Sunday, August 24, 2008

What I Read On My Summer Vacation


I spent 13 nights away on vacation-- the longest I've vacationed for in many years. It was wonderful; I returned relaxed, at peace, feeling like a new person. I live for vacation.

So vacation was just short of 2 weeks because the teenagers wanted to attend the first day of VirginMobileFest and we all went (separately, of course, they wouldn't be caught dead with me) to hear a variety of bands play-- the Outkasts, Jack Johnson, Foo Fighters. I thought I'd be bored, but it was a gorgeous day here in B-More and I had a great time. Sort of reminded me of being young again, sans kids, with my main squeeze as an all-day date.

We went to Mission Beach in San Diego-- a great mix of a city vacation and a beach vacation all rolled into one. The zoo, the Padres, we sailed, biked to La Jolla, kayaked, sun bathed, restaurants and funky parts of town. Our deck looked out on Mission Bay and I loved the mornings, coffee cup in hand, to sit and read.

There's this thing I have about vacation: I love to read. I concentrate better than I ever do at home, and pretty much anything compels me. I used to think it was because I have more time, but it's not just time. At home, I read in sound bites: blog posts, journal articles, on-line newspapers, The NY Times magazine. I limp through books, even novels, a few pages at a time. On vacation, I ingest them. And when I'm done, I read other peoples' books.

So here's what I read on vacation:

Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama, 1996
A fascinating account of our presidential hopeful's youth. He portrays himself as a caring, idealistic young man, full of hope, energy and dreams. He deals with some very painful childhood issues in a somewhat distant way--- I guess the psychiatric term that comes to my mind is 'well-defended.' Quite a life.

Run East: FLIGHT FROM THE HOLOCAUST By Jack Pomerantz, Lyric Wallwork Winik

This was actually a re-read of a book I'd read years ago: a man's story of leaving and losing his family when he leaves Poland to escape the Nazi invasion. He spends years as a refuge in Russia, in a story that moves from tender and often hopeful, to often simply horrifying.

Asking for Murder
by Roberta Isleib. Dr. Isleib is a psychologist/novelist and she writes about a psychologist/advice columnist who's best friend, a social worker who specializes in "sand play" therapy, is beaten into a coma. A beach read (and that's where I read it). ClinkShrink wants to do the official review, but the book was sent to my office-- a perk of being a Shrink Rapper.

Playing for Pizza by John Grisham. Football player messes up his career and ends up playing in Italy where he finds himself. Reminded me of Eat, Pray, Love. Another beach read. I like his legal thrillers a lot better. Lots of football here. Borrowed from teen son.

Tally's Corner, A Study of Negro Streetcorner Men by Elliot Liebow, 1967. Actually, the research for this book was done in 1962 and it's the author's doctoral dissertation. He spends his time hanging with those who live on the margins of survival and writes about their poverty, their struggles, their families, their relationships, and their place in society. Okay, so it now takes more than 70 cents a day to feed a person, and if you ignore the impact that computers and video games may have made, the stories told somehow feel they could be happening today. That we haven't come further is a tragedy.

Dreamland
by Sarah Dessen, 2000. Caitlin has the perfect life, until her big sister runs away two weeks shy of starting her freshman year at Yale. Caitlin makes the cheer leading squad and soon finds herself in love with a boy who beats her mercilessly. She loses her self, the truth of it all gets found out, a few months in a psychiatric facility and voila, Caitlin's good as new. Borrowed from teen daughter.

Home again, home again. Let the chaos resume.