading list? Are there people who only read in summer? As I got older, I realized that, yes, there are people who only read in summer. If that much. Then just yesterday, I heard that only 38% of men read books. Sad, and yet…not terribly surprising. Which makes me even more sad.

    That being said, I’m currently plodding my way through Albert Camus’ The Plague. Unfortunately I’m not quite in the right state of mind for it right now and am not enjoying it as much as I hoped. Too bad, because I’ve been wanting to read it for some time now. I’m considering putting it away for a while until I’m more ready for it.

    “More ready”? My God, I can actually feel the brain cells disintegrating.

    P.S. I second the Good Omens recommendation.

  4. red says:


    hahahaha “more ready for The Plague” What a fun read, huh??

  5. Kaptin Marko says:

    “foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”

    “Emerson, I adore Emerson.”

  6. red says:

    Oh my God, are you quoting What’s Up Doc to me??

    “And I adore anyone who adores anyone who adores Emerson. Your turn!”

  7. red says:

    But if you WEREN’T quoting What’s Up Doc, then I would say: I love Emerson, too. Especially that quote.

  8. Kaptin Marko says:

    She’s a gem. a gem, Bannister, and you’re a lucky dog. Admit it!

  9. Emily says:

    I promise myself every time I try to pick something new that I’ll go “light.” Bah, so I went and ordered Biting at the Grave: The Irish Hunger Strikes and the Politics of Despair by Padraig O’Malley. I haven’t seen the book yet, but it’s probably safe to assume that the cover does not feature Fabio clutching a large-breasted lady.

    I’ve just started Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel DeFoe, which is excellent. Lots of laughs…

  10. red says:


    Fabio in the middle of a hunger strike … now that would be a good story.

    I actually read that Plague book and thought it was terrific!

    My view on reading during vacations – and this is a personal taste, my own thing – is if I have a big chunk of free time, I like to read something substantial. Something that, conceivably, could take up the whole week, because I read so damn fast.

    I decided to leave Ms. Rebecca West’s book at home – while I haven’t finished it, it has to weigh about 7 pounds all on its own, and I am commuting by myself, with my bags. Heh.

    By such decisions, are reading lists solidified.

  11. red says:

    “We’re testing a theory Howard has on vocal reverberation under spinal pressure.”
    “Vocal reverberation under spinal pressure?”
    “Yeah, you know. VRUSP?”
    “I think I read a monograph on that.”

  12. Jeff says:

    Maybe it’s the heat, but I can’t get into anything too deep during the Summer. So I’m re-reading all of Michael Connelly’s Hieronymous (Harry) Bosch books. As a tribute to Ellroy (and “My Dark Places” is wonderful, by the way), Connelly wrote Bosch to be an orphan whose mother was murdered when he was 10. In the book I’m on right now – “The Last Coyote” – Bosch is trying to solve his mother’s murder, 30 years later.

  13. red says:

    Jeff – how fun! I did not know that about Michael Connelly’s tribute.

    I am really excited to delve into that book. I love James Ellroy’;s prose. You just have to keep turning the pages, don’t you?

  14. Kaptin Marko says:

    “Who is that dangerously unbalanced woman?”

  15. red says:

    “This man … is in possession … of SECRET. GOVERNMENT …. underwear.”

  16. red says:

    By the way Kaptin – laughed out loud like a maniac at that last one you posted.

    “They tried to molest me.”
    “That’s …. unbelievable.”

  17. red says:

    2 completely different threads. Love it.

    Reading lists and What’s Up Doc quotes.

    “You’re upside down.”
    “I know.”

  18. Kaptin Marko says:

    “Hello Hans.”
    “What happened to Hans?”
    “There is no Hans. Only me, Fritz.”
    “Oh, what a shame.”

    Have a great vacation.

  19. Jeff says:

    If you ever have the opportunity to attend an Ellroy book signing, by all means find a way to get there. As much as anything else, he is a performance artist and is hysterically funny (be sure to ask him his views on the Kennedys). And incredibly gracious with his fans.

    My first read of “L.A. Confidential” was like your “Notorious” experience. It consumed my life. The dialogue is masterful:

    “You don’t even feel the dosage, do you?”

    “I feel like I’ve had four martinis, and four martinis just make me that much more lucid.”

    (Exley and Lynn Bracken)

  20. red says:

    “You vill tell her that you are passionately in luv vit her, and that you are going to make luv to her.”


    “Couldn’t I just kill her?”

  21. Big Dan says:

    I read some Douglas Adams this summer, in the form of “The Salmon of Doubt,” which was culled from his computers after his death and includes parts of what is presumably a never-published third Dirk Gentley novel. Fabulous daily comments in that one.

    I read “Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Philosophy: Fear and Trembling in Sunnydale” which was all essays composed by respected names in the field of Philosophy.

    I re-read “The Alchemist” for the hundred somethingth time. Ditto “Things Fall Apart.”

    Finally, I read “Moneyball,” despite not being a huge baseball fan. It changes the way you view the world and the pure human interest angle of this book transcends the game itself. It’ll be hard to get the world to read it because it will sound like a “baseball book,” but I’m willing to go on that crusade anyway.


  22. red says:

    Oops – Jeff – that last one wasn’t an Ellroy quote, but a What’s Up Doc quote.

    At the end of my LA Confidential tape there’s a big “making of the movie” documentary – and I can definitely see what you mean. He’s a showman, isn’t he?

    He actually talks like he writes, it seems.

    He was saying, “This book was BIG. World-shakingly BIG.”

    And yes, you are so right. His dialogue is so fantastic.

  23. Kaptin Marko says:

    “Charm, use your charm.”

    I am laughing out loud at work, tears running down my face and my co-workers can’t figure out what the hell is wrong with me.

    Great day. Thanks Red

  24. red says:

    Big Dan – Moneyball. I don’t know that one.

  25. Bryan says:

    My summer reading list is insanely eclectic as usual: Malory’s “Morte d’Arthur,” Goethe’s “Italian Journey,” Norman O. Brown’s “Love’s Body,” the Upanishads, Vattimo’s “The End of Modernity,” Angus Fletcher’s “A New Theory for American Poetry,” Aleister Crowley’s “Eight Lectures on Yoga” and selected poetry, Freud’s collected papers, some of the Buddha’s Pali sermons, and maybe Heidegger’s commentary on Plato’s “Sophist,” if I get to it.

    I’m deeply sick; I know it.

  26. michael says:

    As I wrote in an earlier e-mail get and read Ken Bruen’s The Guards. I hadn’t made the connection before, but these comments made me think that Bruen’s prose does have a certain Ellroyesqueness to it. I can’t recommend (read “plead”) you read this book enough.

  27. Bryan says:

    Has anyone read The Matrix and Philosophy? I’m wondering if I should shell out the money for it.

  28. red says:

    My co-worker read it and thought it was fantastic. I haven’t read it, though.

    Oh, and Bryan: strange coincidence:

    Despite my love of poetry, I do not know Alastair Crowley – and just yesterday, in The Marianne Problem post below – David Foster linked to a poem of his which completely caught at my heart. I need to get some of his stuff.

    Any recommendations on that score?

  29. red says:

    Kaptin: One last one for the road:

    “Snakes, as you know, have a mortal fear of …. tile.”

  30. Big Dan says:

    “I wrote this book because I fell in love with a story. The story concerned a small group of undervalued professional baseball players and executives, many of whom had been rejected as unfit for the big leagues, who had turned themselves into one of the most successful franchises in Major League Baseball. But the idea for the book came well before I had good reason to write it—before I had a story to fall in love with. It began, really, with an innocent question: how did one of the poorest teams in baseball, the Oakland Athletics, win so many games?”

    With these words Michael Lewis launches us into the funniest, smartest, and most contrarian book since, well, since Liar’s Poker. Moneyball is a quest for something as elusive as the Holy Grail, something that money apparently can’t buy: the secret of success in baseball. The logical places to look would be the front offices of major league teams, and the dugouts, perhaps even in the minds of the players themselves. Lewis mines all these possibilities—his intimate and original portraits of big league ballplayers are alone worth the price of admission—but the real jackpot is a cache of numbers—numbers!—collected over the years by a strange brotherhood of amateur baseball enthusiasts: software engineers, statisticians, Wall Street analysts, lawyers and physics professors.

    (from Forgive me for not learning how to do links in comments pages yet without the clearly-marked buttons above the comments page. I’m sort of a dark library/dusty book/quill and ink type.)

  31. Big Dan says:

    “You need know absolutely nothing about baseball to appreciate the wit, snap, economy and incisiveness of Lewis’s thoughts about it….Moneyball moves nimbly between sheer exuberance and strategic wiles.”—Janet Maslin, New York Times

    “Another journalistic tour de force.”—Wall Street Journal

    “Engaging, informative, and deliciously contrarian.”—Washington Post

    “Stunning….[Lewis’s] explanations of the science of baseball…are spellbinding.”—New York Observer

    “A brilliantly told tale….Michael Lewis’s beautiful obsession with the idea of value has once again yielded gold.”—Garry Trudeau

  32. Bryan says:


    Crowley is kind of an odd figure in the history of English literature, to say the least. He is actually not primarily known as a poet but as an occult leader who trained in the Golden Dawn system and broke with it to found his own organization, the O.T.O. His writings on the occult are encyclopedic, whereas his poems will fit into a couple of slim volumes.

    I actually have not read any of his poetry yet. I have only read part of his lectures on yoga (which are hilarious; he can be a surprisingly funny writer), and I have read about him. He was very clearly a genius, albeit an extremely controversial one because of his life.

    One story that I read about Crowley really struck me as interesting, although it may be apocryphal. It is well known that certain Nazi leaders including Hitler were very superstitious, and they adapted the swastika knowing that it was an occult symbol of the sun. Crowley is said to have advised Churchill to be photographed making the “V” sign as often as possible, because that is a modified version of the sign of Typhon and Apophis, which is said to be able to defeat the solar energies of the swastika. Crowley’s hope was that the Nazis would be persuaded that Churchill possessed a stronger magic than theirs and that they would become demoralized.

    I know it’s crazy that I know all this garbage. As I said, I’m deeply sick.

  33. red says:

    Deeply sick people are my favorite kinds.

    I’ve seen Notorious 4 times this week. I am ill. ILL.

    I also keep an extensive card catalog collection on every single country in the world – as though I am a CIA operative. Those cards are INSANE. And I actually keep up with them.

    “Oooh, the prime minister of Serbia-Montenegro was assassinated” – onto the card immediately.

    I am also deeply deeply sick.

    Thanks for that information, though – he does sound like a fascinating and bizarre individual. And the poem posted below kind of killed me a little bit! I printed it out.

  34. Bryan says:

    As Michelle Pfeiffer says in “Batman Returns,” “Sickos don’t bother me… At least they’re committed.”

    That’s great that you keep that card catalog! Now that’s real obsessive behavior (meant as a complement).

    Two other things I’m wanting to read are “Perdurabo” by Richard Kaczynski, the most acclaimed of Crowley’s biographies, and Crowley’s “Vision and the Voice,” which is an account of the visions that he saw when invoking the Enochian angels.

  35. red says:

    I am sure you are familiar with Christopher Smart, patron saint of committed wackos?

    His poems, revelations, visions … are amazing. My favorite is his long one to his cat. Do you know it?

  36. Bryan says:

    For I will consider my cat Jeoffrey
    For he is the servant of the living God, duly and daily serving Him
    For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East, he worships him in his way
    For this is done by turning his body seven times round in elegant quickness
    For he knows that God is his savior

    Is that the one you were thinking of?

  37. red says:

    That’s the one! And it goes on and on and on like that. One of my favorite pieces of writing ever. Glory to God found in the simplest things, like a cat named Jeoffrey.

  38. DBW says:

    You people envigorate my affection for the human being.

  39. Ken Summers, Perversion Catalyst says:

    LOTR (twice)

    The Silmarillion

    Ishi in Two Worlds

    Ishi: Last of his Tribe

    Dinosaur in a Haystack

    Bully for Brontosaurus

    Leonardo’s Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms

    Founding Brothers

    That’s just so far. I’m sure I’ll come up with more on the next trip to the library.

  40. Nephew says:

    All your reading lists lack poetry. If you showed me a diet plan seriously lacking Vitamin C sources you would expect me to react.

    Get some brain vitamin – get some poesy. And remeber, the dead white guys do it best!

    A tip from Down-Under: our top poesy-meisters are Alec Hope and Jim MacAuley. Get them via Amazon or (very cheap books there). And they’re both dead white guys!

  41. Gabriel Farao says:

    I just thought I’d say that I love your blog. I found it after seeing “Broadway. The Golden Years” and wanting to read up a bit on Laurette Taylor. I read her essay and thought,”Ha, it’s always been that way…” Anyway, it made me feel better. So, well, thanks for posting it. And enjoy the Ellroy book. I read it years ago and found that beneath the smokescreen of what must be a self-preserving factual fetishism, lay a few truly amazingly brave revelations about his stark young adulthood. Wow, I really tried to impress you with that mouthful of a sentence. Did it work? Me neither. How about the fact that I acknowledged that shortcoming? Again, unimpressed as well. Next. On the flip side… I have a recommendation. Read Jean Vanier’s accounts of his communal work with the mentally impaired, “Our Journey Home”. It’s witness to some of the most touching examples of humanity. It leaves aside the stereotypic rendering of the retarded-you know, the genial, one dimensional examples we’re wont to imbrace. It’s depth and insight into their isolation is heartbreaking, and at the same time full of light and love and all the things that this crazy life worth living. Have a nice vacation.

  42. red says:


    Pretty much every comment you have made on this blog so far “lacks poetry”. I do not like your tone. Knock it off.

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