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Books + road trips = a family book club

April 16, 2012
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When we go on a road trip together, Hubby, Son and I often listen to a book together and discuss it. And sometimes I read aloud until my voice gives out. Trips and books become intertwined in our memories.

Last week Hubby and I listened to The Seventeen Second Miracle by Jason F. Wright on our drive to and from a Duluth conference. The novel dragged a bit, especially in the first half, as an audiobook. (I would have skimmed and skipped sections if I’d been reading with my eyes instead of my ears.) But we felt like we knew the characters, and we both loved its message—that each of us can reach out and touch someone daily with a little miracle of kindness in 17 seconds or less. I confess I’m proud of my hubby for listening to a somewhat sappy book like this one, and that book will remain tied to that fun trip in my memory.

One of our favorite family trip memories is the time we sat in the driveway at the end of  a two-day drive from Kentucky to Minnesota because we three just had to hear the ending of Peace Like a River by Minnesota author Leif Enger. Several years later, Son still rates this as a favorite book and remembers standing in a crowd at our local Barnes and Noble to hear Enger do a reading.

Last year on a trip, Hubby and I enjoyed listening to House Rules by Jodi Picoult, a novel about a teenage boy with Asperger’s syndrome who’s accused of murder. The book has its flaws, but the portrayal of the syndrome was spot on.

When I was homeschooling Son in seventh grade, I read aloud from our nonfiction “car book,” Parallel Journeys. Alternating chapters contrasted the wartime stories of two young Germans–a young woman who was interned in a Nazi concentration camp and a teen boy who was a proud member of the Hitler Youth. It was a powerful way to learn about the Holocaust, and we loved hearing what happened to our friends after the war.

We often start our day’s journey with a reading from the Bible. But it’s not always easy for the two or three of us to find another book that will be mutually enjoyed. That’s why we usually have some options along. Sure, with today’s gadgets, we could all plug in and listen to our own choices, but it’s more fun for our books to be part of the shared experience of traveling, listening, critiquing and discussing together. We have a family book club.

We now chuckle about the days when every trip included at least one Hank the Cowdog book. We all three enjoyed the antics of Hank (who perceived himself as head of ranch security), his animal friends and foes, and Sally May, the screeching farm wife who complained about Hank’s septic tank baths and forays into the hen house. Hmm. We have a trip coming up. Maybe it’s time for a Hank the Cowdog book for old time’s sake. Other book suggestions from readers are welcome.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. April 22, 2012 12:24 pm

    Thanks for the book suggestions! I found Peace Like a River at our local discount book store this week. I miss those days of listening to a book in the car. Somehow with five of us, our interest became so varied that we no longer do that.

    • April 22, 2012 4:39 pm

      Hi Amy, I tried to find your picture on your blog to see if we’ve met. 😉 Thanks for stopping by. I subscribed to your blog. What ages are your children? Son (Rod Harp’s cousin) is 21 and away at school.

  2. April 22, 2012 11:54 pm

    Hi, Julie – If we have met it would have been years ago at Malcom. We knew Jeff in Iowa many moons ago. 🙂

    This link will take you to a family photo, last one at the bottom.  We’re due for a new one. 🙂

  3. April 25, 2012 4:49 am

    As a family we used to read in the car…not books, usually, but my mother would bring along the newest Readers Digest and read it aloud as my dad drove. We all loved that! (My dad didn’t like to read, but he enjoyed being read TO). And if Mom didn’t read, we all sang. Both ways to keep the kids quiet and happy, I guess!

  4. Bev Stamper permalink
    May 23, 2012 1:45 am

    Julie, I confess that one of my favorite tapes to listen to on long trips was anything by Minnesota native Garrison Keillor. Once when my dad and I were travelling to Indiana, I introduced him to Mr. Keillor’s various friends in Lake Wobegon, and Dad laughed until he cried with delight! It remains one of my favorite “nonsense” moments with him. My hubby and son also became fans of the mostly disfunctional/sorta normal characters from Lake Wobegon. While we’ve enjoyed a great variety of books on tape, certain ones bring some sweet memories back to us! Thanks for your blog!

  5. May 23, 2012 2:05 am

    We like Garrison, too, although he isn’t as funny (or clean) as he used to be. I enjoyed thinking of your dad laughing. I could just hear him! You might enjoy Garrison’s books about growing up Plymouth Brethren and the terrible singing in their home meetings. We did go see the show once when it came to our (former) town. It was fun to see how they did the sound effects. One of our friend’s sons owns Charlie’s Cafe, which is Chatterbox Cafe on the show. We usually stop there on our way past for pie.

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