Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Beach Reads

Before I left on vacation, I solicited reading recommendations for my beach vacation. Ultimately, I selected three books for my four-day vacation - a little ambitious, I thought. Turns out to have been just right - I finished the last book on my final evening there.

I started with Aimee Bender's The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, which is about a girl who discovers at nine years old that she can taste the emotions of the people who prepare her food. It was a quick and easy read, if a little confusing at the end, and had a healthy dose of magical realism (which I love). I picked it up the afternoon I arrived, and finished it the following afternoon.

Next was Jasper Fforde's The Well of Lost Plots, the third in a series I recently started reading. Another quick and engaging story, with some mystery and humor thrown in - really perfect beach reading, in my opinion. I started it the second day and finished it the following morning.

Last was Rebecca Skloot's The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. I was most concerned about this choice since it's nonfiction. I knew it would be good - several people whose opinions I trust said so - but I was worried it might be a bit too "heavy" for vacation reading. Luckily, my concerns were entirely unfounded. Skloot's writing style was very accessible, and the story is told in a narrative form that drew me in from the start. I wrapped this one up in the last day and a half.

One of the things I enjoyed most about my vacation was how it forced me to disconnect from my life at home. There was no television or phone in my room, and the only wifi access was limited to the restaurant area. If I was bored, my choices were to nap, people watch, take in the scenery, chat with another visitor, cool off in the pool, get a massage, or read. I did a little bit of everything, but leaned heavily toward books. I haven't devoured three books in four days since I was a kid, and I remembered how much I enjoyed consuming a good story. As an added bonus, the decreased "screen time" forced me engage more with my surroundings and melted my stress away. The instant I re-entered the world of airports and wifi and cell phones, I felt my body and mind tense up again in an all too familiar way.

I'm determined to bring this lesson from my vacation back home with me. I know I spend far more time than necessary staring at a screen - I eat dinner in front of my laptop, I watch television in the evenings, I check my email and Twitter first thing when I wake up and last thing before I go to bed. It's all-consuming at times. I'm going to start working more reading and other slow and mindful activities into my everyday life, with the hope that the next time I head home from vacation, the return to reality won't be quite so jarring.

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