This is starting to feel like a semi-annual blog post, but one that I feel is necessary as the task near stumps me every time.
I’m heading to Santiago, Chile, for the Homeless World Cup (HWC), an annual event that uses football to tackle homelessness, and one I attend each year.
Some of you may recall I’ve been to Santiago before. I stopped in there on my way to the HWC in 2010, which was hosted in Rio de Janeiro. The reason you may recall it is because I vastly underestimated my reading excitement and finished my books by, oh, just about the time I had landed.
That left me three weeks essentially book-less and no amount of scouring the Spanish- and Portuguese-penned books stocked in Chilean and Brazilian bookshops could assuage my reading hole. I can’t read Spanish or Portuguese well enough to devour books in those languages with gusto and, well, let’s just say I deeply regretted not having an electronic reading device right about that time.
This time around I have an iPad Mini, so if I get desperate I’ll be able to download some books. But truthfully, I still probably lean towards physical book copies—not because I’m a technophobic luddite, but because I honestly forget which books I already own if I can’t see them on my shelf.
Literally. I inadvertently bought both an electronic and physical copy of The Queen of Katwe because of this memory flaw. Come to think of it, I’ve actually not read either copy. Which perhaps means that one should most definitely be included in the books-to-pack pile.
One of the books I took to Santiago last time was Race of a Lifetime, which dissects to an extraordinary level of detail the election campaign that would eventually see Barack Obama elected America’s first African-American president.
In my defence, it’s an absolute tome of a book, which misled me into thinking reading it would take a while. I underestimated the skilful, un-put-downable storytelling contained within it, which saw me inhale the book in a few short sittings, begrudging even the time it took to eat or go to the bathroom as that was valuable time not spent engulfed in the tale. If you haven’t read this book yet, read it, read it, read it.
Poe Ballantine’s Love & Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere is likely on the might-make-it-on-the-plane list. I heard him in conversation with ABC Radio’s Richard Fidler and he was outstanding, his writing style exquisite.
The same goes for Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, although I also have to add the addendum that her writing, though crafted as if directly from some genius, ethereal muse, tends to require quiet-time and quiet-mind reading, which the inside of an aircraft on a long-haul flight doesn’t lend itself to.
I should probably get round to finishing Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers, but I feel that the book’s topic and even more so the book’s finely wrought writing might destroy me. When I grow up I’d love to write books like and on topics like Boo does. But I’m not sure I’ll ever grow up or master writing something so delicate and simultaneously uplifting and wrenching, so it’s arguably best I never finish the book and therefore never subject myself to feeling inadequate in her shadow.
Which leaves me with such books as Cocaina and The Candy Machine (debatably either appropriate or inappropriate given that I’m heading to home-of-cocaine South America), Tampa (probably too raunchy for reading in public), Even Silence Has An End (again, a little too close to home with stories of kidnapping in South America), and The Coke Machine (which I know I need to read, but which I also know will mean I have to give up my one and only vice: Coke Zero-delivered caffeine).
So I’m putting it out there instead: I leave in exactly seven days. What would you recommend me packing to see me through flights to and from, and my stay in, Santiago?