Friday, June 20, 2008

Lying On the Beach With My Back Burned Rare

By Kevin Guilfoile


It feels like one of those lazy Fridays when everyone is getting ready to blow out for somewhere else, and so it's appropriate that my one time employer and second family, Coudal Partners, has launched a new edition of Field Tested Books where a group of writers and bloggers and otherwise interesting people have written short essays about particular books they read in a particular place. Sometimes the reviews are about the appropriateness of the read (don't miss thriller writer Lori Andrews's story about reading The Journalist and the Murderer while sitting next to an actual murderer in New Orleans). Sometimes the stories are about inappropriate settings. Last time around I wrote about reading Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, James Agee's powerful account of the lives of depression-era sharecroppers, while on spring break in South Padre, Texas. In every case, the subject is how the environment in which we read is related to our experience of the book.

Back when I worked there, each of us made a big deal about selecting what books we would bring on vacations. There could have been days and days of debate on the subject and those discussions no doubt led to the project, which is in its fourth incarnation now. A nice feature of the page is that you can sort by reviewer or by book title or by place. And after three editions there are enough of them that you might want to check them out for suggestions before you head to the airport.

But how about you? As we look forward to the official start of summer tomorrow, what memorable experience have you had on the road with a good book?

21 comments:

Barbara D'Amato said...

Well, it wasn't so much the road, Kevin, it was the playground. I was spending what seemed like hours and hours watching number one son, then three years old, play on the playground in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I was fresh out of books I liked. Then somebody said, "Have you read Ian Fleming?" In the next couple of weeks I read every James Bond book then in existence. I still think they're wonderful. Vivid, immediate, and underrated.

It's probably no criticism of them to say that I could look up evry page or two and see that the child was still okay.

Libby said...

Here's a recent example... I was on the road in a strange town, in a bed and breakfast that was seemingly unoccupied except for me. Even the owners/managers were gone. It was eerie and I was reading Joe Konrath's DIRTY MARTINI. I finished it about midnight... and lay awake the rest of the night getting scared. Decided NOT to eat breakfast the next morning (You'll understand if you've read the book)and raced out of there as fast as I could.

Picks By Pat said...

Recently had to fly somewhere and return home the next day. So I took a good book to occupy the 8+ hours of travel time, Nevada Barr's newest, Winter Study.

It made the time go a lot faster!

Sara Paretsky said...

Kevin, you always have unusual & interesting posts. I went to the Coudal Partners site and found that by buying a copy of Field-Tested Books I was buying a new book for a kid in a house without books. What a deal.

My own road-testing? I had a book out on 9/4/2001; my tour was truncated, needless to say, but some of it did go on and during those tense days of being back in the sky after planes went up again, I read Paula Sharpe's We Loved You All. I think she's a beautiful, unusual writer and the story kept me so gripped I was able to ignore my own fears & the tensions of the people around me.

JD Rhoades said...

As a matter of fact, I just got back from the beach where, as is my wont, I did a BUNCH of reading. I'll admit it's a bit jarring to look up from something as dark as Ken Bruen's CROSS or Allan Guthrie's SAVAGE NIGHT and see happy children frolicking on the sand. But hey, I am a seasoned pro when it comes to cognitive dissonance.

After those, Toni McGee Causey's rollicking, breakneck BOBBIE FAYE'S (KINDA SORTA NOT EXACTLY) FAMILY JEWELS was just the ticket.

And Tasha Alexander's A FATAL WALTZ had so many passages that so perfectly evoked Vienna in wintertime that it kept me cool on the hottest days. Plus the book is mesmerizing.

Man, I love vacations.

Maryann Mercer said...

The last time I flew to Portland, we were an hour late out of O'Hare so I got a good start on The Dying Crapshooter's Blues by David Fulmer before we even left the tarmac. I always buy books in Portland at a great little shop, Murder By the Book, so on the way home (three hours late out of Portland because of mechanical problems) I had both Sandra Ruttan's What Burns Within and a used copy of Turncoat by Aaron Elkin to keep me company.
When I was a kid, we used to go fishing in Wisconsin every June, up near Lake Tomahawk. The owners of the cabins had a storage shed full of every mystery writer from Hammett to Eberhart to Carolyn Keene and Agatha Christie. It was like a free pass to a bookstore :o) Some of my best vacation memories involve listening to the rain pattering on the tin roof of the cabin as Miss Marple ferreted out the baddies.
Oh, and Libby, I've learned never to read Joe Konrath when I'm by myself at night...it's hazardous to my health!

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