Fiction

Staycation Reading: Because You Can’t Always Get Away

I live in a state with a beach, but I can never seem to get away. It was cloudy at my house this weekend, but I put on sunscreen (the smell alone makes me ready to hide from pooping seagulls), donned my trusty hoodie, and I sat on my patio all afternoon for some staycation reading. I avoid literary fiction and heavy nonfiction when I’m staycation reading, and I break out women’s fiction and commercial fiction. Maybe a memoir if I’m feeling nosy.

The Smart One by Jennifer CloseMy pick this weekend was The Smart One by Jennifer Close. I’ll be 30 in a few weeks, so I hit right smack in the middle of the target audience for this book. Claire leaves her fiancé, Doug, and in turn must pay all the rent for the apartment she and Doug shared in NYC. GASP! She runs out of money very quickly, runs up a mountain of credit card debt, and is forced to move back in with her parents. GASP! Forty percent of recent college graduates move home to live with their parents because they either can’t find a job or have a job and are trying to save money. Yes, folks: the boomerang kids. Claire’s family is full of boomerang kids. Her sister Martha moved back home after her she discovered nursing wasn’t her bag, and she managed the local J.CREW store. Her younger brother boomerangs back and brings a roommate. The whole time, I kept thinking “How in the world would parents be OK with this?” and then you meet their mother and the whole thing makes sense. I can’t read books like The Smart One all the time, but I love the feels they give me.

My favorite staycation book last year was What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. Alice knocks herself out at the gym and when she wakes up, she thinks it’s 10 years ago. Suddenly, she’s 29, in love with her husband, and expecting her first child. In reality, she’s 39, has three kids, and hates her husband’s guts. It is very smart, cleverly written, and I didn’t feel like my brain was turning into oatmeal.

Neither of those books are for fellas but lucky for you, I swing both ways with my reading. Mark Greaney is well known as Tom Clancy’s co-author (Locked On and Threat Vector), but his Gray Man series is worth a gander. Start with The Gray Man, and there are two more books in the series. The next installment will be published in December. They have been hailed as a Bourne for the new millennium, and are coming to the big screen. (coughcoughBradPittcoughcough)

In the Sanctuary of Outcasts by Neil WhiteDuring my four year stint as an indie booksellah, one book stood the test of time as my absolute top seller. Honestly, I think everyone in north Mississippi has a copy, and I even tried to sell it to the author’s dad once…then I felt reeeally stupid. Neil White’s memoir In the Sanctuary of Outcasts was the first memoir I read from beginning to end (I’m horrible about quitting memoirs halfway through because I lose interest). Neil got into some trouble with bank fraud (weeps!) and had to go to federal prison for a little bit. Not just any federal prison… a half-leper-colony-half-prison federal prison in Carville, Louisiana. Yes, really. Neil’s memoir is absolutely outstanding. He had a chance to befriend some of the patients (Ella Bounds – an elderly African American woman with a hand-cranked wheelchair in particular) and his interactions with the other prisoners is just plain good reading and often times HUH-LARIOUS. Link, the most memorable prisoner of them all, dubbed Neil “motherfuckin’ Clark Kent.” The chapters are very short, which makes it a perfect staycation book. Lots of breaks for Arnold Palmer/John Daly refills. Don’t miss this book.

What do you do for staycation? Surely I can’t be the only one out there who greases up with sunscreen on a cloudy day just to smell it. Bueller? Bueller?

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About Emily Gatlin

Emily Gatlin is another former independent bookstore manager turned freelance writer. Follow her antics on Twitter: @emilygatlin