What books do you read on your travels? I usually choose mine the way a bride organizes her “something old, something new” accessories. So: a contemporary book that I kept as a reward — this summer, it could be “The Candy House” by Jennifer Egan; a book I wanted to read but haven’t read yet – maybe “Transit of Venus” by Shirley Hazzard.
Also: A captivating thriller. And then a heartwarming old friend, often a children’s book like “Charlotte’s Web” or “The Golden Compass.” And I’ll take my Kindle, which isn’t fun as a literary delivery mechanism, but has the advantage of putting the world’s library at your fingertips.
If you do it right, you’ll get off the plane so in love with your book that you’ll want to keep reading in the customs line, then keep going while waiting for your bags, then back to the hotel later to help calm you down. before going to sleep.
And that brings me back to my second favorite reading and travel memory, after my childhood car trip. It was June 1985 and I had just graduated from college. I didn’t have a job and didn’t have the prospect yet, and I wasn’t feeling well as I prepared to embark on what was to be (and eventually will be) a life-changing Eurail adventure through Europe.
I had booked a cheap seat on a full night flight to Paris, and I was too anxious and excited to sleep. It didn’t matter that the book I brought, “The Paradine Case,” Robert Hichens’ over-the-top 1933 legal thriller about a married, honest London lawyer who falls in love with a client – a woman accused of poisoning her husband – is not, by the most objective standards, a great work of literature. That’s a beautiful story. (Hitchcock later made it into a movie, starring Gregory Peck.)
I was hooked from the front row: “Sir Malcolm Keane, KC, put on his fur-lined coat in the dressing room at the Cleveland Club on the corner of Pall Mall, picked up his soft black hat, buckskin gloves and his tightly coiled umbrella, and walked out into the large square room where a huge fire was burning on the wide hearth. It was full of pointillist descriptions, intense drama and intense emotions, perfect for my feverish mood. When I arrived the Next morning, still reading, with “And She Was” by the Talking Heads playing on my Walkman, I was exhausted and elated—the perfect way to take a vacation into the unknown.