The agony of selecting books for a holiday

10 Mar

On every short holiday I have enjoyed, I have made the stupid mistake of packing more books than I could ever hope to read in the duration of my vacation.

I appreciate that this trip is different; it’s not a long weekend. I will have hours and hours to read in the months and months that I’ll be traveling.

I dream of spending part of every day curled up with a good book and strong coffee in a cosy café. And yes, this is in addition to the time I will have to read as buses and trains carry me across continents.

Unfortunately my library will be limited to what I can lug around on the world on my back. One of my greatest pre-journey concerns is that I will run out of books to read on the road. Or find myself hauling books that I don’t feel like reading – stories or dissertations that somehow just aren’t right for the place and the moment.

The agony of choosing which books to pack is exaggerated by the sad fact that for the past two years I have been shelving books with the intention of reading them in some exotic place, when I have the time to savor each glorious word. I have cultivated such a real and imagined pile of books to consume in 2010 that culling the list is agony.

Nonetheless, I have been guided by two principals in compiling a shortlist of big trip reads;

i) that books should be relevant to the places I plan to visit and
ii) the collection should achieve a healthy balance of fiction and non-fiction

After all this blah – here is the list (so far):

Eduardo Galeano’s Open Veins of Latin America
This popular history of Latin America is loved and hated by many. A hit when it was first published in 1971, it recently became a best seller again after Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez presented a copy to Barack Obama when the US President visited the oil rich country. Evidently the book meets my first selection criteria, and as one would expect from a good popular history, Galeano also manages to combine serious and critical with engaging and entertaining on the other. It’s as easy to read as a good novel. Top of my suitcase.

Oliver Bach’s Viva South America!: A Journey Through a Restless Continent
Like Galeano, Bach is a journalist, and so his book promises that same easy but informative style of Open Veins. In fact, the front cover looks a lot like that of the most recent paperback edition of Open Veins… I sense a bit of cross-marketing going on by a clever publisher? The book was a well-chosen gift; since I share the author’s desire to understand if the dream that inspired Simon Bolivar’s revolution lives on in Latin America, I’m keen to read it.

Gabriel García Márquez’ Love in the Time of Cholera
Because I loved 100 years of solitude. Magic Realism is a great genre to escape into on vacation

Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
Because I loved Kafka on the Shore.

Jared Diamond’s Collapse
Because I liked Guns Germs and Steel, and I think Alex might also enjoy this. Mr Diamond is very serious – strictly non-fiction.

Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet
Strictly fiction. I picked up a second-hand copy for seven dollars at the bookshop next to Tilley’s while waiting for a friend last week. As the only Australian citizen who hasn’t read Cloudstreet – I feel should. All my friends have read it. All rave about it. I hope I do to.

So that’s the list for now. Stay tuned for updates. Further suggestions much appreciated.


2 Responses to “The agony of selecting books for a holiday”

  1. Hannah March 12, 2010 at 12:16 pm #

    Kristy, there are exchange-bookstores all over the world and if you´re gonna stay in some hostels you ll find people who will exchange books with you. I am sure you re gonna meet nice couchsurfers too who will borough you a book wich is essential to read in that particular destination.
    i hope you enjoy planning…. when are you two hitting the road?

  2. Aunty Kerrie April 29, 2010 at 9:06 am #

    Hi Kristie and ALex
    Your site is great, so happy you are both having a good time, travel safely and keep up the info. Love you both

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