No, I don't plan to share tips for travelers in this post. I just spent the weekend in Chapel Hill, NC, where Ben, our youngest, graduated from college. By happy coincidence, I've finally finished posting grades for the semester, so I actually had the luxury of reading for pleasure without guilt. I had been reading Stieg Larrson's novel The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It has been slow going for me during much of the novel, not because I didn't want to read it but because my work and the demands of the holiday season have been competing for my time.
Last night, though, as time came for light's out, I just couldn't quit reading. Finally, feeling that the bedside lamp was a nuisance, I slipped into the bathroom to read until I was finished with the book. When I turned the page and realized I had reached the end, I remembered someone suggesting not reading Larrson's next book until the third one comes out because "you'll want to find out what happens next." I wish I'd been warned the same with this book. Of course, the book can stand alone. The ending is just as untidy as life. Still, I honestly hope to meet Salander and Blomkvist again.
Since a true vacation for me usually means time to read, I can think of several books I've read under similar circumstances (perched on the closed toilet seat as my family slept in the next room.) Most clearly, I recall during a mountain vacation reading Watership Down by Richard Adams, one of my all-time favorite books. Once the rabbits' final battle was under way, there was no sleeping for me. I had to read them out of their dilemma.
The best kind of book is one that disturbs or even prevents sleep. I read Leon Uris' Exodus that way. I was probably in eight or ninth grade, and as I read late into the night, I realized I could not stop reading while the characters were stranded in the concentration camp. I had to keep reading until they were liberated--at least, if I wanted my dreams undisturbed.
One common thread among passionate readers is the memory of reading late into the night, often under covers by flashlight. How odd that I've had friends recently describing having to force their children to finish books they'd started. For me, a gripping book will demand to be read, despite adverse circumstances. In fact, one sits right beside me now, and I think I hear it whispering, "Read me. Now."