Reading on the road

We need to talk about books and all things bookish. ‘Cos whether you’re a book nut like me or only read on rainy days, it’s something that can enhance your travel life. Don’t believe me? Then walk this way.

It’s almost 10 years since I unwrapped a Christmas pressie and posed for a photo with a Kindle eReader in a bright red cover. That device has been re-homed along with the 300 or so titles I downloaded, and replaced with a newer model. I now do most of my reading on a smartypants phone. And that includes listening to audiobooks.

Yeah, I go through data. Heaps of it. It’s a good investment for a wanderlife. My cargo rocks a mobile phone, tablet, laptop, eReader, Apple TV, Garmin GPSr (for geocaching), chargers and cables, and a couple of subscriptions. I have print copies of the Weed Foragers Handbook and Wild Food Plants of Australia (Tim Low) in the glovebox. Good resources for roadside plant identification. And a puzzle magazine indoors to keep busy when not solving geo-mindbenders.

You may not be as bookish as me, but you’ll want something for downtime. There are a few ways I get my reading fix.

  • Guess I’m getting lazy or my eyes are getting tired, as these days I download more audiobooks than any other format. My tip is to join a public library in your home state as they have thousands of digital books available to download – audio and ebooks.
  • I’m a member of Brissy libraries and it uses the Borrow Box app. You can browse the electronic shelves by category, author and so on. And reserve titles that are checked out to another library user. There’s even a reading list feature for people like me, so you can save favourite titles for a rainy day.
  • I download multiple titles as usually read more than one book at a time, and quickly return those that don’t interest me after a few pages. The wonderful thing is the returned books are immediately available to other library users. No more standing in queues! Once downloaded your books can be read offline. Saving your wifi data and your sanity in remote locales.
  • I also use an eReader that stores thousands of books, and these can be stored in folders for easy browsing. You can download the Kindle app to a mobile or iPad. I rarely buy titles these days. It’s hardly worth it for a novel you’ll only read once. And I read heaps of non-fiction which my mother finds disturbing – all books are fiction, are they not?
  • I buy the occasional reference book and have it posted to me. The Weed Foragers Handbook is a valuable piece of car kit. I also have the PlantSnap app on the iPad.
  • I listen to audio books on long road trips. Just for an hour or so. Use the media button on the car stereo and your mobile can stay plugged into the USB port. This is personal preference, but I play books at a lower volume than music. And, no, it doesn’t interfere with my driving or concentration. Flick on the app before pulling on to the road. Beats the endless cycling of a worn-out playlist.
  • The first audiobook I listened to was Unravelling Oliver, which is narrated with a full Irish cast. It was a fab read and changed my attitude to listening to books. And believe me, the narrator is as important as the story. There are some audiobooks you’ll want to return, and re-borrow as ebooks.
  • Another ebook to get your ear in, is the Children Act (Ian McEwan), which I couldn’t get into on paper. The narrator reads the roles of both the female court justice and a teenage boy. It’s an intense story. Anything authored by Jodi Piccoult also falls into this genre, and makes for satisfying listening.
  • I recently listened to The Hunger, by Alma Katsu, which is loosely based on a true story. A wagon train packed with American pioneers sets off for California. Things don’t go well. A chilling audiobook, beautiful narrated. But I won’t spoil it for you.
  • My own title, The Recycled Bride (A.L. Hayes), is available online in ePub format. I wrote this novel as a NaNoWriMo project, drafting 55k words in 27 days. You’ll find it at and in the Apple, and Barnes & Noble bookstores. It would translate well to the audio format. Maybe that’s a project for a rainy day, eh?

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