In a few weeks I'm going on a week-long cruise. It's courtesy of my in-laws, who are footing the bill for the family so they can treat their grandkids to some Disney fun. I'm looking forward to it, though I'm wrestling now with the big question every reader faces of what to take.
For me the problem with a cruise is the isolation from options should I finish what I'm reading early or find that I don't like it. In the past this was a minor issue, which I resolved by either borrowing an available book or making my way to a bookstore and picking something out from what's available. This is something that I wouldn't have done if I had an e-reader, and it's one of the reasons why I'm glad I don't as the opportunity to read books that I otherwise might not have opened me up to some works that I really enjoyed.
Only that's not possible on a cruise. We will spend a week either on the open seas or in a corporate enclave (because that's where they send tourists on these things), which means my reading options will be severely constrained. Basically my only recourse to whatever I bring along will be the library of books other tourists leave behind. If they're anything like the one on my last cruise, my options will be limited to Dan Brown-level garbage and self-help books that were so helpful they were left behind. So I need to think ahead more than I would otherwise.
I'm limiting myself to two books. One I've had picked out for months, and while I'm sure I'll like it I may also finish it mid-cruise. So the second one has to be able to sustain me for a few days, both in terms of length and readability, yet not be so large as to clog my limited luggage space.
This morning I had an epiphany: why not take Grant's memoirs?
Ulysses Grant's memoirs are generally regarded as one of the great works of American literature. For years I've had a copy on my shelf of the Library of America edition, which is perfect for my needs -- compact, well-bound, and generously supplemented with a selection of his letters. Given the attention Grant is getting right now thanks to Ron Chernow's new biography, it seems an ideal time to take it on and read it for myself.