Traveling is awesome. Seeing new places, meeting new people. It’s one of the many things I wish that I had the time and money to do more often. Instead, I spend most of my time studying, working, and, worst of all, commuting.
I don’t think that you’ll find a sane person out there that will claim to love commuting. Sitting a vehicle, doing nothing for more than an hour at a time, and double that if you’re on public transportation… all to go to a place you don’t particularly want to go to. Blech.
Still, if there is one thing that all this commuting has taught me, it’s how to make the most of this dead time. One of my favorite activities to do during long, boring spaces of dead time, aside from whipping out my jackpot casino login, is reading. Now, I’m actually one of those people who can’t read during car or bus rides- something about the subtle motion of the situation while trying to read makes me nauseous. But I LOVE reading and HATE boring commutes! So what to do?
My alternative is podcasts and audiobooks. I get the experience of reading, but I get to immerse myself in the dulcet tones of amazing voices like Jim Dale. Just plug your headphones, crank up that audiobook or podcast (since everyone seems to have their own podcast these days), and get all the entertainment of reading without the nausea!
Or, if you’re thankfully unaffiliated by this problem, just enjoy your book. Whatever floats your boat. Either way, here are my favorite books to read while on the go. Go!
PS: I did try to think of novels outside of the sci-fi and fantasy genre, but peering through my library made me realize just how limited my taste apparently is. Oh well. I’ll have to work on that…
The Thrawn Trilogy, by Eric Zhan
To be honest, I was torn whether or not this place should go to Eric Zhan’s “Thrawn Trilogy” or if it should to Orsen Scott Cards “Ender’s Game”. They’re both really good, and I absolutely recommend both of them. However, for this list, I wanted books that were easy to digest, and Ender’s Game is not that. It’s mostly due to Orson Scott Card’s writing style, which lays everything out very thick.
So instead, I opted for the Thrawn trilogy- and no, I do not mean the Legends rewrite that Zhan wrote at Disney’s behest. I mean the original Thrawn Saga, which is thankfully unconnected to the Disney Star Wars Sequel trilogy.
In it, fan-favorite characters, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leah, Han Solo, Lando Calrissian, and a number of other characters (both familiar and new) must battle against everything that “The Force Awakens” conveniently ignored: The post-war economy of a republic founded in battle, competing Rebel factions, piracy, subterfuge, and the remnants of the Empire still fighting for its own survival.
The Empire gets its second wind when Thrawn steps into the open: A genius imperial warlord of the rank of Grand Admiral, who always seems to be three steps ahead of our heroes. He has got the Palpatine’s intellect, with Darth Vaders ambition, but without the sadistic, cruel style of leadership. His soldiers are loyal, his machinations are machiavellian, and if you’re a fan of Star Wars, you’ll love this charismatic, conniving villain.
The Way of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson
Now, Brandon Sanderson has got to be one of the biggest, if not the biggest, names in fantasy at the moment. With George R.R. Martin having all but abandoned his magnum opus, there really aren’t many other authors at the moment taking the big stage in the fantasy world at the moment (There probably are, but if I haven’t heard of them, how big can the really be? I’m joking, obviously. Heh heh heh..)
Now, I’m actually a latecomer to Sanderson’s “Stormlight Archive”, and I’ve scratched the surface in terms of Sanderson’s entire Cosmere universe and his books in general. In fact, his only non-fantasy story I have read is “Steelheart”, which a Superhero novel. Actually, it’s a pretty good one, too… but I’m going off on a tangent.
What really separates the Way of Kings for me from a lot of other fantasy novels is Brandon Sanderson’s prose. While it certainly isn’t the most evocative I have ever read, his style is very efficient and very easy to sink your teeth into, without having to concentrate hard on convoluted sentences, complex Proper-nouns, and bloated descriptions.
Basically, the exact opposite of how I, at the moment, am currently writing (Hey, four cents a word adds up!). Basically, I wanted this list to comprise books that are very easy to get into, rather than books that need a lot of time and attention. I really wanted to recommend “Perdido Street Station”, but had to chuck it for that exact reason.
“The Way of Kings” follows three major protagonists. Kaladin, the son of a surgeon and a slave that’s forced to haul bridges so that armies can cross ravines to battle the enemy. Shallan, a quiet, studious girl who’s desperate to save her family from debts by stealing a magic bracelet from the King’s Sister. Last but not least, Dalinar Kolin (my favorite). A drunken warlord turned honorable general after his brother, the previous King, was assassinated.
Their stories begin to converge when Dalinar, frustrated by the game that this war against their enemies, the mysterious Parshendi, has become, decides to do something about it. Kaladin strives to find hope and salvation from his miserable existence. Shallan tries desperately to impress Jasnah, sister to the King, stoic logician, and respected scholar. Magical shenanigans happen. Did I mention that Dalinar is the best?
The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien
If you’re looking for an easily digestible and fun set of novels, then I do NOT recommend The Lord of the Rings. While considered by many to be some of the best fantasy novels of all time (and heck, they basically created the genre as we know it today), I actually haven’t successfully read through them. I dunno.
Maybe if I were to take another whack at ’em, things might be different, but I found them long, arduous, and hard to follow. Again, taking another stab at them might change my mind on that, but that was my impression when I first tried to read them.
By contrast, The Hobbit is happy, creative, and fun. It’s written like a children’s book, actually, and is very much tonally at odds with its far more serious successor, The Lord of the Rings. In it, Gandalf tricks trolls by putting on a false voice, golf is a known sport that was invented after a goblin king got his head chopped off, and Bilbo Baggins is basically peer pressured into going on the adventure.
The Hobbit is fun, charming, and a classic. It’s easy to pick up, and speaking of which, you should definitely pick it up if you haven’t already.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
To round off the sci-fi quota of this list, I recommend Douglas Adam’s amusing “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”. While most science fiction tries to speak of big ideas or grand space battles, Hitchhiker’s settles for just being fun. The inception of the novel is as funny as the novel itself.
The story goes that Douglas Adams, who loved Hitchhiking himself, was hitchhiking around Europe in 1971, with a copy of the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to Europe. While lying drunk in a field near Innsbruck and gazing up at the stars, Adams had an epiphany: Wouldn’t it be a really good idea for someone to write a hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy as well?
Whether or not the story is true, I have no idea. Adams himself claims to not remember the incident and only knows of it because he has told the story so many times. Either way, that kind of life and character can be found all throughout the Hitchhikers Guide the Galaxy, which will have you clutching at stitches in your side from laughing.
The story follows Arthur Dent, a bumbling Englishman who escapes Earth when an alien race known as The Vogons fly into Earth’s atmosphere and prepare to blow up the Earth to install a new, intergalactic superhighway.
Arthur and his friend Ford have an adventure across the galaxy, meeting wacky characters like Zaphod Beeblebrox, a depressed robot named Marvin, and Trillian, the only other Earth woman to survive Earth’s destruction. Together, they fly across the galaxy on a ship known as “The Heart of Gold” by way of the ship’s improbability drive- a type of engine that gets you to where you want to go by the power of the sheer improbability of you being there!
The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy is hilarious, snarky, and wildly creative.
Harry Potter, by J.K. Rowling
I don’t even know why I’m even going to bother describing this book. Odds are, you have probably heard of this multi-million dollar franchise. If you haven’t, where the heck is that rock you’ve been living under for the past three decades because I’d like to take a vacation there.
Nevertheless, I felt that I had to add Harry Potter to this list because of the sheer amount of times I’ve read through and listened to the series. My family would all pack into the car and drive an hour or two to visit family in another state, and so to satiate four bored boys, my parents would check out audiobook CDs from the local library (imagine that, eh?), and play them during the trip. Suddenly, the long car trip to grandmas house didn’t seem so bad when Jim Dale’s voice was pumping gently through the speaker.
Harry Potter is the story of a young boy, left orphaned, apparently, by a tragic accident, and forced to live with his abusive Aunt and Uncle. His life gets flipped upside down when a friendly giant named Hagrid breaks down the door and informs Harry that his parents were actually murdered, that he’s been accepted to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and that Harry himself is actually a wizard. All of that on his eleventh birthday. Cripes, I remember how hopeful I was to receive a letter from Hogwarts on my eleventh birthday…
Harry Potter is my nostalgia comfort zone and one of my favorite stories to listen to while traveling. It’s easy to read, even easier to listen to, and can be dipped in and out of without any trouble. I highly recommend Jim Dale’s audiobooks, but I know many people love the Stephen Fry reading instead. Everyone has their own preferences, so whichever makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside, go for that one.