If there is one thing I love more than travelling; it is reading a good book. I will read anything from biographies to cookbooks, but nothing comes close to the enjoyment of a well-crafted novel. When you are on the road or in the air, having a book to read is a priority for me. These days, I have an e-reader which I take everywhere. It gives me the flexibility to carry multiple books without the weight considerations of a pile of books.
I still read traditional books; it’s hard to beat with the feel of a real hard copy in your hands. Back in 2005, I was in Vienna, Austria about to catch a train to Prague in the Czech Republic. I stopped in a local bookshop and looked in the English language section for a book for my journey. There was not a great deal of choice and I ended up choosing The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton. If you are not familiar with the book, it is a coming of age novel, usually in the young adult fiction category. I doubt I would have chosen this book had there been more choice, but the limited selection pushed me out of my comfort zone, which is good in a way.
The train journey took just over four hours and was just enough time to finish the book, with an occasional break or two. Arriving in Prague, I felt a great sense of achievement and really enjoyed the book. It made me consider the potential fulfilment and benefits of reading shorter books when travelling.
The Outsiders is considered a short novel at 45,240 words. Novels are generally anything over 40,000 words but the definitions for differ by organisation. I began to read novellas while travelling, which are in between short stories and novels. A novella generally has a word count of between 17,500 to 40,000 words. With the average person able to read at 250 words per minute (WPM), a novella has enough content to keep you going for a few hours and is a great alternative to watching an inflight movie.
Below I have compiled a list of six novellas which you should be able to read in –
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
Word count: 33,550 words
How long will this take to read? 2 Hour 14 Minutes at 250 WPM
The House on Mango Street is the story of teenage Latina, Esperanza Cordero, who struggles with her life of poverty in Chicago. Told in a series of vignettes – sometimes heart-breaking, sometimes deeply joyous – she imagines who and what she will become. A very touching book and extremely poignant today as it explores the plight of marginalised Latinos struggling to survive in a dominantly white country.
The Call of the Wild by Jack London
Word count: 26,535 words
How long will this take to read? 1 Hour 46 Minutes at 250 WPM
A story of survival in the frozen Alaskan Klondike, the book centres on a dog called buck who is stolen from a ranch in California and sold as a sled dog in Yukon, Canada. The story is based on London’s own experiences as a gold prospector in the Canadian wilderness. A great travel book with themes of isolation, struggle for existence, and an unbreakable spirit.
The Pearl by John Steinbeck
Word count: 29,280 words
How long will this take to read? 1 Hour 57 Minutes at 250 WPM
This story is about a poor family of pearl divers, who discover an extremely valuable pearl. The book explores topics such as human nature, greed, defiance and social and cultural norms. How a happy family living a simple life can be destroyed by too much wealth. Steinbeck based the story on a Mexican Folk Tale he had heard in the pearl rich coastal region of La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico.
The Time Machine by H. G. Wells
Word count: 28,670 words
How long will this take to read? 1 Hour 54 Minutes at 250 WPM
The original time travel story that spawned them all and the book that started H. G. Wells career. You would expect a Victorian era science fiction story to age poorly, but it is timeless (excuse the pun). I first read this book in my English literature class at school and chose to re-read it on a flight to Kuwait and I enjoyed it just as much now as I did the first time. A rare achievement.
Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
Word count: 30,500 words
How long will this take to read? 2 Hour 2 Minutes at 250 WPM
A simple book with a lot of wisdom. Hesse wrote the original version in German and uses very simple languages making this book quick and easy to read. Siddhartha is a common man looking for enlightenment. He loses himself in a materialistic world of drinking, gambling, and fornicating, and becomes a successful businessman but remains deeply unhappy. Eventually, he leads a simple life on the river and looks for meaning in his existence. I hope everyone can take something from this book.
The Stranger by Albert Camus
Word count: 36,830 words
How long will this take to read? 2 Hour 27 Minutes at 250 WPM
In The Stranger the main character and narrator of the story, Meursault, is a French Algerian who is absurdly indifferent. He is a stranger in his own society and his indifference leads to great complications that highlight how people are expected to act. A man who doesn’t cry at his mother’s funeral will almost certainly be convicted of murder given the opportunity. So much hidden meaning and thought-provoking content in such a short book. Worth every word