Riding and reading

You sometimes find things where you are least expecting to. In the last few weeks we have been in many small out-of-the-way towns, just big enough for a gas station, grocery store, town park and maybe a school. Most of these have something else in common. They have amazing public libraries. Differing ages and sizes of buildings, but all well-presented, with local information, water fountains, wifi, toilets. A cyclists’ haven on a hot day. Even better and more importantly than that the libraries seem to be well-used by people other than sweaty cyclists reading short stories and Wyoming geography books. There are extended opening hours so people can go in the evening after work or school. There are displays of work and pictures by local school children. At the moment it is school holidays here, and all of the libraries offer extensive summer reading programmes. It has been great to see kids racing to the library on their bikes and going in to join in story time and other activities.

I hope I will never be too old for story time. It is lovely to listen to a story being read. After a day of cycling we nearly always have story time in the tent before sleep. Sometimes we read together, sometimes one person reads aloud. This is the best, as when it is your turn to be the listener you can shut your eyes. (Our eyes often want to shut at the moment, but we try to keep them open when cycling). Shorter stories work best, as it can take us a long time to finish a full-length novel reading for only a few minutes a night. We have only just finished JK Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy, which we started just west of St Louis, Missouri. A rainstorm helped us out as we spent over an hour in a wildlife shelter without a creature in sight the other day. It is an excellent read for more grown up readers not on a cycle trip.

A bonus of reading together is that we can chat about the books during the day when we’re cycling. Book clubs seem to be very popular in North America so that people can do just that. A group of friends get together, choose a book, go away and read it, then meet again for an evening to discuss it. We were lucky enough to attend a friend’s book club evening in Ontario. We hadn’t read the book but had a fab time (and not just because of the lovely cheese).

Anyway, the point of this post is to suggest that we all make a bit more time for reading books. I have been caught up reading (political) news from home and recent events have made me feel sad. We try to make sure there’s time for a short section of story at the end of every day to enjoy and get ready for sleep, sometimes fiction, sometimes a true story.

In this post you can find our top recommendations, (some of them are even free). I’ll try to update these as we read more.

It would also be great to hear your suggestions for our next reads. For our younger blog followers there’s a summer reading challenge. (There are plenty of rainy days in the UK for you to find some time).

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Book recommendations

Looking for a summer read?

Here’s a few of our favourites, some from riding at home, most from in the tent…

For younger readers:
The Boy Who Biked The World – Alastair Humphries (three books available): Recently enjoyed by Jo’s nephew.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz – Frank L Baum: Riding across Dorothy’s home state of Kansas we decided this was essential reading. Free on Kindle for UK readers.

For everyone:
Around the World in 80 Days – Jules Verne: Just like Colorado, this is epic. An adventure travel classic. I first read this in Primary School and have re-read it many times since. Also out of copyright so free to UK kindle readers.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Arthur Conan Doyle: Perfect for tired cyclists, this a collection of short stories. Great for reading aloud in the tent as they only take a couple of night’s reading each. Free to UK kindle readers. If you like these, The full length novel ‘Hound of the Baskervilles’ is even better.

Non-fiction:
The Hungry Cyclist – Tom Kevill Davies: One of the best cycling travel books. Very food orientated, just like us! We re-read the USA section before leaving the UK.

South – Ernest Shackleton: An amazing true survival / adventure story in Antarctica. Not a long read and free to UK Kindle readers.

Fast Food Nation – Eric Schlossen: Total justification for our no fast food chains challenge. Scary stories of schools sponsored by soft drinks companies, complete with sales targets…

If you have read something awesome why not enter our summer reading challenge?