To my mind, there are two kinds of vacation books. They are the good and the bad. The good ones are the ones you acquire before your trip. The bad ones are acquired during the trip. I’m an expert on the bad ones.
The Bad Vacation Book spawns in most cases from an over-heated mind. You visit, say, the Mayan ruins in the Yucatan and are excited by what you’ve seen. You want to know more. So the next time the chance appears, you wipe out the bookshop’s shelves on Mayan ruins. Or, more realistically you buy one or two.
About 15 years ago, I took a jaunt to the Black Hills and saw the Mount Rushmore rock sculptures. It was so inspiring, I rushed to the gift shop and purchased a book about the sculptor, Gutzon Borglum. I read about one-fourth of it, getting to his work on Stone Mountain, in Georgia, and quit. I never reached the Mount Rushmore section. I can’t even tell you where that book is now.
In 2003, Nebra and I traveled to France and Corsica, making a brief stop in Italy. At Florence, I became so enamored of the monstrous dome on the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, I made haste to a bookshop and purchased an account of how the engineer, Filippo Brunelleschi, went about his work. I read only part of it. And, again, I do not know where I placed the book. Maybe I traded it.
The most recent failure came a few years ago on a winter visit to Mesa Verde National Park in southwestern Colorado. The hills were blanketed with the purest white snow you’ll ever see, and I walked down along a stream where Indians of centuries before had built adobe houses under a large ledge. Again I got over-heated and could not resist buying an expensive copy of “The Cliff Dwellers of the Mesa Verde.” Back home, I read only a few pages before shelving it. To my credit, I do know where this one is located.
I have only one success story to relate. It occurred a few nights ago when I finished, yes, finished reading Edwin R. Sweeney’s “Cochise: Chiricahua Apache Chief” just three weeks after visiting the land of Cochise in southeastern Arizona. But, truth known, I did buy a second book, John C. Cremony’s “Life Among the Apaches.” Whether I get to that one is another story.
My advice on Bad Vacation Books is this. Do not buy books that excite you while on a trip. Jot their titles down in a notebook, and wait until at least three weeks after you’ve been home. Then if you’re still in a tizzy to own the book, and only then, do you make a purchase. It will save you some money in the end. And you won’t feel nearly as foolish.
The impulsive vacation book buyer is a sucker waiting to happen. Say hello to one.