Five Books to Take Traveling

by a contributor

from Michelle Donahue, author of the contest-winning story an asp with no [AS]s:

  1. Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino – This book satisfies cravings for both poetry and prose and really is a perfect travel book. As you explore new cities you’ll feel much like a new age Marco Polo and perhaps this book will persuade you to look at the cities you visit as magical places with intense possibilities.
  2. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood – Apart from Atwood’s always fantastic prose and dry wit, this end of the world dystopia will make you appreciate the people around you. Even if they’re loud and drunk at 3 in the morning and you’re trying so desperately to sleep, Oryx and Crake will make you appreciate their company. Added bonus: even if you’re tired (because you had to wake up at 5 am and those around you were loud until 3), and your shuttle didn’t come, and you’re lost, and you’re hungry…at least your life isn’t as bad as Snowman’s.
  3. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand – Now I’m sure you’re arching your eyebrows in disbelief and thinking really, Rand? But hear me out. Whether or not you’re an Objectivist (I’m not) or really like reading 50+ page speeches (I don’t) Atlas Shrugged is the ideal book to bring with you on a long journey. Why? What if your locker in your 12-person shared dorm is a little out of reach? Atlas Shrugged makes the perfect stepping stool. Or what if a man is coming at you with a machete? Chuck this long book at him and it’s sure to concuss him. This book is both a weapon and a tool. And who knows, during a 9-hour bus ride you might grow bored enough to start reading it.
  4. East of Eden by John Steinbeck – I always look for long, paperback books to take with me while traveling, and this fits the bill. But more importantly, it’s a fantastic read, and in my opinion, Steinbeck’s best work. Plus it’s a classic, but not too literary—people will think you’re smart but not pretentious if you’re reading this book.
  5. A Guide Book to Wherever You’re Going – Frankly, this is optional. I’m the kind of traveler that does a lot of research about the culture/history of the places I’m going and almost none about where I’ll be staying and how I’ll get from A to B. But even so, I’m not convinced you need a guide book. Nearly every hostel has one and almost every traveler does too, so it’s always easy to take a quick look at one if you need to. Plus without one, sometimes you stumble onto magical places few tourists go.