On Vacation Reading Lists

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One of my favorite parts of traveling is and has always been what I call the administrative bits. Making packing lists, packing, preparing the contents of my purse, last minute buying of toiletries and essentials and best of all, the compiling of Books To Read In The Airplane And On Vacation.

If all the capitalization didn’t tip you off, this list is very, very important. When I was a kid, in my pre-Kindle days, I would agonize endlessly about which books to bring. There was a certain art involved in this and not an inconsiderable amount of math (if I read x number of pages in y number of hours how many books will I need to bring to last me z number of days?) and always, always I would end up bringing far too many books. The truth is, vacation reading lists are like an exercise in over-ambitiousness. I somehow always fail to factor in things like in-flight movies and sightseeing all day and the exhaustion that makes you just want to fall into your hotel bed at night after sightseeing all day.

Still, as soon as my boyfriend and I started making plans to take a short trip to Taiwan and Korea this October, I started culling my TBR pile for a vacation reading list. Sigh. Old habits die hard. Luckily, I like to think that my 26 year old self has more self-control than my 16 year old self and I have managed with some difficulty to limit myself to five books.

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And The Mountains Echoed
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The Lowland
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On the Noodle Road
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Dr. Sleep
the o. henry prize stories 2013
The O. Henry Prize Stories 2013

I think it’s a good mix — three fiction novels, one short story collection and one non-fiction book. They are all books I’ve been looking forward to reading, although I’m approaching the first two with trepidation — Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns and Jhumpa Lahiri’s Unaccustomed Earth both left me feeling lukewarm. It’s always disappointing when authors who electrified you with their debut novel or short story collection leave you with that soul-dulling ‘meh’ feeling the second time round.

On the Noodle Road is a book I’ve been meaning to read ever since it came out. I liked her first book, Serve the People, and the private kitchen she founded in Beijing serves some of the yummiest food I’ve had in China. I wrote about both of them here.

I’m not sure I’ll get around to reading Doctor Sleep while there, simply because I’m not sure that strange hotel rooms are a good environment to be reading the sequel to the mother of all hotel horror novels (it’s a sequel to The Shining). But we’ll see. I might be in the mood to be terrified. There’s something about fall — the turning leaves, the crisper air, the grey skies — that always makes me want to read horror books.

And finally, I read the O. Henry Prize stories every year and this year’s sounds like a promising collection.

I can’t wait, y’all. Twelve whole days of no work and books to read and new things to see and (apparently) awesome street food to try. Sounds like a great way to kick off my favorite season.

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