Travel and book choice

When I’m choosing what book to take along on a trip, the destination always dictates what I’m inspired to read. The Moviegoer went with me on my first trip to New Orleans. Eduardo Galeano’s Memory of Fire trilogy has accompanied me throughout a handful of trips in Latin America. The Popul Vuh was in my bag as I visited Mayan ruins in Honduras. Somehow, reading something set in the place I’m visiting (whether fiction or non-fiction) makes the journey complete.

Joel Carillet addressed this a bit recently, with his “Reading books on the road” post. But it’s made me wonder: How much does your destination inspire what people choose as reading material? If you’re on an extended trip and picking over paperbacks in a hostel library, do you just grab what sounds interesting, or do you hone in on something that has to do with where your body is at the moment?

I’m headed back to Colombia soon, and sitting next to my suitcase is The Vintage Book of Latin American Stories. I may not have much time to read, but just having it along gets my brain in the right place.

Posted by | Comments (3)  | June 30, 2011
Category: Travel Writing

3 Responses to “Travel and book choice”

  1. Davis Says:

    I am surprised how often I have seen the advice to take along something unrelated to the place you are going. This seems utterly wrong. It’s as if you were planning to waste of your time on the ground. If you get bored while you are there, finding something to read is part of the experience. Find a used book store. I first discovered H.P. Lovecraft in a used book store in Madrid.

    I took Marcus Aurelius with me for a summer in Rome. When I got home the bookmark was still pretty much where it had been when I left, but it was comforting just to have him around.

  2. Sage Says:

    I often take books related to the area. On last year’s trip to Latin America I read: Eduardo Galeano, “Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent” On this trip to SE Asia, I started in Indonesia reading Winchester’s “Krakatoa” and a book by the Japanese operations officer for the Malaya campaign (as I traveled through Malaysia) titled “Japan’s Greatest Victory, Britain’s Worst Defeat.” In Cambodia, I’m now reading “The Quiet American” and a book on the Mekong.

  3. Roger Says:

    You might find the right local flavor book when you get there. I recently vacationed in my wife’s home country of Trinidad & Tobago, and when I unexpectedly got a bad case of sunburn, I was confined to the house for about a week, couldn’t hardly walk, recovering, and I found a book in a cupboard, called Best West Indian Stories by Kenneth Ramchand (1982). This book helped me understand West Indian literature and culture, which I prized very much. I probably wouldn’t have found enrichment in this subject any other way.