Traveling Books

What sort of books do you take when you travel?

I give this question a lot of thought. I travel for work and I am always trying to pick out a good assortment of books to take with me.

E-readers are great for travel…except at take-off and landing. The problem for me is that I have so many ARCs and review copies that it’s not practical; I have to focus on reading the things I’ve promised to read, not stack up even more reading that I can’t get to! Eventually, I’ll start loading up the Kindle at NetGalley or something, but until then, I’m hauling along actual  print books.

Just like at home, I like to have a mix of options with me. Something light, something serious, something suspenseful – you never know what you’re going to be in the mood for. A lot depends on the kind of trip. Some trips you just know are going to be stressful; for those, I want light reading or a thriller, something suspenseful that really grabs you. For more tedious trips, I take something a little meatier. If I know I’ve got a 4-hour layover, I might as well take something long and involved. After all, how often do I get that kind of uninterrupted reading time at home.

The other question is how many books to take. I don’t want to be caught without reading material. It’s become something of a joke with my co-workers that I pack as thought I might be stranded for weeks on end in St. Paul or Philadelphia and be utterly unable to find a bookstore. The usual ratio is 1 book for every 2 days on the road. I know it’s more than I will probably have the time or energy to read, but I feel calmer knowing I am well-supplied.

I don’t usually try and match my reading to my destination, but sometimes that comes up anyway. There was the time that I was reading Anything Goes, John Barrowman’s memoir, and realized that I was actually visiting the town where his parents have their summer home. Or when I ran through a series of books (The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, Under the Poppy, The Fall and The Lost and Forgotten Languages of Shanghai) that all had connections in some way to Amsterdam specifically or to traveling in a foreign country, all while I was spending an extending period of time in Amsterdam. Made for some interesting reading.

The most important thing, I suppose, is just to have some books when you travel. It calms my nerves and fills all those empty hours sitting in airports, dining alone in the hotel bar or waiting for the shuttle bus.

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