What I’m Reading on the Road

You might not know this about me, but in addition to being a travel junkie, I’m also a huge book nerd. I never go anywhere without a book and I’m usually knee deep in a couple of interesting reads.

This used to be a big pain in the butt when I was on the road and lugging 2 or 3 huge tomes around in my backpack. About a year ago I switched to Kindle and never looked back. While other book nerds look at me like I’m a traitor I seriously believe that an e-reader is absolutely essential for a heavy reader on the go. I’ve read something like 30 books since the start of 2012, which I would never have been able to do if I had to poke around english language book shops and pay premium prices for weathered paperbacks.

Anyways, I thought it would be fun to start a quarterly feature where I highlight the best books I’ve read on my travels. I read an eclectic selection of contemporary fiction, sci-fi, classics, memoir, popular nonfiction, true crime etc. The books aren’t necessarily travel-related but they’ll definitely keep you occupied on your next trip.

So here are the best books I’ve read so far in 2012:

The Monsters of Florence– Douglas Preston- A gripping account of the Monster of Florence, an Italian serial killer and the absolute circus that surrounded the investigation of his crimes. This is a must read for anyone fascinated by the Amanda Knox trial as it involves a lot of the same key players. After reading about the absurd and paranoid public prosecutors of Perugia I could not be more convinced of Knox’s innocence. Great, dramatic read.

The Fault in Our Stars -John Green- Earlier this year I went on a YA kick, and this was the best of the bunch. Technically it’s shelved in the teen section but it was so elegantly written that I think it holds up for an adult reading. It’s about two teenagers with cancer who fall in love. Sometimes you really need a nice cathartic emotional novel. Which is to say, only read this book if you want to sob uncontrollably on a bus somewhere in Argentina and have people stare at you.

When She Woke– Hillary Jordan- Margaret Atwood is one of my favorite writers, and this dystopian novel was very Atwood-eque. It describes a future where criminals have their skin dyed to match the nature of their crime- the main character is bright red, meaning she had an illegal abortion. A really interesting set-up, and I tore through this book while sitting on the beach in Montanita, Ecuador.

Heart Shaped Box– Joe Hill- Hill is actually Stephen King’s son, and he apparently inherited his father’s skills at scaring the crap out of people. This book, about an aging musician who buys a ghost over the internet, was gripping right until the last page. I read it on a bus in broad daylight on my way to New York and was still unnervingly spooked. I’ll be reading more from him.

The Age of Innocence– Edith Wharton- Fun thing about the Kindle: all of the classics are free! My device is loaded with DH Lawrence, Charles Dickens and other 19th and early 20th century greats. I remember watching the movie version of The Age of Innocence when I was maybe 14 and being totally swept up by the elegance of 1870’s New York high society and the sexiness of Daniel Day Lewis. I finally read the original and it holds up well and reads surprisingly modern for a novel written in 1920.

Marriage: a History, How Love Conquered Marriage– Stephanie Koontz- I will spare you the boatload of wedding related literature I’ve been reading in the past couple months but this one is interesting for betrothed and normal people alike. It’s a historical look at the institution of marriage- which began in many ways as a business arrangement and has only morphed in the last 100 years or so into an expression of romantic love. Really thought provoking help in understanding the nature of marriage and the way we look and talk about it today.

Feedback time: Do you like hearing my book suggestions? What’s the most interesting book you’ve read lately?

49 thoughts on “What I’m Reading on the Road”

  1. I love my books and will never give them up (despite them currently being in storage at my boyfriends place while I travel), but my kindle is a godsend for travel. I love being able to read my books or to get books about the places I’m travelling or by authors from the places I’m travelling without having to lug them around everywhere. If I absolutely can’t get a book on my kindle I will buy it and read it and send it home, but that’s only in dire circumstances. I’ll never travel without my kindle again. Thanks for the update on books your reading, I’ll definitely check some of them out!

  2. I am totally with you on the Kindle. I am a total book nerd, too and will pretty much read ANYTHING. (I do tend to draw the line at science fiction.. I’m not quite THAT nerdy… or at least I like to think so.) But I found myself reading so many crappy books while I was traveling — basically anything in English that I could get my hands on, usually whatever was free at the hostel.
    I finally bought a Kindle right before I moved to China and it’s been so awesome to actually be able to read books that I want to read. Although I have gotten a bit addicted to the one-click purchasing function… that’s been an expensive addiction, for sure!
    Now that I’m home, though, I’m pretty excited about being able to go to the library and read “real” books. There’s nothing quite like the smell of a good book!
    Oh, and I’d really suggest reading “Gone Girl” if you haven’t. So good & addictive!

    1. I really wish I’d had a kindle when I was in China- I remember spending something like $12 on some rando romance novel I read in a week. Desperate times.

  3. I’ve only read Fault so far (loved it!). So far the best books I’ve read in 2012 were Fault, Looking for Alaska, Divergent and Insurgent (#1 and 2 of a trilogy), Pandemonium (#2 of the Delirium trilogy), and the Her Royal Spyness series, Legend and The Night Circus.

  4. I went through a huge reading slump when finishing up my dissertation became critical, and I sadly haven’t been able to get back into the zone since as I’ve just been too inundated with travel planning. However, I LOVE to read, so I am really glad we’ll have both an iPad and our Sony eReaders on our big trip with us. I love knowing I have literally hundreds of books at my disposal and will always have a book to fit whatever mood I’m in!

    1. Mike has a Sony eReader and he really likes it. He’s using it to tear through the Hunger Games right now.

  5. I am that person who always brings 3-4 books when I’m backpacking and then by day 3 I hate myself and don’t want to carry them around anymore. I have yet to look into a Kindle but I know if I got one I would probably do nothing except read on it all day (I guess that wouldn’t be so bad though, compared to other things I could sit around doing all day?) Currently I’m really into Guy Delisle’s travelogues. He’s a graphic novelist and he’s lived in really cool places all over the world because his wife is in MSF. Right now I’m reading his book about Jerusalem…partly for fun, partly as research for my upcoming trip over there!

    1. I remember a very tense moment in Thailand when Mike made me choose which 1 of the 3 books I was carrying around to keep (he was tired of me whining about my pack). So glad those days are over!

  6. You’re right, I will have to get a Kindle at some point! It really would be practical for travel. So far this year, my favorite books have been The Night Circus and The Shoemaker’s Wife. Keep your recommendations coming!

  7. I am a big reader and live in Mexico, where buying English books is a tough proposition – so the Kindle is fantastic for me. I’ve had mine for probably four years and seldom read a regular book – well except for Spanish textbooks and cookbooks!

    I blog from Mazatlan, and did a blog post a few weeks ago with my favorite recent books, too. (Great minds run alike, right?) Thanks for the ideas by the way. Link to my post is below:


  8. Also a huge book nerd (this year’s book count so far is 31). Always love book suggestions! I’ve got a Nook with about 200 books on it, so I pretty much never have to stop reading. My favorites so far have been Stiff by Mary Roach (about things that are done with dead bodies), Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, and I just finished The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood.

    1. Oh I still hve my shelves and shelves at home. For me it was the choice between reading as much as I wanted or not getting to read much at all. So I chose the former.

  9. Love your book reccomedations Steph! I’m a massive book nerd too although I don’t have a Kindle yet. The hostel I’m staying in at the moment in Auckland has a huge bookshelf of books people have left or exchanged during their travels so I’m kinda set up while I’m here ๐Ÿ™‚

    I’m definitely considering getting a Kindle though ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Ooooh, some great suggestions here. I’m now going to head over to Amazon and spend a bunch of money โ€ฆ again. (I spend more on books than I do on rent and living in Thailand. Seriously.)

    The Fault in Our Stars was excellent and I’m with Sally on Gone Girl.

    1. These are like the 4th and 5th recc’s I’ve gotten on Gone Girl. Might have to go spend some money too…

  11. I haven’t been as active on my Kindle this year as I should be. So far I’ve only finished The Hunger Games, started Games of Throne but got side track with The Lost City of Z. Haha. Loving your list though. More reasons to spent $. Lol

  12. Love the book post! I will def. check out the one by Stephen King’s son. I, too, bought a Kindle for travel recently but I’m not catching on yet. LOL. I down loaded some books then a week later, during my weekly Saturday trip to the library, I proceeded to check out the same books!? I just need to get into the habit of grabbing my Kindle rather than the physical book. I do love the idea of having a ton of books on my tiny Kindle and put it in my carry on bag.

  13. Great suggestions! I remember reading a preview of When She Woke, but I couldn’t remember the title. I’ll definitely have to download it. I’m actually in the middle of a major Atwoodfest (seriously, most of the fiction on my Kindle is Atwood), but Cat’s Eye is really hard for me to read (why are girls so mean to one another???), so it’ll be good to have some good dystopian lit to fall back on.

    Also, I read How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran this weekend and it was absolutely amazing. Funny and empowering and just an all around great read.

  14. Awesome collections of books for the readers on the go. As of now, I am reading Don Snyder’s “The Cliff Walk”. I had been reading and re-reading Elizabeth Gilbert on my IPad while on the road, it enriches me to no ends, knowing how a woman feel on her life, her pursuits and by it, I perhaps made the best tutor for myself about women who beautifully pursues their own identity and living their dreams.

    Reading is an inspiring experience most specially if done on the road of unfamiliar places and face.

    Cheers! ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. Ohhhh I love this! Always looking for book recs, especially now that i have a Kindle too and tear through them ๐Ÿ™‚ Have read pretty much every Atwood book, so super interested in the Jordan book–and even though I’m not big on weddings, that marriage book looks super interesting! Will totally reference this next time I’m looking for something to read. My latest fave–The Night Circus!

  16. Book Nerds Unite! I read “The Fault in Our Stars” this year – definitely worth reading! Thanks for the other recommendations. This year I’ve read The Book Thief, Delicacy, Divergent (on waiting list @ my library for the follow up), Lunch in Paris (don’t read if hungry) and a bunch of Jennifer Lancaster (fun, mindless reading). I switch back btwn my Kindle & flipping thru pages. I don’t judge how anyone reads – a book is a book. ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. The Fault in Our Stars is one of my favorite YA novels, although I haven’t read it in years. I also really enjoyed When She Woke, especially since I always loved The Scarlet Letter, and the stories are very similar.
    I second the recommendation for The Book Thief, such a great book.
    I have yet to jump on the e-reader train, but if I know I’ll want one the next time I go traveling.

  18. What a fun post! I was so against the Kindle at first, but I inherited one from my dad and it’s been a great travel companion. Reading actual books is still nicer, but the convenience while traveling is unbeatable.

    My latest read is “Travels With My Donkey: One Man and His Ass on a Pilgrimage to Santiago” by Tim Moore, which is a fun one about the Camino de Santiago.

    Thanks for some good recommendations!

  19. *Sigh* I guess it’s time to face up to it–the Kindle (and other readers) may be a necessity for traveling light. I am a HUGE book lover, and I have been staunchly against anything that would kill printed books. But it is very difficult to pack just one bag for a trip, AND include books.

    I guess I’ll look into investing in an e-reader…but I’m still planning on buying printed books as well.

  20. This is a fantastic idea! I’m always looking for new reads and recommendations. I’m half way through The Beach at the moment by Alex Garland – having just left Thailand it felt like a good time to read it.
    I’ve also got Breakfast at Tiffanies lined up as well as some indie work and my own book coming out this weekend to re-read so I can start writing the second!
    Kindle’s are awesome for the traveller though, especially when I remember back to 2007 and coming back from Australia to England with 11 books in my suitcase!!

  21. I was a bit scared to read the comments in this post, like I need more reccs (My to-read list on GoodReads is in the 200’s right now).

    I am a sucker for book swaps when travelling. I try to keep my stash around 3, but when I come across a good batch of finds, I tend to go a little nuts. I love passing good books around, so everyone can read (Which is what happened on my Outback tour with The Kite Runner. By the end of the week, my copy had been passed around 3 times!) Can’t swap anything with a Kindle, etc.

    Though now that you can “check out books from the library” on those things, my mind has changed slightly.

      1. I just recently bought my first kindle (it will be hard to part with library books) but am interested in how you go about swapping books? If you’re willing to share I’d really appreciate it!

  22. Great recommendations here (from comments too).
    The Kindle is a traveler’s best friend!

    I recently enjoyed “Whatever You Do, Don’t Run: True Tales of a Botswana Safari Guide”

    Easy & funny read.

  23. I just got back from a five week trip in southeast Asia and I had the Kindle app on my iPod touch. It was super nice having all my electronics (besides a real camera) in one place because I used it for WiFi, music, texting and calling (with iMessage and FaceTime), and reading. I think I read three whole books and started a fourth? Not too many, but I also had one physical copy of a nonsense read which I swapped out a couple times. Fun! I suppose a Kindle Fire would serve the same purpose, but I like the storage capacity available on the iPod more than what the Fire offered at the time I was making my purchase. Hard to rely on the Cloud when you’re not sure when you’ll have WiFi!

  24. I’m a huge book nerd as well and always love reading about what others have read recently. The only one on this list that I’ve ever read is The Fault in Our Stars which I loved (even though it left me emotionally wrecked for a while). What other books did you read on your YA kick? That’s generally what I read, though I’ve been dabbling in some memoirs, travel books, and political non-fiction lately.

  25. I agree completely with having a Kindle when traveling–it makes life so much easier! And all those waiting times for buses & planes go so much faster when you can whip out your Kindle and buzz through an eBook. I adore mine, and I’ve also been burning through many reads! Great suggestion on “Monsters of Florence” I read it and it haunted me. A similar book, equally well-written, is “Devil in the White City” about a serial killer at his height during the world’s fair in Chicago. The classics are a joy to read, also!

  26. Yes! I love hearing people’s book suggestions. I’m also a book geek, currently reading The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. I annoyingly get carsick reading on buses, but recently found the perfect solution โ€“ talking books. For me, they are the ideal way to get through a long bus journeys.

  27. I love to read and am so happy I take the metro to work everyday so even when I am too busy to get any reading done in my free time I know I also gets 30 mins of reading in on the weekday commute. Currently reading “First They Killed My Father: A daughter of Cambodia Remembers” and really like it. It’s definitely a difficult read emotionally – almost came in to work in tears today after the part I read on the metro but I highly recommend it especially for travelers heading to Cambodia. With our rtw trip only a month away I’ve been reading a ton of travel/destination based books, but will have to switch gears to regular novels and add some of your books to my list!

  28. I completely agree on the kindle thing, while real books are awesome, the kindle is just so much more convenient. I love real books, but they’re heavy to hold (the ones I usually read anyway), it’s annoying in the beginning and end when one of the “ends” is huge and the other is tiny and they’re big to drag around. As well as you have to physically get a book, which takes time and is no fun when you’ve started a new series which is great, and you really want the next book, but you have to wait until you can get it. Kindle solves all this, it’s small, light, you can get books instantly anywhere and it’s just generally awesome! I’ve had mine for 6 months now, and read over 40 books so far, not counting the “real” books I’ve read during that time. In my opinion loving books and reading means loving the story and reading, what the text is printed on is irrelevant.

  29. Ooh, I read Heart Shaped Box when it first came out and loved it. I had no idea it was written by Stephen King’s son!

    I love the Kindle, I’m currently using it on my iphone and saving up for a proper Kindle. The only downside is the amount of “real books” I have that I need to repurchase for the Kindle! Going to cost me a fortune, before I even try anything new!

  30. I am dying for a Kindle! My birthday is coming up and I have been dropping major hints to my parents and boyfriend, so I’m hoping one of them will get one for me. I never really saw the need for one but now that I’m traveling I burn through books so quickly and then go weeks before finding a new one. My most recent read was “Tiger, Tiger” which is about a pedophile. Totally creepy but insanely good; I read it in one day.

  31. I loved Monster of Florence! Super creepy, though, and gives you a lot of insight into the system there.

    I was in Italy when the whole Amanda Knox trial went down, and all the Italian media was really promoting the devil worship theory at the beginning or whatever insanity it was that Mignini had been purporting. It was almost convincing.

    Fast forward to a couple years later when I read Monster of Florence, and finding out that he was the same inept prosecutor totally affirmed the total craziness of her trial (and it is so creepy that the killer hasn’t been arrested)!

  32. I’m such a book nerd and greatly tempted to read the Age of Innocence and the Monster of Florence. I love the classics AND any book set in a place I would love to visit…or a place I have visited (like Florence). I’ve downloaded loads of free classics to my iPad and purchased the kindle version of ‘The Travels of Marco Polo’ (the ultimate travel journal). Still working my way through it. Also, just finished two non e-books: ‘Monday Mourning’ by Kathy Reichs and ‘Letters from Paris’ a collection of letters written by the cousin of a friend (Interesting look at life in Paris in 1959 for a family from Texas). For me, one of the joys of travel is spending time in a used bookstore or book market anywhere in Europe. Great places for meeting interesting people ๐Ÿ˜‰

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