A Novelist at Sea with a Pile of Good Books

A Discovery of Witches at AmazonSometimes it’s nice to get away, isn’t it? I just returned from a cruise, and while Internet was available (at an extravagant fee) I chose not to use it. Part of it was a natural aversion to rates of $.75 a minute. Another was the hassle of getting connected and the fear I would somehow forget to disconnect (quite a lengthy process) and pay $.75 a minute for the entire cruise. Ouch.

A larger part of it, though, was a realization of how much time I spend doing email, Facebook, Twitter, etc. and how I needed a vacation from that, as well. I love the internet, but I also loved the chance to regroup, put my feet up, and enjoy the ocean, the food and most of all the company of my husband.

I also enjoyed something new. I read for pleasure! Yes, I did. With small exceptions nothing I was “supposed” to read. Nothing I “needed” to read. Just books that sounded as if I might enjoy them.

What does a novelist read when she wants to get away? I’m asked about my favorite books and authors in every interview, and I always find the question hard to answer. Today I have examples.

My first book was actually a requirement for my online book club, a technical book, filled with good advice. The author was quite positive that we authors no longer need to blog, by the way, because it won’t help our careers. Since I blog because I enjoy it, I’ll ignore that piece of advice.Age of Miracles at Amazon

Next was a book my book club will soon discuss. Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker came on the trip with me, and while I “needed” to read it for our next discussion, I really wanted to. It’s a coming of age story set during a natural disaster (hopefully a fictitious one) and was skillfully wrought, although at times I couldn’t quite suspend disbelief, a hazard of the genre. This is Walker’s first book, and what an accomplishment it is. I was reminded of another novel I talked about on this blog, The Things That Keep Us Here by Carla Buckley. I recommend them both.

After that the fun began with a novel I had downloaded for the trip. Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple was recommended to me by my book club members, and since I didn’t “have” to read it, I decided to. What a romp. I loved the voice, the story, the characters. The storytelling is particularly clever. Another read I highly recommend.

Next I took a long look at other books I’d downloaded and decided to visit the ship’s library instead. I’d been interested in Walter Mosley’s Easy Rawlins mysteries for some time but I never read one. When White Butterfly turned up on a shelf, I grabbed it. This is an old-fashioned noir mystery, dark and filled with atmosphere. It takes place in Watts in the 1950s and it’s filled with racial references and atmosphere that felt completely accurate, whether it is or isn’t. White Butterfly wasn’t an easy book to read, but I was glad I had the chance. Mosley reminded me a bit of James Lee Burke, one of my favorite mystery authors, creator of, among others, the Dave Robicheaux mysteries set in South Louisiana.

White Butterfly at AmazonI visited the library a second time and A Discovery of  Witches by Deborah Harkness jumped off the shelf and into my hands. I’d wanted to read it for a long time, had even suggested it to my book club at one point, but none of us had the time to delve into such a long, complex work. Witches is a cross between Ann Rice, J.K. Rowling, and an academic history of science–and wine. I was enthralled. What a joy to have the time to just sink into a novel that grabbed me from the first page. The fact that I’ve twice been lucky enough to spend brief periods visiting Oxford didn’t hurt either, since the book begins there.

Altogether I read four and a half books in ten days. Recently I told friends I had forgotten what it felt like to read for pleasure. Now I remember. Doing so was a highlight of getting away, and a reminder of what a great job I have. After all if one of my books takes you to the same places these books took me, I’m delighted.

It’s nice to be home again, and I confess it’s nice to be online again.

Now, tell me what did YOU read in the past two weeks while I was away? 


  1. Janet Warren on January 21, 2014 at 1:03 pm

    I just finished A Field of Poppies by Sharon Sala and I am now reading A Race to Splendor by Ciji Ware. Both are very good books! Before that it was A Ghost Next Door by Ginny Baird. It was full of surprises and a good Halloween story. Beforethat I read Adriana Trigiana’s The Supreme Macaroni Company. I always enjoy her writing. I’ll stop now, but there was more.

  2. Kathy Neavill on January 21, 2014 at 9:54 pm

    I have been reading a series of books by author Jennifer Chiavernini. Fun stories about women who go to “Quilters Summer Camp” in a mansion every summer. I am not a quilter and it goes into some details of quilting. I am learning about the intricate work that it takes.

  3. Kathy Neavill on January 21, 2014 at 10:11 pm

    I spelt the name wrong – it is Jennifer Chiaverini

  4. Karen Auer on April 23, 2014 at 6:01 pm

    Loved Discovery of Witches. 2nd book in series good but not excellent. Just finished Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert and really enjoyed it. I’m an es-biology teacher.
    Now reading And the Mountains Echoed and Invention of Wings at the same time! Crazy good.

    • Emilie Richards on April 23, 2014 at 10:04 pm

      I’m saving the second book, hoarding it I should say. But I’m sorry it wasn’t as good as the first. Maybe I’ll hoard it a little longer. I need to make a list here of what you’re reading and read accordingly. I love recommendations.

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