Mic and Jack’s summer vacation reading list



I started hiking the TMB with my trusty Kindle loaded with new books to read. By day two I realized that paperback books are better suited for backpacking; it can better withstand the hard knocks of trekking. I was terrified I would crush my Kindle, which I’ve grown to love and adore. With a tear and a pout I shipped it home from a post office in France.


And then we headed to the nearest bookstore to find me a paperback book.

Throughout our entire trip, Jack and I had our noses in a book. To outsiders we must have seemed like quite the old married couple as we spent many meals together happily reading on our own, hardly saying a word to each other. It was bliss, I tell ya.


Every moment of down time had us whipping out a book, even if it was just a five-minute break to let our dogs rest. We read pretty much everywhere …


… the side of the road in the middle of nowhere …


… on the lake …


… on the train …


… in the park …


… on the mountain …

We each went through several books while traveling. Here’s what we read and what we’d recommend.


Jack: Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl that Played with Fire (books 1 and 2 of the Millennium trilogy) by Stieg Larsson (the former was given to him by TeresaAK. Thanks, TH!). “The first book was entertaining, a good read. The first is definitely the best of the trilogy. By the end of the second book things start to get a little silly. I didn’t finish the third book, I lost interest part way through it, there were just too many inconsistencies.”

Mic: I only read the first book. It was a page-turner and I was able to whip through it, but I’m always annoyed when it takes half the book (in this case over 200-pages) for the two protagonists to meet. And then it effectively ends nearly one hundred pages before the end of the book. It was like watching a movie with multiple endings, you keep wondering if it’s time to go yet.

What was neat about reading these books while traveling was that everyone else was reading them too. You could strike up a conversation with just about anyone from any country and they were in the middle of reading it in their own language. The other neat thing was to see it with so many different covers, depending on what country the book was from. Talking about the novel and the subsequent movie with other travelers made reading the book worth it.


Mic: When You are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris. It had me crying with laughter by page two. No kidding. It’s embarrassing to read this book in public. I was completely unable to control my outbursts of laughter. My herculean efforts to suppress the mirth resulted in haphazard explosions of snorts, sniggers and high-pitched cackles often accompanied by leaky tears. I looked and sounded like a lunatic. So much so that Jack would look around uncomfortably and quietly scooch away pretending not to know me. Were I a less confident person I might have been offended. But I was too busy maniacally giggling (as quietly as I possibly could) to care. This book, like most of Sedaris’ work, is too funny to read in public or while drinking beverages. It’s the perfect feel-good read.

Jack: Curious about the source of my lunacy Jack snatched up the book as soon as I was done only to laugh his way through it, too. “It was hysterical! You get a sense of comfort that someone else has those ridiculous thoughts, too. It’s fresh. I would really recommend it!”


Mic: I’m a big fan of Karen Rose—she’s always a solid Mystery read—so I was pleased to find this book while  in France. It’s a romantic suspense (although I believe in Europe she’s sold under Mystery) that was reprinted in 2009. As usual, Rose doesn’t disappoint. A quick-paced mystery with a healthy romance thrown is always a great vacation read.

All but one of these books we bought while in Europe. They were much more expensive than in the US. For example, the Karen Rose paperback was 10.70EUR ($13.76USD). That’s nearly double the price of the US equivalent. Holy baloney.

I was glad to get home to my Kindle and the reduced price of e-books.

But since returning home, the only thing I’m reading these days is related to organic chemistry. While there’s a mystery involved, it’s hardly the same sort of entertainment.

What did you guys read this summer?


100 responses »

  1. So glad I found your post. I just moved to Malta from the UK and am shocked at how much more books cost when you’re in a Euro country! I will definitely be giving some of these books a read 🙂 x

  2. Thanks for an interesting post. Yes, I have just finished Books 1 and 2 of the Millenium Trilogy. Definitely agree Bk.1 is the better of the 2 – hope I am not as disappointed as you with Book 3!! I will look out for Karen Rose’s books – have seen her books on the stands, but never read one.

    Books are expensive over here too and my Spanish is not good enough to tackle a really good read. So I stack up on the Internet! Am thinking about a Kindle, particularly now the price has dropped!!

    Good reading!!

  3. Pingback: Mic and Jack’s summer vacation reading list (via Loonyville) « Cerebral Chatter

  4. I’ll have to give them a try. Do you like the Kindle? I’m so leery to purchase it – maybe I won’t like the look or the feel of it. I read “A Moveable Feast”, “High On Arrival”, “Secret Diary of A Call Girl”, “Angela’s Ashes” and “Looking For Mr. Goodbar”.
    The summer is the only time I get to read.

  5. Great post. My significant other and I always have a pile of books with us on vacation. I read three books on our honeymoon alone (I KNOW)!

    Just made my way through “Dragon Tattoo,” and I have to admit, I was addicted. I haven’t started “Fire” yet, but it’s on tap for this weekend.



  6. My wonderful summer reads:

    Mad Cowboy by Howard Lyman – Following Howard’s journey from 3rd generation cattle rancher to vegan.

    Something Borrowed, Something Blue, Baby Proof, Love the One You’re With all by Emily Giffin. The first two have the same characters but they are all a good, quick read!

    Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay – A story about a young girl during the Holocaust and a present day writer researching her story.

    The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf – A young girl that hasn’t spoken since she was four and the twisted chain of events that made her speak again.

    Eating Animals by Jonathan Saffron Foer – Well written book disecting the question, should we or shouldn’t we eat meat and why.

    Sundays at Tiffany’s by James Patterson – Just started this book but I like it already…

  7. how does it compare to the movie? anyone? not sure whether to read it first or watch the movie instead… Usually books are always better. Is this the same case?

    • I actually enjoyed all three Stieg Larson books , although I agree that the first one was by far the best. I plowed through it and read every line, whereas I found myself skimming through the 2nd and the third. I think they were just different, and had to be appreciated differently.

      DEFINITELY read the books first. I saw the first and second movie with girlfriends who enjoyed the movie but were often confused about the plot. Also, scenes and conversations I felt were important to the development of the characters were left out, so I thought that a lot of depth was lost. I didn’t identify as strongly with the movie characters, nor did I feel for them or understand their motives. The movies are a fun little bonus and a way of seeing how someone else has interpreted the novels, but I found them disappointing because I loved the books so much.

  8. Ahhh, bliss – a vacation with time to read! I too loved “When You are Engulfed in Flame”. Have you read “Holidays on Ice”? The best book I’ve read this summer is “Little Women and Werewolves”. Who knew! It’s definitely a hoot and a great escape. Loved your blog… North Coast Muse @ http://sally1029.wordpress.com

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  10. he’s reading “The Glass Castle” on the train. I’m reading that book right now. It has blown me away, a fantastic read.

  11. I love David Sedaris and I especially love listening to his audiobooks. I have received strange looks from other drivers while listening to his books on several occasions.

  12. Love your blog. I live north of San Francisco and cannot believe I haven’t spent time in ‘Little Italy.’ City Lights book store seems to me like a place I would want to spend all day.. thank you, I will be visiting soon. I am a huge fan of the Larsson books.. although I would’ve gladly given up ‘The Girl who Played with Fire’ to get to the last bk. I now feel that the second book had to be read in order to understand the crux, I feel the 2nd and 3rd should have been one book.
    If you haven’t already read them, here are my summer faves so far: ‘The Shadow of the Wind’ by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, ‘The Palace of Illusions’ by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni and ‘The Name of the Wind’ by Patrick Rothfuss.

  13. Not saying they’re the best books, but in the summer I love to read what I call “beach reads.” I have read the entire Aisling Gray Series, “Sofie Metropolis,” “Gossip Girl: It Had to Be You: The Gossip GIrl Prequel,” and “The Carrie Diaries.” Nice light reads!

  14. I haven’t read the books yet (the missus loaned them to her sister before I could get ahold of them). I did watch the Swedish movie and loved it. About half way it was though the subtitles disappeared and the casts’ faces told the story.
    Thanks for posting these reviews!

  15. Love Love LOVE the Stieg Larsson books…. still haven’t got the 3rd one yet, not sure what my problem is. Love David Sedaris’ book too, saw him at Wells Fargo Center in Santa Rosa. He’s hilarious!

    This summer I’ve been working on the BBC list of the top 100 books to read. I recently finished “Good Omens” by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman (oldie but goodie!).

    Congrats on FP!!

  16. Pingback: Mic and Jack’s summer vacation reading list (via Loonyville) « Sashion Fashion

  17. Ah books. What would we do without ’em? Never read any of those booksbut When You are Engulfed in Flames seems interesting. That would definitely be added in my “to read” list 😀

  18. If you like a good mystery/thriller/horror novel I love Dean Koontz. His style of writing is very entertaining. I recommend Life Expectancy. It was amazing and a total page turner!

  19. Hi there… sounds like you had a great trip. I haven’t read any of the books you brought along, but I probably will some day. Your vacation looks/sounds like my ideal trek – backpacking around with great reads, my dogs, and occasional stops in artsy places. Perfect.

    Congrats on being freshly pressed!


  20. I must be the only person on the western hemisphere who has yet to pick up a Steig Larsson book. Maybe growing up in Scandinavia, its detectives nor dark sides hold absolutely no interest to me. Nor have I seen the film, mind you. I love the pics on the post!! And what a fabulous way of travelling across Europe! This summer I have been reading “Driving Over Lemons” an expat story of a Brit who ups sticks and buys a farm in Andalucia, Spain. I vicariously live through my books….

  21. hey! first of all the pics are extraordinary! which camera is it? As for the books.. I don’t know how many times i have picked up ‘the girl with the dragon tatoo’ and then put it back. But I guess it must hav been a fun read on a trek. Nice post. I really enjoyed it. Keep up the good work!

  22. First off, it sounds like a great trip! Secondly, thanks for the book reviews. I was about to buy the “girl with…” series, but I might wait on that one. Right now, I am about six books deep into my ‘to read’ list. Thanks for a great post.

  23. Great post! Thanks for the reviews- this reminds me I wanted to read David Sedaris’ When you are engulfed in flames : )

  24. i discovered erma bombeck. i love her almost as much as i do alexander mccallsmith… i really enjoy the matter of fact daily philosophy they throw in…

  25. Just started When You Are Engulfed in Flames, and am loving it! Enjoyment will now be somewhat diminished considering I’m not traveling while reading, but nonetheless.

  26. Love this! I teach 9th grade English, and your post just inspired me to create an assignment in which my students document themselves reading outside of school. And your list contains so many of my favorite reads. Cheers to you!

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  28. Loved this. I’m just a few clicks away from purchasing my first Kindle and it’s good to hear that it was a bit difficult for you to switch back to paper! Life is so different now. It looks like an amazing trip. Reading a good book in surroundings such as those must by default increase the reading experience. And although my surroundings won’t be any match, I will log a couple of these books into my ‘to read’ list. Thanks!

  29. Good post, I always love to hear what others are reading. I’ve read TGWTDT and look forward to the rest. Let me recommend a great book: The Art of Racing in the Rain.


  30. I have been seeing “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” everywhere, and I was not a fan of the cover so I didn’t read it, but everyone has been raving about it, so I guess I will have to read it 🙂

  31. Hey there. Good post.

    I’m currently reading the 3rd Stieg Larsson book and man is it grating on me at this stage! I’ll finish it just because I never not finish a book.

    Actually now that I think of it, I’ve pretty much been reading Stieg Larsson since Xmas because I found Book 2 long and drawn out as well, so I can’t comment on what else I’ve read this summer!

    However, when I finish Stieg, I PLAN to read ‘Juliet, Naked’ by Nick Hornby, a couple of books I bought in America last year.

    And perhaps, biggest thrill, a reread of The Secret History by Donna Tartt. Have you read? If not, get on it – most wonderful book ever,.

  32. I can tell you are genuine reading aficionados…. as you only told me what I need to know! I recently wrote a post about hearing too much about the story & it spoiling the book.

    Happy reading!

    Recommendation? How about an older book: “Street Boys” by Lorenzo Carcaterra. At the beginning, I couldn’t figure out where it was headed, by I certainly enjoyed the journey!

  33. lol – reminds me of me – I read EVERYWHERE. I’m blazing through Paulo Coelho novels. I introduced my husband to The Alchemist (wisdom) and I’m reading The Zahir (obsession) and recently finished Veronika Decides To Die (redemption) and Eleven Minutes (love) and Warrior of the Light (courage).

    Great photos! Love that one on the mountain!

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  35. Wow… great. It reminds me to back to the “old” habit, reading books. I have many new books that I haven’t read just yet. Lately, I spend more time to read and write blogs (just like now ;)) By the way, the template of your blog is so similar with my other blog, http://biziblog.wordpress.com 😉 It’s a simple yet elegant template indeed. I like it. And I like your posting too. Keep reading.

  36. I remember buying a book in Chile – something like $20 U.S. for a book in Spanish and more for any title in English, and the pickings were slim. Best to buy in the U.S. first. I can only imagine what it would be like to travel with a Kindle. I think you did the right thing to ship it back home. This summer, I’ve been reading some old school stuff – The Writer and the World – V.S. Naipaul; Trout Fishing in America – Richard Brautigan (not a laugher, but a big smile book) and I’m plodding through a digital version of A Hazard of New Fortunes – William Dean Howells. Will have to check out some of your recommendations – all new authors for me.

  37. Pingback: Mic and Jack’s summer vacation reading list (via Loonyville) « The 100 Book Ninja

  38. I had encountered the books of the girl with the dragon tatoo a few times at bookstores but I always end up bought a different books. Lately I had been keep myself busy reading L.J. Smith books the vampire diaries 3 (the fury) & 4 (the reunion). Almost finish with the 4th book, so I will turn to Beautiful Creature book by Garcia Stohl. Maybe I will buy the girl with the dragon tatoo next time I go to the bookstore….^^

  39. These books are really good reads, thanks for introducing them to me. The genre of books i like at the moment is probably very diffrent, i really enjoyed ‘I heart New York’ by Lindsey Kelk and ‘Take a chance on me’ by Jill Marshell this summer..great books though!

  40. I haven’t read the books on the Millennium Trilogy but I have seen the first two movies. The first one was good but I can’t totally say the same for the second one.

    This is a charming post nonetheless- I too am a fellow reader trying to cram in as much as possible before the Fall quarter begins again for me.

    Currently reading “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky.

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  42. I am currently a Peace Corps Volunteer living in the jungles of Central America – and I have to agree, the Kindle is not meant for hardcore traveling and wear and tear. Words of caution to everyone: between the backpacking and moisture, they break easily!
    I too have resorted to paperbacks, and David Sedaris definitely made my list as well. He is hysterical.
    Thanks for the post!

    Sarah in the Peace Corps

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  45. I read the first two book of the tattoo girl, by the third book I was too in love with both characters I hated that they actually don’t have a love relationship. I get into extremes like that. Anyway, I’m part of the millennium number one fans. Great post, love the pictures.

  46. I am so glad I stumbled on your review of the Steig Larsson trilogy books, in less than an hour I was going to go buy them all. However, you did a great job on selling When You are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris. I could really use a good laugh!

  47. Cool post! 🙂 I love your picture of the shoes ‘n book and of the mountains!
    I read Dragon Tattoo at the beach and really enjoyed it because the plot is well thought out but… Well, it took a looong time to get started, I found, and a long time to end. Also, the book could do with less details. Personally, I did not find the complete lists of Blomkvist’s groceries particularly interesting, nor essential to the story.
    I read the second book and it was great too.
    However, after about 50 pages, I put it down and picked up To Kill A Mockingbird (GREAT book, btw 🙂 ). Somehow The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest just wasn’t that gripping.

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