Room to read

May 11, 2004

My dear,

Today I have a request. I’m leaving for vacation in less than two weeks and I want to bring a book or five with me. I don’t want to tell you what kind of books I like. Rather, I am curious to know what kind of books you like. If you were going to a remote island and needed some literary distraction, what would you bring?

I must confess that there are at least a half dozen unread books gathering dust on a shelf, so I really should not be allowed to buy any more until I read those. But, for the perfect trashy beach novel, I may make an exception.

Thanks, darling.


  1. kitten says:

    Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi is my favorite book, but not usually thought of as a beach read…

  2. alex says:

    The Little Prince makes me cry. The Vegabond by Collette makes me swoon. On Rue Tatin makes me hungry. The Alchemist gives me courage. The Botany of Desire makes me think and The Art of Travel makes me adventerous.


  3. sarah says:

    anything by SARK – her books are so different from anything i ever read – very refreshing and unique.

  4. Sarah E says:

    I’d have to say that on the top of my list would be Byzantium by Stephen Lawhead. It has adventure, romance, and Irish monks. It’s one of my favorites. I also like 44 Dublin Made Me. It’s an Irish coming of age story–so funny! I also enjoyed Katherine Hepburn’s autobiography Me. You could always revisit the old favorites, too, Anne of Green Gables, A Wrinkle in Time (the Time Trilogy) by Madeleine L’Engle. Or The Phantom Tollbooth. Or how about. . .

  5. Maria says:

    The Notebooks of Don Rigoberto, by Mario Varga LLosa.
    The perfect distraction.

  6. Kimberly says:

    The Cat Who… books by Lilian Jackson Braun! They’re great, breezy, engaging mysteries. I personally have read six or seven of them a summer for the past three summers. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte is great, too; very complex and enthralling. It’s my very favorite book.

  7. bryna says:

    Fugitive Pieces is a novel by Anne Michaels. It is written very poetically… beautiful language and observations. It is one of my favourites.

  8. Liz says:

    I’m a big fan of anything Chuck Palahniuk, and lately The Shipping News(E. Annie Proulx) and Living Buddha, Living Christ(Thich Nhat Hanh) have proven themselves to be great, also.

  9. soren says:

    1.Madeline’s Ghost
    2.Animal Dreams
    3.American Gods
    4.Practical Magic
    5.anything by Raymond Carver
    6.Second Glance

  10. Moe Moe says:

    Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, by Marjane Satrapi

    Master and Magarita by Bulgakov

    and if you enjoy reading children lit like I do, check out original stories by Enid Blyton. I love Harry Potter so mcuh because it’s obvious that J.K Rowling sure did read Blyton as a child!!
    enjoy your vaca!!!!

  11. ronnie says:

    Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregry Maguire. It’s just packed with thoughts to chew on, and the Witch is my favorite heroine, ever, now.

  12. Matt says:

    Wow- hands down, Ronnie is reading my brain- I have never read a book as amazing as Wicked. (well, I may have, but I am so into it right now…). But I am also reading The Doctor’s Wife by Aryoshi. And Yusanari Kawabata, who wrote beautiful and poignant novels, I recently discovered, wrote short stories that have been compiled into a book or two- they are amazing. For a boy from louisiana, Japanese fiction is a new and deep unexplored realm for me. Oh, and I would also recommend Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood- the movie was alright, but I think the book is just rich with sensory description and lush story. Have a good trip- we are so blessed to read from you.

  13. bella says:

    Bah! if you’re on holiday what you need is some good chick lit.

    Jill Mansell… Millies Fling, preferably, but sheer mischief, good at games, head over heels and most of her other ones are really good also.

    if you want something a little more intellectual then cold comfort farm (i forgot who wrote it) is fantastic, as are all the Jostein Gaardner books.

    M.M. Kaye books are epics, especially the Far Pavillions, and Susan Howatch books are unbelieveable… especially her latest three (she wrote some sweet gothic murder mysteries too)

    hrm… I can go on, but will stop.

  14. desmene says:

    Little, Big by John Crowley is just magical… left my head full of images for weeks after. But maybe best after a return to mundane existence… it’s a vacation in itself!

  15. JC says:

    Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
    Life of Pi by Yann Martel
    Mistress of Spices by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

  16. Sharyn says:

    I’m down with Moe Moe. “Persepolis” is amazing! Also worth checking out, Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy, anything by Banana Yoshimoto or Jonathan Carroll, and definitely Michael Chabon’s “Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay”.

  17. lisa says:

    mistress of spices, because of vibrant imagery.
    kitchen, by banana yoshimoto, for its softly beautiful way of reaching your heart. wonderful travels precious girl.

  18. Katrin says:

    “What I Loved” by Siri Hustvedt. The most wonderful book I have read in years. So far, I have read it 4 times, I think…

  19. ani says:

    A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. I am reading it now and it is wonderful. Happy travels and reading.

  20. rachel says:

    I recomend Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott to any writer or artist. Also by Lamott, Rosie, which left me breathless and galluping through the last 50 pages. Although for a vacation, I second the Phantom Toolbooth.

  21. Katie says:

    I’m going to confess that I’ve read the first book in the Princess Diaries series about 100 times and own all five of the books. Young adult chick fiction is my failing. I’m also quite sure “I Carry the Castle” by Dodie Smith could keep me turning pages.

  22. Stacy says:

    1. Of Love and Shadows by Isabel Allende
    2. The Chosen by Chaim Potok
    3. In the Time of Butterflies by Julia Alvarez

    These books are all really beautiful!!!!

  23. Marieke says:

    The secret life of bees is beautiful, moving and inspirational. Definatly worth checking out. Written by Sue Monk Kidd. :)

  24. elli says:

    My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki is one of my recent favorites. It’s so fantastically wonderful!

  25. kim says:

    I want to recommend The Five People You Meet In Heaven by Mitch Albom. Some scenes in the book took place in the Philippines, and I think you will find the book interesting. Also, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky and Letters To A Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke. Maybe you’ve read all these books before? I love all these books especially the latter; I was so touched by it that I feel like the whole book was written just for me. :)

  26. nita says:

    The Club Dumas, by I forget who. Helpful, eh?

  27. the stinkowitz says:


    The Last Unicorn

  28. lucia says:

    how about something quick, easy, fun, and it’ll make you giggle books … “toot & puddle: you are my sunshine” by holly hobbie, “the z was zapped: a play in twenty-six acts”
    by chris van allsburg, “harold and the purple crayon by crockett johnson”, and “mrs. biddlebox”
    by linda smith. hehe i’m smiling already just thinking about them.

  29. the stinkowitz says:


    The Life of God as Told by Himself, A Prayer for Owen Meany, The Life of Pi…

  30. kaleine says:

    By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept; or any novel by Paulo Coelho. His books are what I would consider bringing with me when I’m travelling.

    Have a great vacation! I’m having a vacation myselft. =) I’m off to Boracay (Philippines) this weekend…I’m still deciding what book to bring. I don’t have the other Coelho titles…*sigh*

  31. christine says:

    So many good suggestions. Every time I get a new comment on this post, I get giddy. It’s like Christmas morning!

    I found a few unread books on my shelf that seem like vacation material: Naked by David Sedaris and Cheese Monkeys by Chip Kidd. I still may take a trip to the book store, so keep the suggestions coming.

    Some of the books listed that I can also vouch for are: The Little Prince, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Kitchen, Bird by Bird, the Perks of Being a Wallflower and anything by SARK.

    Oh, and Kaleine, I read By the River Piedra… during one of my trips to the Philippines. I couldn’t put it down!

  32. Melai says:

    You Shall Know Our Velocity by Dave Eggers. Nice book to read while travelling.

  33. Christa says:

    If you’re in the mood for fairy tales, Rose Daughter, The Blue Sword, or The Hero and the Crown, all by Robin McKinley are unbeatable.

  34. karen says:

    Mr. Lunch Takes a Plane Ride by J. Otto Seibold (children’s book)is appropriate since you are travelling.
    Seriously though, I recently read The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd for my book club, it was interesting and easy reading.

  35. crissy says:

    hi christine! here are my highly recommended readings!!! have fun!

    recent short story collections
    1) the shell collector by anthony doerr
    2) video by meera nair

    recent novels:
    1) at swim two boys by jamie o’neill
    2) middlesex by jeffrey eugenides

  36. Emily says:

    oh books books books!! i love to lay in bed and read. or read on vacation!

    some books i love. Prozac Nation by Elizabeth Wurtzel (its so depressing but i cant put it down). Anything by Sabrina Ward Harrison or SARK. Journal of a Solitude by May Sarton. Solipsist by Henry Rollins (it’s CRAZY). I could go on and on… haha
    have an incredible vacation!! my best friend growing up was filipino and i used to go over there all the time for lumpia. I always wanted to go to the phillippines to try out my tagolog (even though i cant spell it!)

    have a blast!!

  37. toral says:

    White Teeth by Zadie Smith is absolutely hilarious. As is The Philosophy of Andy Warhol. Bon voyage!

  38. pao says:

    hmm. may i suggest all of the books by isabel allende? ^_^ they’re my favorite.

  39. aeryn says:

    thoughts of an unfinished woman by joan andersen
    running with scissors by augusten burroughs

  40. stef says:

    trading up by candace bushnell, its light and fluffy chick lit.

  41. athena says:

    anything by anna maxted. her stories have substance disguised as fluffy chicklit.

  42. chrissy says:

    6 non lectures by e e cummings, life after god by douglas coupland, bird by bird by anne lamott, daughter of the queen of sheba by jackie lydon, and stuffed by patricia volk!! my top 5!!have a delicious time!

  43. chrissy says:

    i second “a prayer for owen meaney”. delightful!

  44. Jo says:

    This book is not trashy, but utterly captivating and kind of.. disturbing. Maybe if you tire of fluff, sex and booze-lit: The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.

  45. Anna says:

    Brick Lane by Monica Ali is really, really… good. (I saw her speak yesterday and got her to sign my copy. I turned red and flustered like I was 7 again.) Bee Season by Myla Goldberg I am enjoying so far. Feeling Sorry for Celia and Finding Cassie Crazy by Jaclyn Moriaty are fun, light books. I like the first page of True Tales of American Life edited by Paul Auster…

  46. Eva says:

    Tania Kindersley: Goodbye Johnny Thunders/ I.M. Montgomery: Anne of Green gables and Erich Segal: Love story .. I can read them over and over.

  47. the stinkowitz says:

    I second The Time Traveller’s Wife for ANYONE who needs a book recommendation.

  48. Gracey says:

    Jostein Gaarder’s are great to read during your travel.

    If you like a bit of amusing, read Louise Rennison’s books about Georgia Nicolson. It’s tres amusant. :D I assure you wouldn’t regret taking it.

  49. chinita_jill says:

    If you enjoyed Paulo Coelho’s books, try The Alchemist and Veronika Decides to Die. Very inspiring. :o)

    Feeling philosophical? Some other recommendations would be The Soliatire Mystery by Jostein Gaardner, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and Identity by Milan Kundera.

    Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman is funny. Neverwhere and Stardust by Neil Gaiman are kind of fantasy and a bit haunting, but are wonderful, entertaining reads. Erm, are comic books / graphic novels allowed? Then you may want to consider Sandman.

    The Sisterhood of Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares, a young adult book, is light-hearted and touching, and can be read and loved by twenty-somethings as well. I know I did. :o)

    Have fun on your vacation! Take lots of pictures!

  50. susan says:

    books with substance and such a compelling nature i don’t want to put them down are my definition for good vacation reading. if it’s yours too, these are some goodies that fit the bill for me: the poisonwood bible (kingsolver), life of pi (can be a bit of a downer but it is an amazing book), a prayer for owen meaney (irving), the bone people (keri hume)…

  51. toni says:

    Pablo Neruda poetry, Life After God” by Douglas Coupland, and “God-Shaped Hole,” by Tiffanie Debartolo.

  52. Keef says:

    Hi Christine,
    Anything by Guy De Maupassant;
    Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler;
    Love in the time of Cholera by G. G. Marquez;
    The Giant book of Facts and Trivia edited by Isaac Asimov;
    The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton;
    Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
    Talk to you soon!

  53. hannah says:

    i second the reccomendation for goodbye, johnny thunders. also … quicksand by nella larsen, the master and margharita by mikhail bulgakov, the secret history by donna tartt, emotionally weird by kate atkinson.

  54. sasquatch says:

    1. the lord of the rings trilogy (relive it all over again. i still do =))
    2. grass for his pillow/across the nightingale floor – lian hearn
    3. stardust – neil gaiman
    4. ella enchanted =) – gail carson levine (for the kid in you)
    5. the invitation – jude deveraux (if you want to indulge in romantic fantasies =D)

  55. deadair says:

    i don’t know you, but i just found your site. may i recommend:
    1. the curious incident of the dog in the night-time by mark haddon
    2. hey nostradomus! by douglas coupland
    3. the romantic- by barbara gowdy

  56. carly says:

    enjoy your vacation :)
    i just finished reading second glance, ands my sister’s keeper by jodi piccoult, both of which i could not put down. perfect skin by nick earls is also a must, as are all of his books

  57. arlyn says:

    It’s all about books and a camera when traveling. I recommend:

    The History of the Siege of Lisbon by Jose Saramago ~ love story/historical fiction/about a literary proofreader who changes one word in a book and the rest is “history.”

    For a great collection of short stories ~ Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri (unfortunately, a fast read…i didn’t want it to end).

    I haven’t visited the Philippines since 1981. I plan to visit in this fall. I love your web page. Your illustrations are so inspiring and writing witty and honest. Hope you have another Imelda experience. Enjoy!

  58. joan says:

    i capture the castle by dodie smith is an all time fav- also adore nancy mitford- love in a cold climate. you have so many good suggestions to sort through. happy reading!p.s. may a suggest a great new Canadian release- a complicated kindness by miriam toews- it is rockin’.

  59. Stephanie says:

    1. Written on the Body by Jeanette Winterson
    2. She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb
    3. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
    4. The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant
    5. Brave on the Rocks by Sabrina Ward Harrison
    6. Ambulance Girl by Jane Stern
    7. The Patience of Rivers by Joseph Freda
    8. The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler
    9. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
    10. The Photograph by Penelope Lively

    Those are just a few of some of my recent favorites. :)

  60. penelope says:

    Hi miss! I didn’t know you were going on a field trip. I hope you have a lovely time.

    I recommend finding an artist you somewhat admire (like Frida Kahlo or Klimt), pick up a few skinny books on them and learn all about them. I do that sometimes and always find it inspirational.



  61. askwish says:

    A. Pastoralia (George Saunders) : short stories.
    B. The Bear Comes Home (Rafi Zabor) : some of the best descriptions of music played by a bear.
    C. Ask the Dust (John Fante) : great story of desire and perceptions.
    D. The Cement Garden (Ian McEwen) : disturbing (any McEwen book is a wonder)
    E. Quiet American (Graham Greene) : no one quite describes a place like him. The Power and the Glory is a good second choice
    F. Hunger (Knut Hamson) : desperation and starvation.
    G. In Cold Blood (Truman Capote) : set the standard for non-fiction crime dramas… frightening.
    H. Of Mice and Men (Steinbeck)

  62. Monique says:

    1. The Chopstick Fork Principle by Cathy Bao Bean (it’s very funny)
    2. Travelling Mercies by Anne Lamott (also funny)

  63. Chioma says:

    I just read “My Sister’s Keeper” and it made me cry. I am assuming you’ve already read “Life of Pi” right? Anyway have fun on your vaycay.

  64. bella says:

    Absolutely my favorite books are by an author called Eva Ibbotson. Might be hard to find, look in a library or something, but her books are enchanting and magical. Especially the following:
    *Magic Flutes
    *The Morning Gift
    *The Countess Below Stairs
    *A Song for Summer

    pretty much all of them. She writes childrens books too which are gorgeous… As whimsical and magical as the early Harry Potters, although published before Harry came out!

  65. Allison says:

    I hope you have a wonderful vacation!!
    1 Up In The Old Hotel, Joseph Mitchell
    2 The Tales of Eva Luna, Isabel Allende
    3 On Rue Tatin, Susan Herrmann Loomis
    4 Here’s Your Hat, What’s Your Hurry, Elizabeth McCracken
    5 Harem, Dora Levy Mossanen
    6 The Art of Eating, MFK Fisher

  66. Ally says:

    Hi Sweetpea !
    ….Any Isabel Allende book is amazing; Of love and Shadows,my fave.
    Also The Alchemist or Brida (hard to find) by Paulo Coelho are just perfect to read on a trip.The Alchemist has a wonderful moral about life :-)
    Have a happy and safe trip!

  67. Christine says:

    1. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
    2. The Golden Compass / The Subtle Knife / The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman
    3. The Gastronomical Me by MFK Fisher
    4. The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton

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