A Handy Tool for Choosing Books to Take on Vacation

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When I’m preparing for a vacation, the very FIRST thing I think about is “What books should I take with me?” (Not practical things like “What is the weather like where I’ll be going?” or “What kinds of clothes should I pack?” Having a good book to read is what really matters.

However, it occurred to me that there is an equation for packing books for vacation in which:

Div = Diversity. You don’t want to read the same types of books. I suspect the optimal ratio is F3:NF1 (3 fiction to 1 non-fiction), with the NF being more humorous than heavy. (After all, who wants serious non-fiction on a vacation – besides Lin Manuel-Miranda? Bill Bryson, A.J. Jacobs, or Sarah Vowell are all good choices for humorous non-fiction.) I tend to choose a mix that includes a mystery/thriller, something funny/light, something literary, and a non-fiction book. (If appropriate, I might include something related to where I’m going, which is how I ended up reading Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell on a trip to Hawaii.)

Ch = Chunkster. If one of your books ends up being a dud, a chunkster (500+ pages) will act like two books and make up for the dud. Depending on the size of your luggage, you need a minimum of one chunkster but optimally two. The advent of e-book readers makes bringing chunksters on vacation less problematic than it used to be.

PQ = Proven Quantity. Although you don’t want to spend your vacation rereading books, you do want an author you KNOW will not disappoint. This is the time to bring along the latest book by your favorite author. Think of it as vacationing with a friend!

H1 v. L3 = Heavy vs. Light. You want to ensure your books aren’t too heavy (not in weight; in tone) as who wants to be sobbing their eyes out on a beach? This doesn’t mean “happy happy joy joy” type of books, but ones that aren’t going to hollow you out on the inside and cause you to throw yourself off the Tower of Pisa (on the off-chance you happen to be vacationing near the Tower of Pisa).

The equation ends up looking something like this:

Div(F3xNF1) x CH2 + PQ x H1L3 = Books to take on vacation

Full Disclosure: I suck at math* so I’m not sure how to actually create or solve equations. If you are somehow able to use actual math for this equation and end up carting 15 books on your vacation, the Pen of Jen is not liable for your excess baggage fees or back pain.

* Just ask my son who learned not to come to me for math help after 2nd grade. However, that wasn’t completely my fault. They started teaching this weird math called New Math that makes NO SENSE. It uses multiple steps where us “Old Math” folks would only use one. Don’t believe me? Just try doing a simple addition problem by “decomposing” numbers.

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