What I read on vacation

For the first time ever, I didn’t bring along a dead tree book on vacation!

It was kind of scary, falling back on an electronic device for all my reading. But in the end it worked out pretty well.

There were several reasons – travelling with a 19-month-old means a car boot packed to its gills. Stroller, diapers, toys, clothes, a pack n play (we were staying in a few places and only one had guaranteed a crib for our stay, so we didn’t want to risk it)… and more! This was our longest road trip ever so we wanted to make sure we were prepared.

Another important reason, my new Kindle Paperwhite!

I don’t buy e-books, and generally read either classics or library books on e-reader apps, so I’ve always hesitated about buying a dedicated e-reader. But I found myself reading more e-books (partly because it was sometimes easier than browsing at the library with wee reader), and holding up the iPad to read in bed could get tiring – plus that glaring light! So when the husband suggested the Kindle Paperwhite, I was intrigued. And am now quite a fan! Its little LEDs at the bottom provide a gentle glow across the screen and was great for reading in bed when wee reader went to sleep (that’s the problem with vacations – no separate bedroom for the kiddie means lights out early for everyone!).

Here’s what I read on my LA-San Diego-Santa Barbara vacation!

Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace – Ayelet Waldman

Such a personal book, sometimes with too intimate family details that made me a little uncomfortable. But a funny, fun read that is so refreshing in its honesty. It made me laugh, it made me tear up, it made me go tsk tsk. And it made me reflect on myself as a mother.

“Even if i’m setting myself up for failure, I think it’s worth trying to be a mother who delights in who her children are, in their knock-knock jokes and earnest questions. A mother who spends less time obseessing about what will happen, or what has happened, and more time reveling in what is. A mother who doesn’t fret over failings and slights, who realizes her worries and anxieties are just thoughts, the continuous chattering and judgement of a too busy mind. A mother who doesn’t worry so much about being bad or good but just recognizes that she’s both, and neither. A mother who does her best, and for whom that is good enough, even if, in the end, her best turns out to be, simply, not bad. ”

The English Patient – Michael Ondaatje

I recently rewatched the movie version and then couldn’t quite remember if I had read the book before. So I figured, might as well re/reread it. And luckily there was an e-book version available. It was gorgeous. Far far surpassing the movie. I especially loved reading more about Kip and his journey to becoming a sapper. And I can easily see myself rereading it, which is something I almost never say.

Far from the madding crowd – Thomas Hardy (still reading)

The interesting thing about the Kindle is that it has made reading classics easier and more pleasant. I never thought I’d say that. The problem I have with reading classics is time – I take weeks, months even, to read some of them. So a library book won’t work for me here. And with plenty of classics available as free e-books, it is all too easy to download them.

“To persons standing alone on a hill during a clear midnight such as this, the roll of the world eastward is almost a palpable movement. The sensation may be caused by the panoramic glide of the stars past earthly objects, which is perceptible in a few minutes of stillness, or by the better outlook upon space that a hill affords, or by the wind, or by the solitude; but whatever be its origin, the impression of riding along is vivid and abiding. The poetry of motion is a phrase much in use, and to enjoy the epic form of that gratification it is necessary to stand on a hill at a small hour of the night, and, having first expanded with a sense of difference from the mass of civilised mankind, who are dreamwrapt and disregardful of all such proceedings at this time, long and quietly watch your stately progress through the stars. After such a nocturnal reconnoitre it is hard to get back to earth, and to believe that the consciousness of such a majestic speeding is derived from a tiny human frame.”

So far the book has had its good moments, although the whole thing with Boldwood’s sudden infatuation with Bathsheba is rather hard to believe. Gabriel Oak is so far my favorite character, his devotion is admirable, if a little foolish!

Birdseye: The Adventures of a Curious Man – Mark Kurlansky (still reading)

I wanted to find out why Kurlansky wrote a book about Birdseye. And it turns out that Birdseye was a man with an adventurous, inventive spirit and had this brain that seemed to whip up all sorts of ideas, but I keep comparing this book to Sara Wheeler’s Too Close to the Sun which I loved and which was filled with gorgeous descriptions of Finch-Hatton’s Africa, and Wheeler’s thoughtful writing. Kurlansky’s effort seems a bit lackluster. I suppose I will continue reading it as I’m about a third of the way through now but it’s not anything to recommend.



  1. So glad you’re enjoying your e-reader. I enjoy mine far more than I ever expected, and it is GREAT for travel and with a little one around. I loved The English Patient, so I’m glad you enjoyed that one. Far From the Madding Crowd is on my wishlist and Bad Mother sounds like something I’d enjoy, too.


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