The destination of travel doesn’t matter to me. How I get there — shrug. Any form of transportation is ok by me. All that matters is the travel, the movement, the exploration, the journey.
Except for ten hours trapped in the middle seat in economy airline seating between a fat smelly man and his son… That’s a different story. That’s a special hell.
What I care about is the book that’s wedged between my legs. The one falling out of my bag, holding all my tickets and itinerary. I care about the weight of its pages. The heft of its spine. The meat of its story.
If you want me to read something, follow these instructions:
Trap me in an airport’s waiting lounge. Strip me of my current read. Watch how many seconds it takes me to reach for your book. Watch me read it to the end. Doesn’t matter if the Times thrilled about its pages or Bostonian despaired about its lack of drive.
I just need to read.
And the book chosen to travel with me matters.
It influences my journey, the path I’m exploring from here to Unknown There. It’s a little slice of home tucked into my back pocket.
A good book reminds me of why I travel, why I must go to there as Liz Lemon says.
How to pick such an important sidekick? There are three things I look for:
- Page number: depending on the length of your trip, the pages need to see you through to its end. Few worse things exist than reaching the end of your book before the trip’s end. Beware of the book’s weight: too heavy and you’ll rue your choice. Too light and you’re at the end too quickly.
- Sentence complexity: you’ll fly through a James Patterson novel quicker than you would a Pat Conroy. But you need to pick up the book in the middle of a chapter. No James Joyce here. (Although if I were trekking to Dublin, he’s who I’d bring along.)
- Association: you’ll think of this trip whenever you see that book next. And likewise, this book will pop into your head whenever you think of this trip. The two will forever be entwined. Pick a book you want to think of. Pick one that fits the destination.
Here’s a few recommendations to get you started:
Mystic River by Dennis Lehane — the book that trekked around Europe with me. A solid, engrossing read. Maybe you saw the movie. But they always say the book is a thousand times better. They’ve got it right.
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese — aka the book for my next trip. Thick enough but still light, I can feel the story seeping from its pages. Comes highly recommended by a smart, well-read friend.
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand — if I were on a deserted island and got to choose one book, it’d be this one. Plenty long enough with a complex story, it’d keep me occupied for days.
The Agony and The Ecstasy by Irving Stone — The Book To Travel To Italy With. There. I said it. I’d forsake all others in favor of this majestic, stirring biographical novel about Michelangelo.