Best-selling author Jennifer Weiner’s recent Op-Ed piece What’s Your Favorite Book? in The New York Times questioned the validity of criticizing other people’s choices in reading material. In particular, she was disappointed that Stephen Colbert made fun of the so-called bodice-ripper books by Georgia politician Stacey Abrams written under the name Selena Montgomery. When asked what book U.S. presidential candidate Mark Buttigieg would take if stranded on a desert island he named James Joyce’s Ulysses. Whether he was sincere or just showing off is moot because according to Weiner whatever we read (and write) should be respected simply because we’re reading. And I couldn’t agree more.
Weiner’s comments got me thinking about what book I would take to a desert island. Would it be humour, historical fiction, biography or perhaps a fictional family saga? One thing I know for sure; it would be fat. I love books of more than a thousand pages that engross me for days or weeks at a time. It’s like savouring a great meal or life experience by making it last as long as possible. Any one of the Ken Follett Century trilogy (Pillars of the Earth, Fall of Giants, Winter of the World) would be a strong possibility; historical fiction is my favourite genre. And (surprisingly) I also loved the Russian classics like Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy and Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Go figure.
Some books are just so good they warrant re-reading. I’ve read These Foolish Things by Deborah Moggach at least three times. That was the book the movie The New Marigold Hotel was based on and much as I enjoyed the movie, the book was soooo much better. The characters were more eccentric and multi-dimensional. The book was also funnier than the movie. But then, movies never measure up to the joy of reading the original book. Our imaginations are so much better at painting scenes than any movie could ever convey in 90 minutes.
David Sedaris is another author I could and do read over and over. His humour, while not to everyone’s taste, is in my opinion brilliant. Catherine Gildiner’s trilogy (Too Close to The Falls, After the Falls and Coming Ashore) outlining her life story was delicious beyond words for baby boomer readers.
There are just too many books to narrow it down to just one I would take to a desert island. I think the only solution would be to negotiate taking my iPad Mini or Kindle loaded with all my favourites. I’d need a solar charger of course but we could talk about that too. The bottom line is I can’t imagine life without reading; it’s my absolute favourite activity in the world. Just like some people love golf, tennis, running, crafting, football or creating art, my deep love of reading is organic, part of my DNA.
I have a spreadsheet on my laptop summarizing all the books I’ve read and want to read. It’s pages long and organized in columns:
- Brief Description
- Name of person or source who recommended the book
- Date Read
- Rating 1-10
Most of them are rated at least 8 because I don’t waste time on something I don’t love. I’ll never get to them all before I die so I may have to take my iPad to the grave with me to catch up. I’m always on the waiting list for at least half a dozen books at the library and sometimes it takes up to six months before I get something I’ve requested. Then, two or three land at the same time and I’m panicked about how I’m going to get through them all in my three-week allotted time frame.
My circle of boomer gal pals generally shares my taste in reading and we trade books (and magazines) back and forth. Not only do we get to enjoy the books while we’re reading them but we get to relive the joy while rehashing the story over lunch. I’ve never had much luck with book clubs because I’m very particular about what I read and I don’t have time to read and discuss a book I’m only luke-warm about.
English literature was boring and boringly taught back when boomers fell asleep in English class in the sixties. I must say I’m so glad I studied classics like Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities but I could have lived without Steinbeck’s The Pearl and Thomas Hardy’s Return of the Native. Later generations enjoyed J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye and other contemporary novels by the likes of Margaret Atwood and Margaret Laurence. Boomers were doomed to read only the classics in school—which isn’t a bad thing—but some fun books in the mix would have been welcome to inspire and encourage our love of reading.
This summer I plan to reread P.J. O’Rourke’s The Baby Boom. It’s hysterically funny and a must-read for baby boomers—like a trip back in time. I would also like to reread Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. It’s a perfect rendering of that understated British sense of dark humour that I enjoy so much. What’s on your summer reading list?
Disclosure: If you order from these links, you will receive Amazon’s best price and I may receive a teeny, tiny commission. Thanks.