Car Books

When my wife and I travel by car, we often share a book. She reads; I drive. For this trip, she had several choices, including a book I bought in Houston a few weeks ago. I never expected we would get to it, but we did. The first book turned out to be a slow starter, and we abandoned it after less than an hour. The second book started yesterday evening and lasted a while this morning, but was too complicated. The third book caught us in its spell within a few pages, and made me buy a second book by the same authors so we would have something to read on the way home.

We discovered this way to spend time many years ago, but the pinnacle of our efforts was David Copperfield, which we started on a trip to Idaho and didn’t finish until after we got home. Nearly 4,000 miles of Dickens. It was wonderful.

That was what made our decision to drop the second book on this trip so difficult. The book was The Pickwick Papers, and we hoped it would last us the whole trip. But 90 pages in, we realized we would have to be on the road for a month to get through the flowery words and endless descriptions of trivial events in the lives of the characters.

Why do some authors captivate us this way? How can an author get better over time? Is it enough to just keep writing, or must one have talent and resilience? David Copperfield was a superb example of character development, with stories that kept us interested for several weeks. When we weren’t driving, each of us read other books, but as we got closer to home, we took turns reading Dickens to each other during means, and in the evening before falling asleep in our tiny little camper. There were still dozens of pages remaining when we got home, so we took turns finishing the story.
I want to tell stories that are like David Copperfield. Today, I heard a book that gave me dozens of ideas about how I could change the world. I can’t wait to finish it.

But I won’t tell anyone what we were reading until we finish it. I don’t want to second guess myself so that I have to come back and update one of these posts. I think the wait will be worth it for all of us.


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