One of the best parts of vacation – other than it’s vacation – is that I usually finally have the time to really read… I love to read but I hate to do it in increments. I’ve never been one of those people that can just read a chapter an evening. I hate being interrupted all the time, and believe that a big part of a story is how it’s written and told in it’s entirety.
Consequently, I don’t read much outside of the vacations unless I’m traveling on my own in long segments. I just love being able to sit down and being done with a story a day or two later, and then really taking a bit of time to marinate on it. Usually I end up picking up random books here and there and saving them all for a trip. I’ll read just about anything and I love stories of interesting lives so here’s what was in my beach bag this last go around:
1. Steve Jobs
: I’ve been carrying this one around forever. Obviously, it’s a pretty fascinating life story. As a manager, you can learn a lot about how not to treat employees from his style. But as an innovator, his pursuit of design and the creation of product – not in response to what people say they want but in uncovering what it is that people don’t yet know that they need – is completely inspiring.
2. When a Crocodile Eats the Sun: A Memoir of Africa: Loved this one. I’m a huge fan of the book The Last Resort and I find memoirs or stories about Zimbabwe particularly fascinating, especially because the situation changed so quickly so many times. Peter Godwin is a fantastic writer, but his parents are characters to the max.
3. Civilian Warriors: The Inside Story of Blackwater and the Unsung Heroes of the War on Terror : I’ll pick up a book just about anywhere, and this is one that my brother gave to my husband. I never really followed along on the Blackwater thing but given the role they played both in a practical plus policy perspective – not to mention the fact the loss of life they also sustained – I thought it would be an interesting perspective to get their side of the story. There can be some long sections of battle descriptions, but the fundamental question of what role does the non-military/former military have in our military conflicts, and how do we want to think about military conflict differently if we don’t want that role to be played at all is certainly food for thought.
4. The Railway Man: A POW’s Searing Account of War, Brutality and Forgiveness : I haven’t seen the movie yet, but the movie poster made me pick up this book a while back. Ever since becoming a mom, I don’t read that many WWII books anymore but when I visited Thailand several years ago, we visited Kanchanaburi. It was one of the most moving WWII visits that I’ve done and have always wanted to know more. Plus, I was intrigued by the element of forgiveness that’s central to his story – of meeting a captor face to face. This reminded me a lot of the South African Reconciliation Committee, and I believe I read they used Eric Lomax’s experience as a model. Also interesting to note was that Lomax actually wrote his book while he was recuperating from imprisonment and not many years after, so while the book was released later, it actually is written from recent memory, unlike most memoirs.
5. A Room with a View : This is the only non life story I guess – straight novel. Actually I read Passage to India on our last vacation so when I found another E.M. Forster laying around the hotel I thought I’d give it a go. The stories and descriptions of Italy are amazing, but just like Passage to India, the turn of the century Victorian types drove me nuts. The amount of stress and pettiness over minutiae (or at least, what appears to be minutiae to me) will definitely make you realize how much human interaction or free thought we take for granted these days.
6. Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald
: I must be the only person that didn’t like this book – still read it to the end though. I felt it had a lot of possibilities but it just didn’t do it for me – a lot of the anachronisms, especially in conversation, grated on me (plus, we’re talking about the 20’s here people, there was already so much out there in terms of great language and expressions). In the end, I just didn’t find the Zelda character believable, and while it starts out strong, the book peters off just as the most interesting and tragic period of her life begins. I might be too sympathetic to F. Scott Fitzgerald here…too much movable feast I suppose. But still, I enjoyed the stories of Paris and a certain carefree approach to life that just wouldn’t be possible today with all the technology we have following us around and reminding us of our obligations from finances, public, and life.