Pretty much every RV we’ve encountered on our travels thus far has had a television, and most carry a satellite dish. We’ve seen some TVs on the big rigs that would cover an entire wall in our tiny home, if we could even get the thing through the door. For us, though, no TV. And no Netflix, either, because even though we have a device on which to watch, most parks don’t have Internet service strong enough to support streaming. (Serious RVers also carry Internet boosters.) So we read, and that’s not intended as a complaint.
A selection of reading material at an RV park.
We packed an eclectic selection of books, of course, before throwing everything else into boxes and jamming it all into a rented storage unit. We happened to be camped at the fairgrounds when our local county library held their semi-annual book sale there, so we grabbed a few then, too. And most every park we’ve stayed at has had a book exchange, typically located near the laundry facilities. I’ll confess that most of the books at the RV parks are not to my taste – they lean heavily towards bodice-rippers, legal thrillers and Stuart Woods – but truly, I’m happy when anyone is reading actual paper books and I am not passing any judgment on these. And there are occasionally diamonds in the rough. So what are we reading these days on the RV?
How to Change Your Mind, Michael Pollan
Oh, have I mentioned Michael Pollan before? Like once or twice or in every single f*ing post, you say? That’s because I adore him. My sister and I went to see him speak during his tour for Cooked, and we went again this past May to the legendary Tattered Cover to hear him again. In short, the man is brilliant. His new book explores psychedelics, a previously ignored option for treating anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses. It doesn’t need saying that mental illness is a hidden and deadly epidemic in this country, and I am personally interested in how these non-traditional treatments might benefit me and millions of others. As Mr. Pollan so eloquently said during his talk: “Every other field of medicine – cardiology, oncology – has experienced massive advancements in the past thirty years. Mental health? Nothing except for SSRIs, and those aren’t that great. There has to be something else out there.” Exactly.
Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Food Rights, David Gumpert
Do you, as a rational, thinking adult, have the right to consume a food or drink that could – in theory – kill you? Should the federal and/or state governments “protect” you from what they perceive as “impure” foods and drinks – an assessment you might well disagree with? Gumpert’s fascinating exploration of food rights comes at a time when more and more individual rights are threatened in this country every single day. He specifically focuses on raw milk, which is illegal in many states, as well as farm-processed poultry and other products that don’t bear a USDA-inspected stamp. If you’re interested in your right to eat and drink what you choose without government intervention, read this book.
Real Food, Fake Food, Larry Olmsted
Olive oil, Parmigiano-Reggiano, honey…if there’s money to be made off of faking something, someone will find a way to do it. The writing is amateur (“That sounded pretty interesting, so I had one of those, too – hey, it’s my job!”) and poorly edited, and the book reads like a fleshed-out magazine article (which it is), but food can be faked precisely because we don’t know that much about it. The seafood industry is by far the worst offender; some estimates indicate that up to half of all fish sold in the U.S. is mislabeled. (Plus, we import well over 99% of our seafood from rather shady places, and virtually none of it is inspected.) Olmsted’s exhaustive account of the fake food industry may surprise you and it may anger you, but it will also make you a more informed consumer.
Rules of Civility, Amor Towles
I’m reading mostly non-fiction these days, so it’s been a long, long time since a novel grabbed me by the throat like this one did. I picked up Rules of Civility at an otherwise forgettable RV park and was glad to find it amongst the chaff; I absolutely loved this stylish, post-Depression novel with echoes of The Great Gatsby but a unique, modern voice. Our decade-strong book club recently read Towles’ A Gentleman in Moscow and it was universally loved – a fact you’d appreciate more if you knew the members of our vocal and hugely disparate book club.
Nomadland, Jessica Bruder
I tore through this non-fiction book in less than twenty-four hours, and then N promptly did the same. Perhaps more relevant to us because we’re now (sort of) part of this itinerant community of misfits and renegades, Nomadland offers a harsh yet somehow uplifting portrait of the working class that “Make America Great Again” has left behind. From retirees who haul boxes in vast Amazon warehouses (free painkillers available 24/7!) to an oddball gathering in the Arizona desert, this book will make you think twice about whatever safety net you may have – and about your next Amazon order. A quick read, and highly recommended.
The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton
This is a big, sweeping, convoluted novel and it’s taken some effort to get into; it follows a jumbled cast of characters during the 1800s gold rush in New Zealand. It’s meticulously researched; some might say too researched. If you’re looking for light and fluffy, this definitely isn’t it; The Luminaries requires concerted effort on the reader’s part. I picked it up despite it winning the Man Booker Prize – that prize, to my mind, most often identifies books that are far too self-important – but only time will tell if I’m able to write a finished review.
Our miniature RV library.
What have you read lately that you’ve loved? Or loathed? Please share your recommendations (or critiques) in the comments!
P.S. Please support independent and/or secondhand bookstores whenever possible and keep your money in your community.
P.P.S. Once again, if you’re an avid reader (and live in the U.S. – sorry) and you’re not a member of this site? Get there now.