I don't like the decisions of packing for a trip, trying to pack lightly but having the right clothes along. However, the most important decisions I make are what books shall I bring along. Actually, the pressure is somewhat off these days when I know I can download ebooks from our local library no matter where I am.
My first vacation read was an ebook--Looking for Rachel Wallace by Richard Parker. I like these sassy Spenser mysteries with their tough talk and their Boston setting. There is too much unnecessary violence but at heart, Spenser is a good guy. This book, set in 1978, and written a few years later, had a theme of "women's libbers" and the difficulties Spenser has in being a bodyguard for a woman who is very independent--and an outspoken lesbian activist.
The other two books I read were not quite as frivolous. The Cellist of Sarajevo by Stephen Galloway was recommended by my Goodreads pen pal Marilyn and is based loosely on a cellist (Vedran Smailovic) who played Albinoni's Adaggio for 22 days in a Market Square where 22 Sarajevans were killed by a mortar blast. The actual cellist was quite resentful about being used in this novel, but it really was not about him but instead about two men crossing town under great danger to find water and bread and a young female sniper who resists killing a civilian when ordered to do so.
The book that fascinated me the most was Christ Stopped at Eboli, a book written by Carlo Levi who was exiled for a year to a very poor Southern Italy village for his anti-Fascist work in the 1930s. Even in translation, the language was so direct and powerful. It's an account of such dismal and hopeless lives but he writes of them with compassion. He has no compassion for the middle level bureaucrats who take advantage of the peasants and the "State" so far removed from them.
With a world of information available through my little laptop, I was able to watch a video about how the discovery of oil changed some lives in that area, I read about Levi's life after his exile and looked at his paintings. I visited the present day museum in the house where Levi lived and saw his burial place.
I even heard Smailovic play the Adaggio on his cello years later when he returned to Sarajevo.
We're home again and I followed up with a bike ride to the library where I found several books that have potential for being good reads. If I follow my usual pattern, I'll start all of them but finish maybe two or three.
I wonder how President Obama is enjoying his vacation reading.