We are getting ready to head north soon, for the annual finnfam cabin-on-a-lake vacation extravaganza. Packing for this kind of trip is pretty complicated. We have our own kitchen, which requires menu planning. We do a decent amount of hiking and whatnot, which means loading up the hiking boots and day packs. You also have to be prepared for 80 degree days and 40 degree nights, which means bringing about three seasons' worth of clothing. And if you are me and my beloved, you have to spend a lot of time picking just the right books to bring along. This is a very, very important decision, because the wrong vacation reading can really wreck a trip.
Summer reading has always been a big deal to me. When I was a kid, every summer I participated in the St. Paul Public Library's summer reading program. It was a contest of sorts, although I have absolutely no memory of what the prizes were. The thrill was in the fight, you might say. You would get a form and the goal was to read as many books as you could over the summer. When you finished a book you wrote down the title and author and then you had to get each item on the list stamped by a Real Librarian who would certify that the books you read Counted. Because, as I recall, there were some books that Didn't Count. You were required to read at your age level, which meant that a 10-year-old couldn't just grab a bunch of little-kid "golden books" with huge print and read a hundred of them in five minutes. That Would Not Count.
My best friend Margie and I always participated, and every week or so we went to the big downtown library to get our lists checked and load up on new books. We were pretty competitive with each other about the lists. I remember becoming quite indignant when Margie loaded her list with Encyclopedia Brown books, because they had really short chapters (each one a little mystery story) and you could knock off like four of them in a day. (For those of you "of a certain age" who remember Encyclopedia Brown, check out this fabulous parody, Wikipedia Brown). It seemed like cheating, but apparently I had higher standards because the librarians thought that Encyclopedia Brown Did Count. So then, of course, I loaded my list with those books too.
For the record, here's my summer reading list for the cabin-on-a-lake:
John M. Barry, The Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America
Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff, The Race Beat: The Press, The Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation
Marisha Pessl, Special Topics in Calamity Physics (a novel)
Robert Sullivan, Cross Country: 15 Years and 90,000 Miles on the Roads and Interstates of America
Jed Rubenfeld, The Interpretation of Murder (a novel)
New novels in mystery series by Julia Spencer-Fleming, Sarah Stewart-Taylor, and William Kent Krueger (apparently all mystery writers have three names now).
There's no way that I'll get through them all in two weeks (a girl has to fish, after all), but it's important to have choices. And it is important that these books contain absolutely no hint of anything related to work.
That is the most cardinal rule of all.