So before I left for Scotland, I was baffled by what books to take. But when I left, I had Lamb by Christopher Moore, The Known World by Edward P. Jones, and The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt. . . I finished Moore, glimpsed at Jones, read a couple of chapters of Byatt. . .

Then, I walked into downtown Aberdeen and embarrassed myself (mildly) by asking the clerk – in my distinctive American accent – where the Scottish history section was. . . I felt so cliche, but he comforted me by saying, “We like that you want to know our people.” I picked up Neil Oliver’s History of Scotland, and I am really enjoying it. . . He presumes a certain level of knowledge – particularly geographical – from the reader, but I love the broad strokes he applies to history. I am, though, in the section on kings, and I’m bogged down. I’ll make it through, though. M also tells me that Neil Oliver did a good documentary video series for the BBC by this same title; I might have to check that out as well.

The History of Scotland by John Oliver

While in said bookshop, I made a couple of other purchases – Lorrie Moore’s collected short stories for M, who with two small children needs shorter snippets to read and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. A friend whose opinion I respect didn’t love this text, and another liked it so much that she assigned it for her class. M said it was good, although the narrator’s voice threw her a bit, so I picked up a copy. I really enjoyed it. Maybe this is my own ignorance, but it was the first book I read that made me think about the effect that Hitler’s actions (and the Allies subsequent response) had on the general German population. Plus, I loved the multiple layers of the narrative from both the quasi-omniscient narrator, to the protagonist’s own writing, to the writing/storytelling of other characters. A good read for sure.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Finally, as I was stuck in Newark Airport for seven hours yesterday with almost no sleep, I need something fairly light to read. I picked up Ted Dekker’s The Bride Collector. It’s pretty awful reading, but the plot – aside from the stereotypical “we must find the serial killer before he kills again” angle – is interesting because the FBI turns to people in a mental institution for help solving the case. I like the characters there, if the FBI agents do leave me a little flat. That said, I’d eager to finish it, so something must be working in it. And for all you Bible readers out there, you, too, can feel superior that you know more than the agents when the killer uses Biblical imagery in his notes to the officers.

The Bride Collector by Ted Dekker

So there it is – not the most academic, rigorous, or thought-provoking reading – but still good . . . especially for vacation.

Now it’s back to American Sphinx, The Peculiar Institution, and primary documents on slavery . . . it feels good to be back.