Growing up we took a lot of road trips, piling into our Cougar to drive from Seattle down to San Francisco to visit relatives, or in my teen years making the long trek across Washington to visit my older sisters attending Washington State University. I’d fuel up at the gas station with enough coke to keep the family dentist’s business thriving, a bag of beef jerky and some pretzels. Over the years Archie Comics became Catcher in the Rye became my mother’s sizzling Sydney Sheldon novels. But regardless of the book, regardless of where were physically driving to, I had my own world all to myself. It wasn’t reading because I had to – or because it compensated for being a shy kid in some way. It was reading exactly what I wanted to exactly when I wanted to—and that is simply true love.
There’s that time post-college when you can barely afford rent, let alone a vacation. I still read during those times, but the spark fizzled. There was a brief period of blissful unemployment in Los Angeles where I got to know the Los Feliz Library quite well. I remember sitting down in my rickety old rocking chair one afternoon and reading Rick Moody’s The Ice Storm in a single sitting. I guess unemployment was my poor man’s vacation. When I figured out how to factor vacation back into my life, I fell in love with reading again. Sitting by a pool with tears streaming down my face after finishing Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go in 2011 was a moment when I reconnected to the written word. I had nowhere to be, no one to call. Just me and my book. And then I realized I had to bring vacation into my every day in order to sustain my love affair with reading. In recent years I’ve polished off such gems as Super Sad True Love Story and dragged around 1Q84 (in hardcover!) as a reminder that I can have my true love even on a rainy day in Seattle stuck on a crowded bus with people screaming in four different languages. I just remember that feeling inside when I turned the pages in the back seat of the family car. While it’s certainly pleasant to read a great novel on the beach or tucked away under hotel sheets, the words are always right there for me. And they can take me anywhere.