Why You Should Start Reading a Book Before You Leave for a Trip

Why You Should Start Reading a Book Before You Leave for a Trip

It’s nice to pack a little treat for yourself as you’re getting ready for a vacation. Maybe that’s a snack for the road, or an outfit you never wear at home but that will be perfect at your destination. And sometimes it’s a book you’re excited to read but haven’t cracked open. You might want to rethink that last one.

Digging into a new book on a long flight is a great way to make the hours go by, but it’s so much easier to scroll social media or play a phone game than to open up that book that’s at the bottom of your carry-on. Read the first chapter before you go, though, and if it’s any good, you’ll be hooked. It’s easy to jump into a book when you’re itching to know what happens next.

Starting the book before you leave will also help you vet whether it’s the kind of book you’ll actually want to read while you’re travelling. Some trips are serious enough you don’t want light reading. Nonfiction might be better than a goofy fantasy novel when you’re travelling for a funeral — or maybe you’re the kind of person who thrives on escapism, in which case it’s the other way around. And sometimes you want a fun, easy read, but accidentally picked up something else.

I packed Blair Braverman’s Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube for a Florida vacation last year. I thought it would be fun to sit by the pool reading about dogsledding or whatever arctic adventures would be contained within. I knew the author from her cheerful Twitter threads about the sled dogs she works with, and I’d heard her speak about more serious subjects on podcasts. This was going to be great.

But the book was not what I expected. I should have read the reviews to have a better sense of what I was getting into; it starts with an uncomfortable scene and goes on to say more about people than dogs. “I loved this book and if you want one that features fewer men and their feelings, goddamn write it yourself,” says one of the Goodreads reviews. It sounds like an excellent book, but not the one I was hoping to read. I returned home with my bookmark only a few chapters in.

By contrast, I was halfway through Brad Alan Lewis’s Assault on Lake Casitas before a trip. The cover features a photo of the author winning Olympic gold in rowing (men’s double scull), but the first few chapters have him swearing off that particular rowing event and struggling with his training. I was invested; I had to find out what happened next. I devoured the book, finishing it late one night in my hotel room.

It wasn’t until after these experiences that I found a Reddit post recommending that we all start our travel books before the trip as a matter of policy — and I think that’s a smart move. It’s like trying on clothes before you pack them: You don’t want to arrive at your destination with something that will be a bad fit.

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