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Answer to gas price blues: books!

Posted by Ethan Gilsdorf  May 8, 2008 12:43 AM

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Yes, it may be astronomically pricey to travel these days, as every car, boat, bus, train and plane trip are affected by these darned gas prices. So why not combat that "I'm not in Timbuktu" depression with writers who can transport you to some great beyond? My top picks for armchair travel include:

Alain de Botton "The Art of Travel": No writer better captures travelers' quirks and the unexplored reasons why we love to explore fresh places. In nine essays, he examines the traveler's bi-polar condition --- from "the disorientation, the mid-afternoon despair, the lethargy before ancient ruins" to the desire for departing the here-and-now for (as Baudelaire said) "anywhere, anywhere!"

Robert M. Pirsig "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values": When was the last time you hit the highways of your mind? I haven't read this one since I was in college and want to again, desperately. Makes you want to buy a chopper and ponder, as the wise Bob Seger once did, " I could go east I could go west/ it was all up to me to decide."

George Orwell "Down and Out in Paris and London": Orwell is a penniless British writer living among the downtrodden of two eminent and esteemed cities. The semi-autobiographical account is chock with unnerving adventures, odd jobs and and insight into the underside of the UK and France, circa 1933. "The room was an attic, ten feet square, lighted only by a skylight, its sole furniture a narrow iron bedstead, a chair, and a washhand-stand with one game leg. A long S-shaped chain of bugs marched slowly across the wall above the bed. Boris was lying asleep, naked, his large belly making a mound under the grimy sheet. His chest was spotted with insect bites. As I came in he woke up, rubbed his eyes, and groaned deeply." Doesn't that make you long for the Paris of Old?

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