Take a Look, It’s in a Book: What to Read on Tour

imagesIt is two weeks now until I leave on tour across Europe with Zucchini Drive, and there are still a number of things that need to be sorted out. First on the agenda: what books to bring.

I always bring books on tour. That’s not to say I always read each of the books I bring, but it’s always comforting to have them with me. In fact, I usually bring books everywhere I go, just in case an opportunity arises to sneak in a few pages. However, I often have a hard time narrowing down which book to give my time to, as is evidenced by my bedside table, on top of which is piled a dozen or so varied texts at any given time. To reign-in this indecisiveness, over the years I’ve developed a system to help me pare down the amount of books I carry with me to three at a time. This system mainly consists of classifying the books that I tend to read into three tiers, then limiting the books I bring with me to one of each of these tiers.

The first tier I could call the “heavy” tier.  This group of books are the most dense and challenging, and literally the heaviest. Even though I always have one of these books with me, they probably aren’t read as often as the others, since they usually require  a confluence of three things that I do not excel at: sobriety, well-restedness and ambition. But despite these limitations, it’s important to bring a “heavy” text with you. Sometimes when I’m in no shape to read at all,  I’ll hold one of these books open and stare blankly at the pages so that I can at least appear smart to people who (like me) are always trying to see what others are reading in public. Some favorite examples of mine from this tier would include the 19th century German Idealist Georg Hegel’s “Science of Logic” or James Joyce’s penultimate English-language novel “Ulysses.”

The second tier of books I might call the “intermediate” tier. These types of books are often novels, but can also be less challenging non-fiction books. The intermediate tier is good for when you’re maybe not in the best reading circumstances, such as in a car (motion sickness) or at sound-check, but you have a little bit of time to kill and are not totally blurry-eyed and scatter-brained from a crippling hangover. Examples of these types of books would be something like a Hemingway or Faulkner novel, or a book I borrowed recently from my friend Sam called “Rip It Up and Start Again,” written by an ex- senior editor of Spin Magazine, Simon Reynolds, about the post-punk movement in Europe and the US from 1978-84.

Finally, there are the “waiting-room” options. This tier of books would include stuff that is a little easier to deal with when you are maybe in rough-shape, which can tend to happen on tour, or when you don’t have much time to sit down and focus. For me, “waiting-room” books would be something like Canadian poetry, for example Al Purdy or bpNichol, or anything else that doesn’t require long intervals of concentration. That being said, I am well aware that some people have no time nor interest in poetry, which I can understand. We tend to live in an information-based culture, where we’d rather read about an influential poet than actually read an influential poet. I get it. In this case, another good option for “waiting-room” reads are magazines, like some of my current favorites Wax Poetics, or the Winnipeg-based mag “Canadian Dimensions.”

So these are the guidelines I have set up for myself. I plan to bring three books with me to Europe, one from each of these tiers that I have sketched out. Now I turn to you, and ask for any suggestions you may have for me in terms of books I should bring. I am looking specifically for books that would enhance my European experience, but that of course is up to interpretation.

For more on the European tour, including dates and venues, you can go here.


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