I finally settled on the five books I am bringing with me while on vacation. Remember that I wasn’t looking for anything too heavy, both mentally and physically and for the most part, I stuck to that dictum.
- The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
- Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
- The Call of the Wild by Jack London
- White Fang by Jack London
- London: A Biography by Peter Ackroyd
Yes, I will be in Europe and I suppose it’s a little odd that I’m reading a lot of classic American literature. The truth is I’ve been wanting to reread these books for a long time now; it’s been decades since I first read them and I think my experience since will help to bring a new enjoyment of these books. (I can still remember how much I loved reading White Fang when I was in 6th grade.)
The last book is non-fiction, a “biography” of the city of London, which has been sitting on my bookshelf nearly 5 years. I think that reading that book while in London will be an interesting experience, which is why I chose it.
One thing that I have noticed in fiction books recently is a trend toward appending a set of discussion questions at the end of the book, in an effort to enable thoughtful discussion of the book at book clubs. The copy of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn both have extensive discussion points at the back, but so do more recent books. (I saw a book club discussion guide at the back the Da Vinci Code, for instance.)
I have no problem with book clubs and I think discussing a book is one of the most pleasant intellectual pursuits one can participate in. But I don’t think the discussions should be or need to be framed by any specific set of questions. In fact, I suspect that these questions would stifle lively discussion. For one thing, in looking at the questions, they follow traditional lines of thought (“Huck Finn was intended as an adult book but marketed as a childrens’ book. What makes it so marketable?”) People who use these questions in book club discussions might think that they are the only questions one might ask about a book.
This might seem as though I don’t have a lot of faith in the people reading these books, but that’s not the case. It’s just that we dumb things down enough, and now we are framing the way that people should think about a book by giving them a set of questions to think about. Why not just let the book clubs discuss what they want about the book, rather than frame questions which might inhibit discussion?
So there are three paperbacks (the two Jack London books are together in an omnibus trade paperback) and one hardcover book that I have to add to my luggage. But it should make for enjoyable poolside reading!