Mrs PND and I spent the last week or so in Costa Rica and had a wonderful time. Between the two of us we read eleven novels and I consider that a success. As it turned out I ended up reading only one of the books I intended to read (leaving The God Delusion, The Road and The Emperors Children behind). One of the books I read was kingdom of Shadows by Alan Furst. He is an exceptional writer of suspense and espionage novels set in the 1930s. I have now read three of this novels and have enjoyed them immensely. His evocation of settings and characters is so realistic that having read this novel which ends on the eve of the German invasion of Poland, I caught myself two days later wondering what was happening to the characters as though the story hadn't ended. Furst lives on Long Island but you wouldn't know it since he writes like he lived through this time in Europe.
The book I did plan to take with me was Philip Roth's The Plot Against America which I couldn't put down. The whole idea of interlacing some of his family history in this 'What if' story was remarkable. My experience of Roth only extends to Portnoy's Complaint which I read in High School for a English paper. I kinda wasn't that crazy about the book which colored my view of his more recent releases. The 'what if' concept is what it is, but I had a constant troubling sense all through this book that I could see how this could happen. In someways it suggests that society is always finely balanced but one slight push one way or the other has the capacity to send things into an accelerating tail spin to the detriment of particular segments of society.
Having returned I have vowed to spend more time reading and all the talk about an excess of big titles coming out in the fall had me wondering how many books I currently have that I haven't read. I wish I hadn't done this: I rearranged my book shelves so that I now have one shelf dedicated to unread titles. I have 34. I could probably clear that if I were on vacation for 12 months and short of winning the lottery that is not going to happen. It made me a little depressed. There are some excellent titles in this group and they range from biographies of John Adams, Christopher Wren, John Lennon to the above mentioned titles and Dennis Lehane, Don Winslow, John LeCarre and George Pellecanos. It is the non-fiction that I have a hard time with since they are hard to finish unless you can read a reasonable amount at each sitting. Fifteen minutes before lights out doesn't cut it.
Now it is back to an intense period of work for me. I start planning for the next vacation post haste.