Vacation Reading

A week-long vacation in a tropical paradise. You know what I’m thinking, because you’re thinking it, too…

What books to pack?

 

Recently the Dear Man and I joined my sister’s family on a vacation to Costa Rica to visit our aunt and uncle.

So yes, I packed two swimsuits and a sun hat and a gallon of sunscreen and sandals… but most of my packing energy focused on the books. There were hard decisions to make, people. My primary criterion: weight. So I went with all paperbacks.

Here’s what I packed…

 

And coming up… the big reveal of What I Actually Read. But first…

 

What I did instead of reading

So here’s the thing. With a party of 8, things stay busy. And the most fun I really can even imagine. I love these people.

 

My vision was this: while the teenagers are surfing, their auntie will be reading. In reality, it was too much fun watching the kids surf and talking with my people and playing in the waves. So the books stayed in the beach bag, and that was just fine.

 

We spent time in the air (ziplining— a huge triumph for she who fears heights) and in the water (paddle boarding in the sea).

 

And we ate wonderful foods (gallo pinto and casado and pizza #106 and heavenly coffee). But as we know, in the end…

 

Reading always wins 

I grabbed a little reading time while hanging out on the balcony of the house we rented and lounging in the room with a view (oh my land, what a view).

I read the middle section of No More Words: A Journal of My Mother, Anne Morrow Lindbergh by Reeve Lindbergh, which seemed a strange but perfect thing to read while on vacation. (Reading about Alzheimer’s is not particularly light or jolly.)

I actually bought the book at the Charles Lindbergh home in Minnesota during a long weekend, so it was a book bought on vacation and read on vacation. And the book made me think all kinds of thoughts, and it was a pleasure to have the time to consider them.

So I had just enough time for some basic maintenance reading there on the ground…

 

It wasn’t until our long flight home that my books got much attention. And then it got serious.

Here’s what I read…
  • I finished the Lindbergh book.
  • Then I read our upcoming book club book cover to cover. This sounds all impressive, but since the book is only 176 pages long, it’s not that grand an achievement. Sarah Gailey’s River of Teeth was a great vacation book: it’s a swift-moving, surprising, violent Western romp featuring hippos. I don’t mind flying, but the cramped quarters make me glad to be able to escape somewhere else on long flights.
  • Then I read a couple of essays from Portage: A Family, A Canoe, and the Search for the Good Life by Sue Leaf, including a chapter about a river the Dear Man and I have canoed (hello, beautiful Upper Iowa!)
  • And then I dove into Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt, which I also bought on a previous vacation (at the marvelous Novel Neighbor bookstore in Webster Groves, Missouri). And I read half the book on the flight and kept saying to the Dear Man, “This book is so good.”

Now that we’re home, the poor neglected book is in a holding pattern while I get caught up on laundry and all the other adulting things that are clamoring for my attention. But the lovely thing is that once I immerse myself in the book again, it’ll transport me not only into the story itself, but also into The Vacation Feeling. I love that.

 

So, my fellow readers… what’s your favorite vacation reading tactic?

Bookish Tourist: The Novel Neighbor

The Novel Neighbor bookstore, Webster Groves, Missouri

3 words: blissful, lucky, jubilant

During a recent long weekend in St. Louis, the Dear Man and I spent one of the best days ever.

It included a kitschy antique store visit, Route 66, a fast food restaurant we checked off our list, the Daniel Boone home, another fast food restaurant we didn’t expect to see (where we ate amazing donuts), an iconic bookstore, life-changing pizza (at our 78th pizza place), and the Gateway Arch.

Making a purchase at an antique store on Route 66

 

Hello, Tim Hortons!

Of course we’re gonna focus on the bookstore, partly because this is a book blog but mostly because It Blew Us All Away.

I learned about the Novel Neighbor from the What Should I Read Next podcast, where Anne interviewed Holland Saltsman, bookstore owner and reader extraordinaire (and they even taped a live show there).

On one of the episodes, Holland raved about The One-in-a-Million Boy. I’ll be forever grateful for that.

And when we visited her fantastic bookstore, I fell head over heels in love with it.

I was seriously in a blissed-out daze.

This bookstore is intensely comfy and cozy, yet it’s also wide-ranging and it just keeps going. And there are delights around every corner!

Here’s what I bought (minus one gift I bought for a friend)…

I selected the book Tell the Wolves I’m Home from the “Holland’s Favorites” shelf because I trust her like that. I bought a book I’d never heard of, simply because I trust her taste. (I adore shelves of staff picks!)

Oh, my goodness, dear readers. If you’re ever in St. Louis, I sure hope you stop by the Novel Neighbor. It’ll bliss you out, too.

My fellow bookish tourists… what’s your best bookstore experience?

Bookish Tourist: Parnassus Books

3 words: blissful, family, all-encompassing

This is the story of the day we visited Parnassus Books, aka The Day I Just Kept Flapping.

On our recent trip to Nashville, the Dear Man, his Dear Dad, and his Dear Sister met up with his Dear Nephew and Dear Nephew’s Dear Girlfriend (we have a serious entourage) to visit Ann Patchett’s bookstore.

I’ve been ogling the place on Instagram for months now, and visiting the place is (of course) so much better!

I was instantly taken in by the shelf of “Penned & Picked By Patchett.” There were shelf talkers containing blurbs she wrote, recommending books!

(italics, in this post, denote “blogger flapping with joy”)

Completely thrilling.

We all book chatted our way through the bookstore, and the Dear Nephew bought a book I recommended, based on his reading tastes (Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel).

And the Dear Man and his Dear Dad got to hang out with one of the shop dogs.

The bookstore is utterly seductive: wood floors, comfy chairs, friendly dogs, a piano, and tons of carefully selected books on the shelves. Seriously: their backlist picks are inspired.

 

There were so many books I could’ve bought (for a moment, I thought it would be this one…)

This is what a librarian looks like

 

…but I chose This Is Where You Belong by Melody Warnick, because it’s a book I really want to re-read.

While this bookstore is delightful on its own, knowing that Ann Patchett co-owns it and is involved with its design and operation — that adds some serious sparkle. I felt a little bit starstruck when we were there.

And then… I didn’t want to leave.

Purchase in hand… still seduced by the window display

 

But then: smart man (who knows me well) reminded me that a visit to Fox’s Donut Den was up next. Here we are, after the eating of the quite remarkable apple fritter…

 

If you’re ever anywhere even close to Nashville, my fellow readers, all I can say is: Get thee to this bookstore.

It’s pure magic.

Bookish Tourist: Joseph-Beth Booksellers

During a recent canoe trip in Kentucky, the Dear Man and I did that thing that we do when we travel: we packed in all the goodness we could find.

And one of our travel days, this meant we dashed across Lexington to hit a bookstore in the half hour before it closed.

Not enough time!

But still: so worth it. And now we’ve added Joseph-Beth Booksellers to our Return to Lexington list.

Here’s why:

First: Spaciousness! This place has a high, tent-like ceiling that makes it feel very open. And there’s tons of natural light.

 

Second: Browseability! Many of the shelves are arranged in a pinwheel around the central core, and there are enough face-out displays to keep a person entranced for way longer than a half hour.

 

Third: Selection! I found several books I wanted to read, but in the end, I bought only one… and it was a good one.

 

Fourth: Size! This place is huge. Yet it’s comfortable and welcoming.

The bad news: We had only half an hour there, and it wasn’t enough time.

The good news: We are going back to Lexington.

 

So, my fellow readers… What’s the most surprising bookstore discovery you’ve made on vacation?

Bookish Tourist: The Book Cellar

On a recent Saturday, the Dear Man and I made a foray into the city (for us, that’s Chicago), so’s I could buy a copy of The Cubs Way for the Dear Man’s dear dad. (He’s the person directly responsible for my Cubs conversion, and he probably already knows most, if not everything, in this book, but still. I’m pretty sure he’s gonna like it.)

So we decided to visit The Book Cellar (one of those Chicago bookstores everyone says a person really should see), and when we looked at Google Maps, we saw this…


And Roots Handmade Pizza: on our list!

So we decided: lunch there first, then bookstore. Cuz we’re tactical geniuses like that.

And then the Dear Man parked the car right next to a Little Free Library, so: further bliss.

Then I had this face, cuz: Nancy Pearl book in the Little Free Library!

 

(Yes, that Nancy Pearl*, who I got to meet last month!)

Then… Roots Pizza. And guys. This pizza is amazing. It’s seriously in my personal Top 3 Favorite Pizzas of All Time. And that ain’t an easy mark to hit. (The others on the podium: deep dish at Pequod’s in Morton Grove, and thin crust at La Rosa in Skokie)

 

Here’s why: Quad City pizza has malt in its crust, which makes the crust a little bit sweet. So the crust is actually fantastic all on its own. Then you add just the right amount of zingy sauce and cheese and onions and green peppers, and you have yourself one winner of a pizza.

After I ate way too much pizza, we walked over to the bookstore, which is in the charming Lincoln Square neighborhood of Chicago. We hit another shop on the way. And then… bookstore wonderment.
The Book Cellar is not small, but it’s not very big, either. It’s simply packed with books. I felt a little bit like I was swimming through the aisles, with books surrounding me on all sides. That was kind of dreamy.

The Book Cellar is a book store/cafe/wine bar combo, so there were people wandering the stacks with coffee cups and wine glasses, which seemed really homey.

I snapped up the 2nd-to-last copy of The Cubs Way, and then we hit the cafe area of the bookstore for iced coffee, because all that leisure: exhausting.


So, readers...  What’s your favorite bookish tourist destination?

 

*iconic librarian extraordinaire, and inspiration for the librarian action figure