I never travel without books. And I don’t consider travelling time as catching up on my reading. To me reading and travelling go hand in hand. Reading occupies my space everyday in intervals as fillers – that little time in the morning before I get up get up, that little time waiting for my travel partner to get ready before we step out, that little time after we order food in a restaurant and waiting for it to arrive, and wherever there is a scope for waiting there is scope for reading. Usually, my Kindle is stocked with books that I want to read during my travels. Sometimes, I also travel with paperbacks. My reading is a good mix of both electronic and print versions of books.
Here are the Seven books I travelled with and enjoyed reading (or sometimes left me with a deep sense of longing). I associate these books with the trips I made.
1. Footloose in the Himalayas – Bill Aitken
Part memoir, part travelogue, Footloose in the Himalayas chronicles Bill Aitken’s eternal love affair with the mountains. A British citizen, Aitken travelled to India after his studies in the 60s and the book is a record of his time living and working in the ashrams of Kausani and Mirtola. The book provides rich, insightful anecdotes on life in the Himalayas and is also an often humurous account on daily life in the hills.
2. Norwegian Wood – Haruki Murakami
Murakami’s classic college love story ages quite well. No matter how many times you read it, you never tire of its characters set in the middle of 1960s Toru Watanabe, Naoko and Midori. This book is also considered to be Murakami’s ticket to superstardom. To me though, the book is often reminiscent of rides in city buses.
3. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail – Cheryl Strayed
Cheryl Strayed lost her mother, drifted away from her family and went through a divorce fueled by her drug abuse. While going through a terrible phase in her life, Cheryl decides to hike the 1,100 mile long Pacific Crest Trail. She subjects herself to the physically gruelling trail and provides glimpses from her life that led her to the hike, capturing many beautiful moments in a beautifully felt narrative.
4. Falling off the Map: Some Lonely Places of the World – Pico Iyer
Travel writing legend Pico Iyer’s essay collection is about his travels, as the title suggests, in some of the lonely places of the world. Richly insightful and extremely entertaining, Iyer’s travels take him to far off corners of the world – North Korea, Iceland, Paraguay and Cuba.
5. The Road
If you are into reading apocalyptic novels, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road is quite your type of book. This novel is set in a post-apocalyptic world and follows the struggles of two survivors – a father and a son. McCarthy dedicates the book to his son John Francis McCarthy and the novel derives its roots from a road trip he took with his son.
6. Beautiful Ruins
The title for Jeff Walter’s Beautiful Ruins sits quite well with the book’s narrative and setting. Set in 1962 Italy and present day Hollywood, the narrative switches places and characters following the life of Pasquale and the mystery Hollywood actor Dee Moray who arrives at his doorsteps on a boat, seemingly to die. Walter’s writing evokes visually rich imagery and the book is quite, ahem, unputdownable.
5. Eat, Pray, Love – Elizabeth Gilbert
Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestseller memoir gets trashed a lot but it is quite amazing what she did with this book. With a cynical eye and never letting an opportunity slip up to laugh at herself, Gilbert’s entertaining account of her travels in Europe (Italy) and Asia (India, Indonesia) is quite a travel companion. And I read it when I was in Bali just so I could get a feel of the place through Gilbert’s voice.
Do you read during your travels? Have you read any of these books? What are your thoughts? Leave a comment.