My husband often teases me about how I can never leave the house without at least two books and a magazine or two. They’re my safety. And it’s always been that way, wherever I go, I have something to read. Or really more than just one something to read, because what if I finish? What if I’m in the mood for something else? Even if we’ll be gone less than an hour, I have to be prepared. I mean every other reading fiend, literary nerd, bookaholic and writer knows my pain, right? Or at least every person who could be classified as these things and is always riding shotgun can (I don’t drive).
When I was a wee little person (I was seven) I wanted to take two library books on some errands with my parents. They were both Encyclopedia Brown books, and I had just started the first one. Both of my parents gave me the hardest time, “You’re never going to read both of them. You’re not even going to finish the first one.” And a heated discussion ensued culminating in a bet. I could bring both books, and if I finished the first and started the second they would give me $100 and never question me about bringing two books again. If I lost, I would be limited to bringing only one book with me for the rest of time. It was on!
I am happy to report that I did finish the first book, and finished the first mystery of the second. My parents quizzed me on the book after investigating it themselves to make sure I actually read it, and didn’t just say I had. I passed, and while I never did get the money, not even in a college/savings account, they never gave me a hard time when I wanted to bring two books with me, ever again. (Of course three is another story…)
My husband doesn’t question me when we go out and I have two or three books with me, but when we travel it’s another story. If we’re flying, I am really good about limiting how many books I take. I only fill one small carryon with books (so maybe ten to sixteen) and then of course I have four stuffed in my laptop bag, and another one or two stuffed in my husband’s laptop bag. Hey, if we’re flying we’re going to be gone for at least eight days, but it’s usually closer to ten to twelve days. That means I might only have two books per day! That’s a very big deal.
If we’re driving, like we’re doing for this trip (going to the AWP in Minneapolis and stopping off in Nebraska on the way for a quickie visit to see a few relatives and my bestest friends who live there) I tend to be a little bit more liberal with the books I bring. (And my husband is a little more forgiving, but not without his commentary.) This trip I brought about thirty-six. They filled a much larger carryon, a big tote bag, and then I had three others on my person.
The night before we left, when we were loading the car, my husband who had said he didn’t care how many books I brought with me, had to ask anyway, “You’re not possibly thinking you’re going to read even half of these books?” It was a challenge, a dare, but also a point. Because I really wasn’t. But I pointed out to him, whether or not I intended to was irrelevant. I bring the amount of books that I do because I don’t know what I’ll feel like reading, so I have a few memoirs, a few thrillers, a few contemporary novels, a few nonfiction books on various topics, some guilty pleasure reading, and a few craft books. What’s wrong with that?
I mean this isn’t like when I was seven. Whether we’re flying or driving, I never think I’m going to read all of the books that I take. In fact I don’t even think I’ll read half of them, because we always travel for a reason whether it is visiting or for work, etc. so there is always plenty to do. But I don’t know what I’ll be moved to read when I get the time. Will I want something funny? Or something thrilling? Or something true? Do I want to read something insightful? Or learn about something new? Or should I read a book on craft or publishing or something else work related? The idea that I have to choose and hope that I’m right is too much pressure. I mean I’m not psychic, if I was I would have already won the lottery and averted certain disasters.
But I know what you might be thinking, thirty-six books for a nine to ten day trip, is still just a tad excessive, but this trip is different. I don’t usually bring thirty-six books with me on a road trip, I probably only bring twenty-something with me. But unlike most road trips, this one involves multiple stops and a total of twenty-seven hours in the car, instead of just fifteen. So there’s one reason. And here’s another – I am going to a huge national writing conference and book fair. I am attending events and panels and seminars and such with many writers, and guess what that means… sixteen of the books I’m bringing are for the conference. They’re either written by panelists and other speakers whose events I’ll be attending or recommended reading for the subject matter that will be discussed. It’s research people! And work, and how can I be faulted for being prepared and “read up” on the subjects and/or people I’ll be dealing with at this convention. I like to think of that as just plain smart. 😉
I mean what better excuse than to go a little book crazy than going to a major writing convention that is going to feel like an entire writing residency that is squeezed into four days, and then a giant book fair – the largest I have ever been to? I mean if there was ever a time to be book crazy this seems to be it. How can I not take advantage of that? 😛