Books to travel with
I always fret about which books to take with me on holiday. And now that I am readying to travel towards the end of this week, I am beginning to worry about what I shall take along.
The sole remaining pleasure of the long-haul flight is being able to read. The phone can’t ring. The emails can’t ping in. There you are, sealed and airborne, insulated, isolated, only with your book, immersed in its world.
Could anything be better?
The book for the long-haul, drink-sodden, tobacco-denied flight is always different from the book I’d take for the train or to read at a pub or in bed.
Also, there is the matter of matching book to locale, of reading something that is set in the place which I am visiting. I have read Ian Rankin’s Rebus novels in Edinburgh; F Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night on long days on the beach in the French Riviera; and Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice in Venice. It sometimes works.
In June 2007, the Guardian asked several writers to name the books they had – and would love to – travel with. The answers were funny and illuminating. And they were jolly good recommendations too.
So what will I take this time?
Dennis Lehane writes noirish thrillers based in Boston, but they are thrillers that often transcend the genre-literary divide. I intend to take his much-applauded Mystic River. (Yes, it’s better known as a Clint Eastwood movie, but people I have high regard for rate it as Lehane’s best.)
I’ll take Anton Chekov’s stories (The Lady with the Little Dog and Other Stories: 1896-1904; Penguin Modern Classics edition). I’ve been meaning to reread all of the master’s stories, and once I have read this again, I shall be done. Superb for the short bus/Tube/train ride, or while waiting, or at the pub – er, for anywhere at all.
I shall also take a thrilling book that I have been dipping into for months now: Peter Gay’s Modernism: The Lure of Heresy. It is, as the cultural critic and bestselling author Stephen Greenblatt says, a “celebration of the subversive energies that decisively transformed art and culture in the late 19th and 20th centuries” – as the book’s subtitle suggests, “from Baudelaire to Beckett and beyond”. Read a review here.
I’m not sure I’ll finish these three in that order. No sooner than I arrive, there will be books that I simply won’t be able to resist buying. And my publisher will be generous: he’ll let me cart away stuff that I want from his offices.
All this, by the way, also means that I am unlikely to be posting regularly for the next couple of weeks. I’ll let you know how I get along. I can imagine that there will be stuff to write about once I am back.
How about you? Let’s hear from you about which books you would take on holiday.