Later this summer John and I are spending 12 days on safari in Tanzania and Kenya. I’m not entirely sure how much time I will have for reading while we are there. The last time we were in Kenya I was in the travel business and we were on familiarization trip with a bunch of other travel agents and their spouses. Sometimes “fam trips” are deeply discounted, sometimes they are free, but they all require that the agent attendees participate in property visits, etc. so they can go home and better sell the product. The point of bringing all of this up is that on that fam trip we did game drives each morning and afternoon as well as some other activities, but the rest of the time we were carted around to look at other camps and resorts. My thought is that if you subtract out all of the travel agenty stuff there might end up being some time to read. There certainly won’t be any internet to distract me, although I will have to keep my eyes open for rogue snakes and such.
One of the quirks of a trip like this is that each person is strictly limited to 33 pounds (about 15 kg) of luggage. That means everything: clothes, shoes, toiletries, camera, binoculars, and yes, even books. For once the problem is not how many books I can fit in my luggage, but how much those books weigh. For those of you out there thinking “get a Kindle, dumbass”, well I really don’t know what to say to you except, that’s really not my thing.
Without having any idea of what a book might actually weigh I decided I would allow myself 2 pounds (or about 907 grams) of books. Then I got out my kitchen scale (which I noticed was kind of smudged up with cocoa of recipes past) and saw what a book actually weighed. Two pounds of books was going to be harder to figure out than I thought.
My first approach was gather up as many mass market editions as you own to see what might be worth taking. It turned out to be a rather odd mixture of older books.
Sometimes I like to take a chunkster on vacation. Like over a 1,000 pages kind of chunkster. But that seemed dangerous. What if I found myself desperately bored with whatever giant book I chose? That is one of my biggest bookish fears, best not to risk it. But what if I took along a chunkette rather than a chunkster. So I went back and combed my shelves for something in the 500-page range.
I started to think about the many possible combinations of books I could take but my scale battery was dying and I didn’t know how long it would last. It was clear I was going to have to get Excel involved. First step was to log the known data in terms of weight and number of pages. Next I calculated grams per page (gpp) and pages per gram (ppg) so I could see which books gave me the best bang for my buck. Then I used the sort function on the ppg column to see which books were most efficient in delivering pages at the least possible weight.
My first idea was to delete the weights of books starting at the bottom of the efficiency scale until I got close to 907 grams. The result was that I could take about seven books totaling 1,817 pages (see ‘Most Efficient’ column). While taking those seven books would not be a bad thing, they just didn’t represent the variety I was hoping to have with me.
My second approach was to delete some of the top seven most efficient books that just weren’t speaking to me. I got rid of one of the Dickens’ novels so as not to have more than one by a single author. Next I got rid of The Ladies by Doris Grumbach because I think I have another book about the subject characters and thought I might want to do a more direct comparison of the two. And I got rid of the Bainbridge because I have never been successful getting into one of her books. I haven’t really tried all that hard so it’s not like I don’t think I would like them, but who wants to take a chance in this situation? Choosing which books might replace those three was pretty easy. It’s been a while since I have read some Trollope and at 403 pages Rachel Ray is almost a chunkette. One of the Graham Greenes also felt like an easy choice. I really like his work and there is still so much of it I haven’t read.
Even after I came up with a good pile, the chunkettes were still talking to me. Wouldn’t this long journey without social media be perfect for a big book? Maybe I needed to come up an option that included one of the big ones. The Beth Book was the least efficient of all the books so that was an easy deletion. Although I will read Crime and Punishment one day, I’m not really in the mood for Russians right now. I know almost nothing about the Frank Norris but I think it will be my choice if I do take a chunkette with me.
I think I am leaning toward the pile of six mass market paperbacks. It seems the safest bet. Although maybe I will be able to sneak another 470 grams and take The Octopus with me as well.
I should also mention that I have a total of three flights at 7, 7, and 6 hours a piece, and 24 hours at a country house in England before we land in Tanzania so chances are I will finish up one or two things before arriving in Africa. If I run out of things to read, I have 48 hours in the UK on the way home and will have time to replenish my stock for the flight home.
One final comment, I am not going to let Africa pass me by. When I went to Kenya in 2008 it felt like the trip of a lifetime. I am incredibly lucky to be going back to East Africa and have no idea if I will ever make it back. So if I don’t read one single page while I am there, I won’t be upset.