Lightweight Books for Happy Camping

With the end of summer nipping at our heels, it's time to squeeze in one last jump in the lake, one last al fresco meal, one last outdoor movie, and, of course, one last weekend camping trip! 

As a devout indoor kid who has only recently succumbed to the joys of sleeping under the stars, I'm still prone to serious blunders in my attempts at camping.

On my last excursion, the trouble started when I was packing. My quixotic bookworm self-upstaged my practical self and told me "Go on, Bettina! Bring that meaty Stephen King hardback that possibly weighs as much as a human head! We can read it aloud by the fire at night, it'll be so much fun!" 

After twenty minutes of trudging along the hiking trail to the campsite, the straps of my backpack digging into my shoulders so hard that I thought they might brand me with their imprint, the book I felt sure would be the highlight of my adventure became an albatross. It took all my willpower to resist the urge to rip it out of my backpack and toss it behind me on the trail. 

Thankfully, this is the kind of mistake you only make once. I've got another camping trip coming up next weekend, and this time I'll leave the aspiring doorstops at home and opt for one of these mercifully featherlight volumes instead. They're all around 200 pages or under, but pack a punch nevertheless!

Fiction

We Have Always Lived in the Castle

No camping trip would be complete without a spooky book for fireside reading! Shirley Jackson's classic of psychological horror is just the ticket. Rich with eerie atmosphere and creepy characters, it tells the story of a mysterious family who live on an estate rendered claustrophobic by the weight of the horrible secrets within. 

Sula

Find a mossy tree trunk to nestle in and immerse yourself in Toni Morrison's beautiful, searing prose. Her second novel is a brief but potent one, spanning 1921-1965 and delving deep into the complexities of a lifelong female friendship as it intersects with racism, gentrification, and the dangers of small town morality. 

The Mezzanine

A young businessman ponders the minutiae of modern life as he ascends an escalator on his way back from purchasing shoelaces on his lunch break. Depending on your state of mind, this unexpectedly imaginative and inventive book will make you either relieved to be away from the fast-paced modern world, or delighted by the magic and meaning that the human mind can instill in the objects and rituals of daily life. 

Non-Fiction

The Argonauts

Don't let its diminutive size fool you! Within this slim volume is a raw and challenging personal memoir interwoven with radical musings on gender, queer theory, parenthood, and creativity. Reading it all at once just might leave you breathless, so pace yourself!

The First Collection of Criticism by A Living Female Rock Critic

The title of this book may be facetiously bombastic, but the essays within are disarmingly honest and vulnerable. Jessica Hopper perfectly captures the heart-pounding excitement of finding music that makes one feel seen and understood, while ruthlessly skewering the self-importance and myopia of the mainstream music industry's legacy. You'll want to keep a pencil and paper handy to jot down the names of artists and albums to check out when you return to civilization!

A Field Guide to Getting Lost

Ever since her landmark essay, "Men Explain Things to Me", opens a new window, went viral in 2012, writer Rebecca Solnit has earned a reputation as an intellectual whose work manages to be both rigorous and approachable. In this elegant collection of essays about the importance of "leaving the door open to the unknown" in one's life, Solnit's words weave and meander, then make the reader stop short with the stark and simple truth of one perfect sentence. Just don't use this book as an actual field guide to getting lost, because I'd like you to get out of the woods safely!