Over at his blog, zigzackly points to a Guardian series about travel reading, and invites comments on favorite travel reads, thus providing me with a convenient excuse (as though one were needed) to talk about books.
My reading when I'm traveling tends to be mostly poetry, because a) it's easier to read in short spurts, b) it's more amenable to re-reading so I can take fewer books with me and c) I tend to take only books that I own when I travel, and this usually means either philosophy or poetry (I almost never buy fiction anymore).
Not surprisingly, I have travel associations with dozens of volumes of poetry, though the ones that stand out most in my mind are a second-hand copy of Robert Lowell's Selected Poems (in a now obsolete Faber & Faber edition) that was my constant companion on DTC buses all through my second year in college, and Walcott's Midsummer, read on the flight three years ago that brought me to the United States.
The award for my most memorable reading experience, however, goes to Henry James' The Ambassadors, read on a seemingly interminable train journey to I no longer remember where. I'm something of an insomniac anyway, and find it even harder to sleep on trains, so on this particular trip I simply stayed up through the night, wedged awkwardly in the side lower bunk of a second AC train compartment, the gap where the two halves of the bed meet digging into my waist, and read and read and read. Something about the momentum of that journey - the constant sense of motion, the measured metronome of the train, the knowledge of great distances being covered, contradicted every time I looked out of my window by the sameness of the landscape - all this seemed to resonate with James' exquisitely baroque prose, so that lying there, cocooned in the semi-darkness, the book seemed to glow brighter in my hand, seemed to burn in the incandescence of its language, every finely tuned phrase lit up like a tongue of fire. To this day The Ambassadors remains one of my favorite James' novels, and I can never think of it without instantly evoking the memory of that night ride, that long, weary voyage, a cradle endlessly rocking, plunging me into the night.