Books for the Road

Jonathan and I jumped on the train last weekend for a mini-vacation in Chicago. Our Fitbits and sore feet told us we covered a lot of miles visiting the Field Museum, the Navy Pier, and the Museum of Science and Industry, not to mention the restaurants and markets.

We love the train for many reasons, but among my top ones is the time I get to spend reading during the journey. My reading material on this trip was the last of the alphabet mysteries by the late and much missed Sue Grafton, the last book with professional sleuth, Kinsey Milhone. I wanted to savor Y is for Yesterday (yes, the alphabet ends with Y now), but found I couldn’t stop reading, and the book ended much too soon. Now I’ll go back and re-read them all one more time. I have heard that Ms. Grafton was struggling to come up with a final book. With her death, that is no longer an issue. She refused to allow these books to become movies or television programs, so the only way you can meet Kinsey is in the pages of these great novels. I’ll admit, some are better than others, but all feature an unforgettable, funny, and likable central character.

Casting about for my next book for the leg home, I found on my Nook a gift from my friend, Chris. She has a habit of stocking up my book supply whenever she gets a chance and tends to include great books on writing. In this trove I discovered The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century by Steven Pinker.

You all know (or should know) about¬†The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. My problem with this classic is it’s dated and in some cases not accurate. Pinker’s book does a creditable job of filling the space long held by Elements¬†and with humor and an good understanding of how language is used these days. I would recommend it to anyone who maintains a stockpile of writing references. Besides, it’s great entertainment on a long journey. Hopefully your traveling companions won’t mind when, as you’re reading, you laugh out loud from time to time.

Image: Yorkshire steam train. By Jonathan Hutchins.