Everyone knows that beach vacations require good reading. A well-packed beach bag should always contain a few page turners. Given that a good chunk of my upcoming vacation to Hawaii will be spent poolside, I’m bringing a slough of books with me.
Here are the five titles on my island reading list:
1. Paterson by William Carlos Williams
Williams is a titan of modern poetry, so its high time I sunk my teeth into some of his work. He is the recipient of both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, which he won for this particular title. Paterson is an epic poem, originally published in in five separate volumes. The version I have has all five put together, along with a fragment of a sixth volume, and lots of notes on the text and scans of his original work. It promises to be an interesting, edifying read. I tend to like truly contemporary poetry more than anything written before the 21st century (or thereabouts) so I’m curious to see what I think of this given that it was written and published in the 1940s and 50s.
2. Shakespeare: The World as a Stage by Bill Bryson
This is one of two titles on this list I’ve got on my kindle–I prefer to read poetry in print but everything else on an e-reader. I’m about halfway through it already and it is quite simply delightful. All of Bill Bryson’s books are charming and jocular, and this one particularly appeals to me as a bibliophile. While I wouldn’t call myself a Shakespeare fanatic, I enjoy his works and have read quite a few of them, mostly during my college years. What I particularly like about this title is Bryson’s reliance on facts and disproving theories about Shakespeare’s life that are based on the barest shreds of evidence. The historical context he provides for understanding Shakespeare’s life is fascinating. It is, all around, a smart and humorous read, keeping pace with all the rest of his books that I have read and thoroughly enjoyed.
3. Parallax by Sinead Morrissey
After my read-through of all the issues of Poetry magazine last year, there are only a few poems that I call to mind without flipping through a volume. Of the few that do spring to mind, at the top of the list is The Millihelen by Sinead Morrissey. The scope of the poem is somewhat simple: the poet simply describes looking at a black and white photograph of the christening of a ship and what it must have been like to be in attendance. But, as is so often true with poetry, the scope of the poem hardly defines its brilliance. It was probably the best poem published in Poetry last year, at least in my opinion, and given that opinion, I was determined to read more work by Irish poet Morrissey. Parallax is her fifth book and it focuses on “the distance between what we see and how things really are.” I can’t wait to crack it open.
4. The Poem is You: 60 Contemporary American Poems and How to Read Them by Stephen Burt
Perhaps this seems a bit scholastic for a beach read, however I’m determined to expand my understanding of poetry and the intellectual realm of verse is certainly one area that could use some growth and attention. Perhaps that is a very long-winded way of saying that I’d like to know what a poetry scholar has to say on the subject of understanding and appreciating modern poetry. Burt is a professor at Harvard and has written several academic volumes on poetry. This volume is said to contain essays on both well known and more obscure poems of every contemporary genre, so it is my hope that it will be both edifying and may introduce me to new poets to pursue.
5. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
Given all the heavy, scholarly poetry I’m bringing with me I thought I’d load an entertaining page-turner in prose onto my kindle for when I need a break from all the verse. I’ve read American Gods by Gaiman and enjoyed it thoroughly, but when I mentioned this to my sister-in-law she told me that she liked Neverwhere even better. I read the book description and found that it’s right up my alley, telling the story of a mysterious world of monsters, saints, murders, and knights in armor that exists directly under London. It follows an ordinary-Joe type character as he discovers this world. It sounds Harry Potter-esque, but perhaps more adult. As a fan of all things fantasy I have a good feeling about it.