"Weeks before any journey, I begin to worry about what books I'll bring."
Sound like any blogger you know? Though it could have been written by me, it's actually the opening sentence to a nice piece by Jay Parini in the Chronicle of Higher Education about picking books with which to travel. I've written before about how difficult it is to choose books for a trip, about the complex formulae involved in determining which and how many books to bring for a trip of x duration. First of all, you need to be sure you have enough books for the trip, but you also need to have an extra (or two) in case you find yourself not in the mood for one of the ones you brought--and you need at least one book in which you repose complete confidence so you know your attention will be totally diverted during the flight.
Parini's solution is a bit simpler than mine: he carefully arranges to be three-quarters of the way through a gripping novel when he sits down on the plane. But that seems wasteful to me, because you know from the start you'll be carting around a novel you've finished. I prefer to preview several novels, just to make sure they're not godawful, then bring a couple. Maybe when I'm older, my shoulders less willing to bear a multi-book burden, I'll take Parini's advice, but for now I'll keep carrying two or three too many books on every trip.
My friend and former coworker Jim sent me the link to Parini's story because we were discussing this topic over the weekend. With a vacation in prospect, Jim is starting to plan out his reading, simultaneously making sure that he'll not be in the middle of anything when the time comes to leave and starting to eye the books he might want to take along. At the time, I expressed sympathy . . . and then the other day Stacey and I decided to fly to London next month. So now I'm in the same spot: what to take along? I'm tempted to take Tess, since I've been thinking and writing about Hardy so much lately. Maybe we'll even go visit his home in Dorset. Or some Trollope? And no matter how many times I've read him, I always consider taking Anthony Powell to London; other than Dickens, there are few better books to read on the tube.
Anyone want to make other suggestions?