It’s that time again! Every three years, I lead a trip to France, sponsored by my university. The students will be there all semester, and in a week I’m leaving for the three-week-long leg of the trip I organize, in beautiful Alsace. During my part of the trip, we’ll be staying in a hostel in Strasbourg for a week, and then the students will stay with host families for another two weeks while I live in a small apartment. I will have evenings and weekends mostly free — and of course, there are two transatlantic flights. I say this not to make you jealous, but to ask: what should I read?
Last time I asked this question, my situation was fundamentally different. I didn’t have an e-reader and wasn’t sure I wanted one. Now, I have a Kindle (and it’s even a rather old one) stocked, should this become necessary, with a lifetime of out-of-copyright classics. As long as my desert island has a way to charge the device, I have an inexhaustible source of pleasure. But there’s more to life than the out-of-copyright (or so they tell me.) Here’s my current, tentative list. Tell me what you think, and tell me what you would read on such a trip!
two thick 19th-century novels, one entertaining, one perhaps a little more somber: The Mayor of Casterbridge and The Small House at Allington. (I have a backup if one of these fails me: Little Dorrit is my Plan B.)
two works of nonfiction: How to Live, Sarah Bakewell’s quirky life of Montaigne, and Poetry and the Age, poetry criticism by Randall Jarrell.
two thrillers, to be discarded in France or on the airplane unless I adore them: Trauma, by Patrick McGrath, and The Hidden, by Tobias Hill.
two books of literary fiction I’ve been wanting to read for some time: Novelties and Souvenirs, by John Crowley, and To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf.
I’m considering adding something else, but I’m wavering. What’s your advice? How do you travel with, or without, books?