On road trip reading + books as souvenirs.

My husband, Jordan, and I love to travel together. For months, we've been planning a "Farewell to Florida" tour in honor of our recent move to Thomasville. Jordan is an attorney, and since passing the Florida bar, he's been on a journey to take photographs of every county courthouse in the state. Thus the idea behind our own road trip began to form.

Last Saturday, we left Thomasville for Homosassa Springs (to swim with the manatees!), then Clearwater, then Tampa. From Tampa, we entered the Florida Everglades and Naples, then a long drive down to the Florida Keys. By Tuesday, we were headed back up the state through Miami and Palm Beach, stopping for bookstores, courthouses, and national parks.

It was the trip of a lifetime, crammed into five days.

Traveling that many cities meant lots of time in the car, and I thank my lucky stars every time we take a road trip that I don't get carsick. I am one of the fortunate souls who can spend hours reading in a car. I packed a bag full of books -- ranging from Paul Tough's Whatever It Takes about poverty in Harlem to the supremely light The Summer We Read Gatsby by Danielle Ganek -- but of course, I soon discovered that wasn't enough.

After stopping at Books & Books in Miami and The Oxford Exchange in Tampa, I loaded my bag with a few more Florida-appropriate books for our journey, books that served both as souvenirs of our trip and reading material for the road. Here's what I picked up and why: 

St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell. I loved Russell's Swamplandia! back when it first came out, loved it for its oddness and weirdness, for its apt descriptions of the stickiest, most intriguing parts of my home state. A customer recommended her short stories to me -- they've long been popular collections on our shelves -- and when I wandered upon her first collection in Books & Books, I immediately convinced Jordan we needed a copy. The book, which is full of more odd, perfectly crafted stories in which Florida is just as much a character as any human, seemed naturally suited to the trip we were on. I enjoyed reading a few stories each day, and when we arrived back safely in Thomasville, I've continued to read a story each night, reminding myself of a vacation that's quickly fading into the past. (Bonus: The afternoon we checked out at Books & Books, I also snagged a vintage Florida postcard, the perfect bookmark for my new road trip read.)

- The New York Times 36 Hours: 150 Weekends in the U.S. and Canada, edited by Barbara Ireland. We actually took this book with us to serve as a guide of sorts; this massive traveler's companion features 150 guides to different American and Canadian cities, divided into attractions and restaurants and shops. We used ours to help find stops in Naples, Miami, Palm Beach, and Key West. This book would make an excellent gift for your wanderlust-loving friends, or as a guide to your own summer adventures.

- Confessions by Leo Tolstoy. Jordan and I met nearly ten years ago in the Great Books Honors College at an Alabama university, and one of the first things we did together was to read the required classics through that course. We would often read out loud to one another, and sometimes, we still do! (On a trip to Savannah a couple of years ago, we enjoyed reading Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil together.) I picked up a copy of Tolstoy's Confessions while we were in Tampa, and if Jordan ever started to look a little sleepy, I'd read out loud to him from this blast-from-our-Great-Books past. It was nice to read something that challenged our brains a little bit and kept us preoccupied when the drive seemed long.

- Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition by Carlton Ward, Jr. When we travel, I love to find little things we can keep in our home to remind us of our trip. At The Oxford Exchange, I purchased a candle that had been hand-poured in Ybor City, and while wandering the bookstores shelves, I stumbled upon a paperback coffee table book, Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition. The book covers a 100-day, 1,000-mile trek through the length of the Florida peninsula. Geographically, we covered a lot of the same territory the authors of the book did, and I love seeing the book sitting on our coffee table at home. It's a nice reminder of our expedition. Books really do make the most lovely souvenirs.

What trips are you taking this summer? Are books making the journey with you? We'd love to hear!