Stuck staying home this year?  Poornima tells us about some of  her ideas for “STAYCATION” books… share your ideas!

Blog Post by Poornima Apte 6-23-09

Last year, I visited the Taj Mahal with my family. This year we are planning something less glamorous – a few weekend trips but most of the summer is going to be a “staycation” for us.

I figured I’d need a few good books to “transport” me some place fun. I read a few really good ones recently and there are a couple of exciting ones in my book pile that I thought I’d share

Coming into the Country is by one of my favorite non-fiction authors, John McPhee. It is one of the best books about Alaska I have read. McPhee describes not just the gorgeous setting but also details the lives of the people who have moved to this last frontier and made the state their own. The first edition was written in the late ‘70s (long before Gov. Sarah Palin became a household name) but it reads fresh and relevant today. McPhee peppers the narrative with interesting characters, lively anecdotes and beautiful descriptions. The book is one wild adventure—as close to the real thing as the written word can allow.

A few weeks ago I heard Mark Kurlansky on NPR and talk focused on his new book The Food of a Younger Land: A Portrait of American Food–Before the National Highway System, Before Chain Restaurants, and Before Frozen Food, When the Nation’s Food Was Seasonal, writings from the Depression era about American food traditions. As intensely fascinating as it sounded, I decided to skip this one and try instead a slightly older book  America Eats!: On the Road with the WPA – the Fish Fries, Box Supper Socials, and Chitlin Feasts That Define. What author Pat Willard has done here, is reproduced writing from the WPA project where out-of-work writers during the Depression Era were commissioned to write about local foods and then compared these to how things are today. I loved the contrasts between current and old traditions and it is heartening to note that in an era of McDonald’s and Chilis and Taco Bells, food is still being made with a sense of community as before. Yes, traditions are still waning but not all is lost. I was especially delighted when I saw  this article in the New York Times recently, which reminded me what a great read America Eats! was. There is one amazingly telling picture of a feast in the Carolinas: a long table and a wall separating the whites from the “coloreds.” The  paperback version of America Eats! releases in early July. It’s worth picking up. The book is a dash of history seasoned with good food. You’ll love the ride!

Smitten with the travel bug, I decided to take a look at
Route 66: A Photographic Essay by Susan Croce Kelly and Quinta Scott. We traveled along Route 66 many years ago and I am definitely looking forward to visiting again. The book is full of fascinating images and some great peeks into history. I can’t wait to really get into it.

Finally, I am currently on a wild ride all the way from Divide, Montana to Washington D.C. I have the 12 year-old genius,  The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet with me for company. I am really enjoying his quirky personality and the story. Stay tuned for my review.

These great reads truly fulfill one of books’ many functions—they transport you. If you have any good ideas for staycation reads (or even ones to take to the beach), why not share it in the comments section? Happy reading! Have a great summer!


June 23, 2009 · Judi Clark · 6 Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: Non-fiction, United States

6 Responses

  1. MFadmin - June 28, 2009


    I think the book you reviewed earlier: THE NATION: GUIDE TO THE NATION should be added to this list. It strikes me as a good book to find some unique places to visit… or at least to read about even if vacation funds are limited!

    Thanks for this blog… hope to see more from you along this vein.


  2. poornima - July 2, 2009

    Thanks, Judi. I find this format more freeing especially for an occasional aside. Actually, the book I read last year:STATE BY STATE: A Panoramic Portrait of America would also be a great book.

    I’ll also make a special plug for WATER DOGS by Lewis Robinson. It captures the spirit of Maine beautifully (in addition to telling a suspense story well).


  3. MFadmin - July 2, 2009

    Yes, good one, Poornima! I only read the Arizona essay by Lydia Millet, but that one essay would be enough for me to recommend the book.

    As for WATER DOGS… stay tuned, I’ll be posting Sudheer’s review soon. I know I’m going to end up buying the book before too long. I love when books are so solidly rooted in place.

  4. MFadmin - July 13, 2009

    Sudheer’s review of WATER DOGS is now posted. Reading the excerpt alone, I can see why you and Sudheer like the book so much. The writing is so strong.

    Of course there is a little irony that I should post the review today, as we are having near record breaking temps in Tucson today; escaping to a “snow” book seems like a great idea.

  5. Patricia Reid - July 15, 2009

    I’ve finished A Nail Thru the Heart in June and finished Fourth Watcher last night. This is the Bangkok series by Timothy Hallinan. I’m getting ready to read his new book Breathing Water. I would love to visit the area described in his books but I think I would need a guide.

  6. Mary Whipple - July 17, 2009

    For pure fun, I’d add Christian Moerk’s DARLING JIM, a well written, off-the-wall book (reviewed here) that is pure entertainment. It’s as much fun at the beach as it is at home on a rainy day.

    Also, Colson Whitehead’s SAG HARBOR, an account of his summers at Sag Harbor on Long Island when he was in his early teens. Whitehead deals with life a generation ago, and the book is warm and full of good memories, which ultimately stretch across time and place. Mary

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