These books made for sublime vacation experiences


Perfect vacation plus perfect book equals perfect experience. That is the hope, anyway. As we settle into the languid part of the summer, I asked readers to share sublime book and holiday combinations that stuck with them.

Clark Silcox of the District has an unusual practice. He brings along a book he has already read to give it a second look. “Most times, I find both the book and the reading experience different from the first time,” he wrote.

Clark doesn’t typically try to match the book’s setting to the vacation’s location. But he did once, taking “The Magus” by John Fowles on a vacation to the pair of Greek Islands he visited in 2002. Clark first read the 1965 book in the early 1970s, and a few years later a film based on it came out.

“Set on the coastal waters of the Peloponnesian Peninsula, it melds Greek myth and a little World War II history into a tour de force novel,” Clark wrote. “Perhaps it was the glistening waters of the Aegean around Naxos and Santorini that recalled similar visions in the scenes from the film and the book, but the novel was just as good the second time around.”

A beach was also the setting for one of the strongest reading memories of Marty Anderson. “I got totally fried on Waikiki reading ‘The Silence of the Lambs,'” wrote Marty, who lives in Portland, Ore. “I kept saying, ’20 more minutes.’ But I think I wouldn’t have been able to put it down anywhere. For me, a peak experience.”

Lee Salter of Urbana, Ill., just spent two weeks with her husband, Phil, in a paddle-in cabin in northern Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. There were lots of rainy days, perfect for hunkering down with a good book.

Lee read “How to Catch a Mole” by Marc Hammer, which she said is “a lovely memoir about loving nature.” And Phil brought “Kindred: Neanderthal Life, Love, Death and Art” by Rebecca Wragg Sykessometimes reading it aloud to Lee during marathon jigsaw puzzle sessions.

Wrote Lee: “Reading about our (partial) Neanderthal ancestors and their hunter-gatherer lifestyle was perfect, and complemented the muffins and cobblers made with wild berries we gathered.”

Before embarking on a family trip to Barcelona, Dennis Van Derlaske of Woodbridge, Md., handed out some homework. He bought multiple paperback copies of “The Shadow of the Wind” by Carlos Ruiz Zafón — a book about books and Barcelona — for all to read. “It was a wonderful way to ease into an unfamiliar city,” Dennis wrote.

Judy Lacourciere of St. Petersburg, Fla., would fill a paper bag with books during childhood car rides. “The longer the book, the better,” she wrote. “I loved rereading the ‘Mary Poppins’ series or a bunch” of books by Ray Bradbury. Now her main criterion for a trip is that the book is long, especially if she flies, so she has something to read going and coming.

Wrote Judy: “The last book I brought with me was ‘Cloud Cuckoo Land,’ which was marvelous and absorbing, and every once in a while I’d look out the window at the clouds all around me and the world below, which added to my enjoyment,” referring to the book by Anthony Doerr.

During a trip to Israel, Stuart Lewis of Leesburg, Va., read “The Source” by James Michener. “It really was a great read, as it was about the biblical history of Israel,” Stuart wrote. “It was a great read by itself, but even greater in conjunction with my trip.”

Tina Rhea of Greenbelt, Md., counsels: “Whatever books you choose to take on your travels, if you have a companion, check with them. You may want to swap books partway through the trip.”

She added, “During a rainy week in the mountains of Puerto Rico, my husband sighed when he picked up my copy of ‘Outlander’ by Diana Gabaldon, but he was surprised to find that the time-travel romance had enough adventure to keep his interest.” Tina thinks her husband brought “The Lord of the Rings” on that trip. She was happy to read it again.

During a vacation in Spain and France, Alice Ma of Durham, NC, read 11 of the “Bruno, Chief of Police” mysteries by Martin Walkerwho will soon publish the 15th in his series about a police officer in a part of southern France called the Perigord.

“I was transfixed, and my next vacation will absolutely be there,” she said. “The mysteries were secondary to scenes in the farmers markets, the rivers, the castles, the stables, and the descriptions of the food and wine.”

Wrote Alice: “Nothing like planning your next vacation while enjoying your current one. I came back super relaxed and anticipating my next holiday.”

Doesn’t it sometimes seem that the thing we need after a vacation is … another vacation?

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