Moving books when on the move
July 17, 2017 5:41 AM   Subscribe

Which book(s) should I bring on a three-week solo hike?

I’m going on a hiking trip this summer. I will be walking a long-distance footpath and will be hiking every day for close to three weeks. This trip comes at a pivotal point in my life, at the end of two major chapters. My relationship has ended, and I’ve finished and defended my PhD. I'm hoping this trip will be somewhat cathartic in light of all that.

I’ll be walking alone and would like company in the form a book, or two. But I’m not sure which one(s) to bring. I’m looking for novels (so no non-fiction, I’ve had an overdose while 'dissertating') that will move me, set things in motion, just like the hike itself. But that’s rather a broad category, admittedly.

Some more details:
- I read Dutch, English and German (the hike is in Germany)
- Some authors I’ve really enjoyed in the past: Thomas Mann, Hermann Hesse, J.M. Coetzee, Virginia Woolf, W.F. Hermans,... (you can still suggest books by these authors)
- As I’ll be carrying these books every day, they should be available in a light paperback edition

I’m curious about your suggestions! Classics or hidden gems, I’m all ears.
posted by Desertshore to Media & Arts (19 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
All of them. On a kindle. (may need a small solar charger)
posted by sammyo at 5:59 AM on July 17 [13 favorites]

C. S. Lewis' "Space Trilogy." Reading that on a solo hike will mess with your head. Maybe in a good way, maybe in a bad way.

I second the suggestion to carry them electronically.
posted by adamrice at 6:05 AM on July 17 [2 favorites]

I know you say no non-fiction, but (prompted by the the context of your hike) would a couple of travel-related autobiographical trilogies be of interest...?

Laurie Lee (from rural England to the Spanish Civil War): Cider with Rosie, As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning and A Moment of War

Patrick Lee Fermor (from England to the Balkans): A Time of Gifts, Between the Woods and the Water and The Broken Road
posted by oclipa at 6:16 AM on July 17 [4 favorites]

Going to just go with my first instinctual response, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell. And yes, on an e-reader. Lighter than even one good length paperback. Enjoy the hike and the new life.
posted by Gotanda at 6:24 AM on July 17 [2 favorites]

Ooooh, you should take WG Sebald's The Rings of Saturn. It is a fiction meditation on a walking tour that he took, plus an exploration of some things about memory, death, colonialism and England. It's extremely engaging, definitely one of my travel books.

It might not be right for you, but I have also found that Robertson Davies's novel of psychoanalysis, The Manticore, is a good one to read at pivotal moments.
posted by Frowner at 6:25 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]

Patrick Leigh Fermor's A Time of Gifts
posted by gyusan at 6:27 AM on July 17 [3 favorites]

Also, and this will sound a little bizarre - if you like Virginia Woolf, might you be interested in Joanna Russ's novel The Female Man? It's seventies SF, but I had the weird experience of Never Having Read Any Virginia Woolf, picking up her essays and suddenly realizing that Russ's voice is obviously, intentionally Woolfean. (I mean, Russ, who was an English professor, talked about Woolf a great deal.)

On that note, have you read Villette, by Charlotte Bronte? Russ thought very highly of it and it is large and gripping.

Also, surely you have read Robert Musil? Some people like him a great deal. Not me, but he's very big on the whole modernity thing.
posted by Frowner at 6:28 AM on July 17 [2 favorites]

Les Miserables in its cheap 1488 page paperback edition (give yourself a break from screentime).
posted by fairmettle at 7:03 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]

The Razor's Edge by Somerset Maugham, particularly if you like Hesse.
posted by FencingGal at 7:09 AM on July 17 [3 favorites]

Since you read Dutch, look into the Dwarsliggers series, they are very compact and portable.
posted by Too-Ticky at 7:50 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]

I periodically reread Cat's Cradle while traveling, because it's lightweight yet though provoking and is about travel. "Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God."
posted by Candleman at 8:14 AM on July 17 [2 favorites]

I think a long trip is a good time to read Middlemarch.
posted by rdnnyc at 8:55 AM on July 17 [5 favorites]

Wild by Cheryl Strayed.

It's a woman on a long hike.
posted by mareli at 10:05 AM on July 17 [3 favorites]

Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy? Escapism at its best
posted by TravellingCari at 10:46 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]

I got a Kindle Paperwhite this year for exactly this purpose. I borrowed my husband's cell phone-sized solar charger for a week long trip in the Ozarks but didn't have to use it once. Read two full novels and still had battery power left to spare.

(Side note, I'm one of those people who prefers paper books and margin notes and dog-eared pages and so on. The weight limits for this trip were what convinced me to try out an e-reader for the first time. I found myself thinking, repeatedly, I should have done this years ago.)

Happy travels!
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 11:02 AM on July 17 [2 favorites]

I know this is lame, but don't you kinda have to take Hape Kerkeling's Ich bin dann mal weg? Tho I'd definitely only do that with the Kindle, not if that's the only one of two books.
posted by ClarissaWAM at 1:40 PM on July 17 [1 favorite]

I'm reading Neal Stephenson's "Anathem" for the second time now, and it's phenomenal. Rich, complicated alternate history (sort of) with lots of surprises and twists. However, it's paced like a action novel, which makes it easy to read a chapter or two every night.

Some other big novels that are easy and fun to read:

Jennifer Egan's "A Visit from the Goon Squad"

Jeffery Eugendes "Middlesex" (or any and all of his books)

I'm repeating the recommendation for a Kindle. It is small, light, durable, and goes a month or more between charges. I have the Kindle Paperwhite, which is high resolution and has a good adjustable internal light.
posted by Cranialtorque at 2:06 PM on July 17 [1 favorite]

Ditch the kindle: take two books:
100 Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
One empty moleskin and one mechanical pencil.
posted by the Real Dan at 3:47 PM on July 17 [1 favorite]

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