Friday, June 13, 2014

Choosing Books for a Trip

Planning for a trip abroad, I had the pleasant task of deciding which books to take with me, especially for the plane portions of the trip. As I thought about this, I revisited the “Kindle dilemma” that I wrote about here on 12/8/11, and have alluded to elsewhere. I am still resisting the Kindle (and other e-readers), although not as actively as before. I know I will likely get one eventually (way behind the curve technologically, as usual), but I decided that this was still not the time. I know, I know, it makes so much sense for traveling. But I cherish my tradition of choosing and taking a few paperbacks on a trip, and shedding them along the way as I finish them. So, after a preliminary survey of the unread books on my home shelves, I made a bookstore trip for the sole, enjoyable purpose of choosing books for the trip. I didn’t want anything too “heavy” physically or too demanding mentally. True confession: although many of my academic colleagues use plane trips to get work done and catch up on academic reading, I look at that time as an opportunity for light (but of course not too light) reading, all fiction or memoir, along with a pile of magazines. I won’t tell you here exactly what I bought, as I may be posting on some of these during or after the trip. But suffice it to say, they were all chosen for pure pleasure reading; not a single one is in the “I should read this” category. Meanwhile, as I was anticipating choosing the books, and then selecting and buying them, I had flashbacks of all the times I have carried out this ritual of picking out and buying books before a trip. My favorite such memory is how I chose my stack of books each year when I went to my parents’ summer cottage on a beautiful lake in northern Michigan (see my post of 7/9/13, about the book “The Suitors,” in which I wrote about our idyllic days at that cottage). For many years throughout my twenties and thirties, I spent two or more weeks there every summer, along with, depending on the year, my husband, my daughter, and of course my parents, brothers, and other family members at various times. The cottage was small and far from fancy, but its setting was gorgeous and peaceful, and along with all the other activities, there was time to sit by the lake and read and read. Such pure joy! And no, reading on a plane and while traveling (on trains and in hotels and cafes) is not the same as that memory, but it all connects to a sort of primal feeling of time out of time, time set aside from one’s regular busy life, and to me a lovely pile of specially selected books is an inextricable part of such time.

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