It's time for a new edition of "Packing for a Reading Retreat," where I imagine which books I would take with me if I were heading to a reading retreat, where there would be no distractions and I would be free to do nothing but read for a week. My imagined packing can fall into one of three categories: "New to Me," for books I've never read before; "Old Favorites," for past reads I'd like to revisit; and "Just in Case," for one book that can always be counted on to save me if one of the other selections turns out to be a dud. As the volumes of "Packing" pile up, I may share more "New to Me" choices and allow "Old Favorites" and "Just in Case" to appear only when a book which fits either category leaps out at me and demands to be recognized.
New to Me
tiny beautiful things: Advice on love and life from Dear Sugar, Cheryl Strayed
If you don't know about Dear Sugar and The Rumpus, you ought. The Rumpus is an online magazine with reviews, essays, interviews and so on--often about and by people you want to hear from and likely won't anywhere else. And Dear Sugar is their advice column. And tiny beautiful things is a collection of those columns. This ain't Dear Abby I'm talking about with one or two paragraphs of advice anyone with a brain and more than a decade or two of living behind them could give you (not that Dear Abby isn't usually right on the money); Sugar's responses are full-blown personal essays in response to her reader's questions, which themselves are often longer than an entire typical newspaper advice column and and are frequently heartrending. Dear Sugar is less advice about what to do about something and more an invitation to contemplate what it means to be human and to discover how to be better at it. This one is at the very top of my "to-read" pile.
Seraphina, Rachel Hartman
Dragons! Seraphina is a young adult novel about human/dragon conflict wherein the dragons are sentient and eminently rational. Hartman cited Vulcans and a desire really to explore what a society based on individual rationality above all else would look like as part of her inspiration. She also reportedly listened to Italian polyphony and Breton bagpipe rock while she was writing. If she can put together a sentence, this basically cannot fail to be awesome, right?
Les Misérables, Victor Hugo
Doorstop-reads don't scare me off, exactly, but I'm often not in the mood to read them--usually because I have so many things I want to read now, now, now that I have a hard time committing so much reading time to one thing. But lately I find myself aspiring to a lot of chunkster reads all at once. Anna Karenina, The Forsyte Saga, War and Peace. And Les Mis calls to me more than any other. I'm not sure why (this notion predates the release of the recent movie, which I haven't seen. Actually, I've never seen any interpretation of the book.). Epic storytelling, tragic heroes, historical bits--all up my street. Or maybe it's just winter.
On the Map: A Mind-Expanding Exploration of the Way the World Looks, Simon Garfield
Oh, how I do love maps! World maps, fantasy maps, topography maps, ancient maps. I can just stare at a good one for yonks. So here's a book for me. On the Map talks history of maps and map-making, how maps shape our understanding of the world, maps in popular culture. I suspect this will be a book anyone with a map in her hall of the surrounding country "with all her favourite walks marked on it in red ink" will find fascinating.
Previous Editions of Packing for a Reading Retreat: