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Ben Ehrenreich's travel books

May 28, 2008 | 11:55 am


L.A.-based writer Ben Ehrenreich is a novelist and journalist. "The Suitors," his first novel, is loosely based on "The Odyssey," so we thought he might know something about journeys. With books.

Jacket Copy: Assuming you bring books with you when you travel, go on vacation, how do you determine how many? Is it a careful calculation or something less scientific?

Ben Ehrenreich: Mainly I cram books into every available space in my bags, take half of them out, then sneak half of those back in. I live under the hopeful illusion that I will have far more time to read than I ever end up having.

JC: Have you ever been stranded with nothing to read?

BE: Yes. Most memorably, I had been reporting in Afghanistan, had a stopover in Dubai on the way home. I realized as I stepped onto the plane back to Los Angeles that I had not only packed my sleeping pills in my checked bags, but all my books. I spent the next 20-some hours awake, staring at the seatback in front of me.   

Read Ben's reading list after the jump.

Carolyn Kellogg

JC: When you travel, do you make time to write as well as read?

BE: Yes, but usually just for scribbling in notebooks.

JC: Do you bring reading material that's thematic?

BE: If I'm traveling somewhere interesting for the first time, yes — I try to bring books about that place, both novels and nonfiction. Otherwise, it's whatever I grab on the way out of the house that I've been meaning to read and isn't too bulky.

JC: Do you have a list of books from a recent (or upcoming) trip that you'd care to share?

BE: I'm away from home right now, spending two weeks at an artists' residency just outside San Francisco. This is hardly representative, because I drove here and didn't have to worry about hauling bags around, so I felt free to indulge in overkill. I brought: a dictionary and a paperback copy of Roget's, four books (novels and essays both) by Edward Dahlberg, Paco Ignacio Taibo's biography of Che Guevara, Raymond Roussel's "Locus Solus," which I've been meaning to read for years, a new Samuel Delaney novel ("Dark Properties"), the Brian Evenson novel "The Open Curtain," Gao Xinjian's "Soul Mountain" and two collections of poetry — César Vallejo and the Iraqi poet Abdul Wahab al-Bayati. One week in, I'm simultaneously reading "Soul Mountain," one of the Dahlberg novels ("From Flushing to Calvary"), and the Delaney and Evenson, haven't touched the others. Except for the Taibo, which is propping up my laptop.