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I always wonder what books people are reading. Photo: gccb.

Summer road trips, vacations, or just being able to sit outside and read a book (or kindle, mobile device or whatever) seems to make for interesting reading juxtapositions. Here are some ideas.

I’VE BEEN TRAVELING most of June and will be for the next half of July, and the long bus / plane rides have created sweet and often strange reading situations. Below is a sort of comprehensive list of what I’ve read, where, the medium, and a qualitative rating on its “summer-readability.”

Title: Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

    Medium: Massive Softcover Book

    Completed: First 2/3rds (without footnotes), first in Argentina (on buses, planes), then at parents’ house. This is my second time reading IJ. It was too big and heavy to take with me on current road trip, so left back at parents’ house in Florida.

    Rating: Dour. Reading IJ over the summer feels like wearing pants in Hawaii or something. It’s too heavy to put in your backpack. It’s doesn’t fit in standard airplane seatback pockets. I can’t imagine trying to “kindle it.” Deserves being read in long stretches with highlighter / writing implement in hand. Save for long depressing intervals over wintertime.

Title: Back issues of 2010 Surfer’s Journal

    Medium: “Coffee-table” Magazine

    Completed: 2 issues on parents’ sofa.

    Rating: Tentative. SJ got me both stoked for travel / surf, but then frustrated at the ankle-high wave conditions on the Gulf Coast of Florida. SJ seems too “nice” to want to get them all sandy / crinkled. Deserves being read / examined in temperature / dust-controlled environment, then either being collected in large binder or just gifted to someone, ideally locals in the places you end up traveling to in search of waves.

Title: Best Behavior by Noah Cicero

    Medium: Small paperback

    Completed: In 3 days at parents’ house in Sarasota, then reviewed here at Matador.

    Rating: Summery. BB is ideal summer reading material. Book is light and small and good for passing on to friends.

Title: The Farmer’s Daughter by Jim Harrison

    Medium: Hardcover library book

    Completed: In a week up in rented house in Asheville, N.C.

    Rating: Late-summery / Autumnal. Good travel size, and content is broken down to three novellas. Library plastic-y hardcover is good for swatting mosquitoes / wasps up against hotel/hostel room walls.

Title:Relationship Story” by Tao Lin

    Medium: 5k word story online, published by Vice

    Completed: In a single sitting at the La Quinta Inn on Haynes Bridge Road in Atlanta

    Rating: Orbital. Feels disassociated with any seasons or place, which paradoxically grounds you where you are at the present moment.

What are you reading this summer? Where?



About The Author

David Miller

David Miller is Senior Editor of Matador (winner of 2010 and 2011 Lowell Thomas awards for travel journalism) and Director of Curricula at MatadorU. Follow him @dahveed_miller.

  • Darmabum

    Agreed; reading Infinite Jest in the summer is like having steak and mashed potatoes for lunch on a 100-degree/98% humidity day . . . when gazpacho might have been a better choice.  No one writes steak-and-potatoes like Wallace, but he also writes gazpacho as well – look up “This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, About Living a Compassionate Life.”  Beautifully written; unforgettable message.  More than worth it’s weight in gold.

  • Joya

    I just finished reading The Kindness of Strangers by Lonely Planet and I started it when I was traveling solo through Scandinavia so I thought it was appropriate. I’m looking forward to starting Honeymoon with my Brother by Franz Wisner next.

  • Richard Ball

    Down and out in London and Paris – makes your holiday feel like double luxury.

  • Terrilundberg

    For summer reading I like easy and sleezy or light and witty.  I just finished reading “I feel bad about my neck…” by Nora Ephron.  Loved It!!  Now, I’m going to start “Heresy” by S.J. Parris  I love historical fiction.  It’s like being a fly on the wall, back in time, and listening to all the juicy gossip.  

    • david miller

      sweet. i have a bro who works with nora ephron. she seems so cool.

      i’m reading ted conover’s latest right now – ‘the routes of man’

      it’s kind of a hybrid travel / history book.

  • Anne_Merritt

    Tom Rachman’s “The Imperfectionists” got me through a 5-hour bus ride last weekend. Funny in a chaotic way. I liked it a lot.

  • Ian MacKenzie

    I’m stoked about the new book from Charles Eisenstein “Sacred Economics.”  It’s about re-imagining a new economic system.  The book comes out in mid-july, and the first chapter is posted online here

  • Darmabum

    “Under the Sun: The Letters of Bruce Chatwin.”  I miss Bruce Chatwin.  His evolution as a writer – simply the range of writing in his short life – was something to behold.  I am usually one not to “miss” people, to find contentment and satisfaction that they did live, and shared that life with us; but Chatwin I miss.  

    These letters, released twenty years after his death, and edited by Nicholas Shakespeare – who is much more than an admirer of Chatwin, going so far as to follow some of his travel routes, titling his latest book “In Tasmania”, mirroring Chatwin’s first, “In Patagonia”.

    Did Chatwin “mess” with The Truth – almost certainly.  But his inquisitiveness, his child-like wonder with things, his enormous intelligence, those things, along with his “messing” with The Truth created a sub-genre of travel writing that, for me, has never been equaled. 

  • Eva14

    I’ve been carrying Infinite Jest with me around all summer (I’m in a car, so weight’s not an issue) but haven’t started it yet. Good to know I should save it for the long, dark Yukon winter.

    Other stuff I’ve been tearing through: Galapagos (Vonnegut), Wanderlust (by Elisabeth Eaves, for an interview), Outside 25 (just a few essays in so far), Hunting Mister Heartbreak (Raban), On Writing (Stephen King – unexpectedly kickass), The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost (by BNT contrib Rachel Friedman, also for an interview), The Penguin History of the USA. I’ve also got a stack of Oxford American back issues sitting in my car, waiting to be pored over. Looking forward to those.

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