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The Vacation Paradox: The Long Car Trip vs. My TBR Pile

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I long for a vacation during which I can do nothing but read for long hours. But the bulk of this Fourth of July vacation that is not spent with relatives – whom I dearly love, don’t get me wrong – will be spent barreling down the highway. And no reading will be possible for me there.

While I can text in a car speeding down the highway, as a passenger, mind you – I’m breaking no laws here – I confess I must look at my phone (not like my son, who can text by feel, apparently). And I still have to look up often enough to find my horizon, and so that my phone jumping around does not give me a headache, or worse. You see, I get carsick if I can feel the motion.

So I cannot read a book in a car. Except once. We rented a car to drive to Indiana, because we were too cramped in my little Mazda, with three of us for that long ride. And I don’t remember what kind of car it was, but it must have been the smoothest ride, because I read most of The Prizewinner of Defiance, Ohio in it on the way back. Without even realizing it, I read in a moving car. And what a multi-tasking glory that was!

But do you think that I will be able to do that over this next holiday weekend, as we drive 10 hours to St. Louis? No. We will be in my trusty Mazda. And much as I love my little car about town, it is not a highway cruiser. Too much road noise, too many bumps.

So I will run up against the vacation paradox: hours of time in which I must do nothing, while my tottering TBR pile diminishes by only one or two volumes over the whole six day trip. I could read the whole award-winning book The Latehomecomer by Kao Kali Yang! I’ve been meaning to do that since I met the author in March. I could enrich my mind with The Shallows, and see what Laura Miller was talking about. I could dash off that manuscript critique due the week after we get back. Oh, so tantalizing…

All that time. And no reading to be done. Instead, it’s the Iowa cornfields that must furnish my storyline. Oh, I will grab an hour or two in the hotel at night, maybe. But not get much further on my summer goal of reading the bookclub selections that I missed over the winter. Or re-reading The Magicians by Lev Grossman. Or reading the new Erin Hart book, False Mermaid, when it finally comes up in my queue at the library. Or ditto for the second Stieg Larsson book, The Girl Who Played with Fire. I am seriously falling behind. I am in need of a real reading vacation.

The solution? Yes, I know, books on tape. Subject my family to my reading whims. No. Or take the train. But we need the car while we’re there to visit everyone. Rent that car again? I wish, not in the budget. Maybe it’s time for a new car…

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  • evelyn thomas

    I’m stuck at home for the weekend – you’ve inspired me to have a reading extravaganza.
    I’m off to the library in the morning! Thanks for the terrific idea!