What's your "in case of emergency" book?

I keep a book in the car in case of emergencies – if I have car trouble and have to wait for AAA, something like that. I understand that people who have kids usually have a book in the car that they’re reading on a pretty regular basis while they do soccer runs or whatever. This, however, is something I will pick up at completely unpredictable intervals (I’ll go months and months without touching it); and when I do read it, it could, who knows, turn out to be for five minutes or an hour.

My current such emergency book is The Last Word, a book of obitiuaries from the NYT. Each runs two or three pages, and then it’s on to something completely different. Perfect.

I can’t possibly be the only Doper with such a habit – does anyone have any recommendations for the genre? The other day I unexpectedly found myself engaged in a very long wait for a friend to pick me up, so now am about 50 pages from the end – I’ll want to replace it soon.

My car book currently is Molly Ivins Can’t Say That, Can She? – ideal for an indefinite wait since it’s a collection of her columns. When that’s done I have a couple more of her books to put in its place.

I don’t have a car right now, and my “public transportation” book changes frequently since I actually have time to work on those. But I can recommend two books of the same structure - one is *Working * by Studs Terkel, which is a collection of edited 2-5 pages interviews of people talking about their jobs. Working was done in the 1970s, and includes all sorts of people. I actually have it but haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. I bought it because I had read Gig, a book which is basically a modern update of Working. This was a really cool book. It includes all kinds of people, from cops to delivery truck drivers to teachers to guys that clean up crime scenes. Really neat… and some people have a lot of unexpected things to say about their jobs. (I seem to remember the delivery guy smoking a lot of pot in his truck…)

Anyway, these should fill just about the same function as the one you’re working on now. Illuminating bite-size essays! Plus both weigh in at 500 pages at least, so they should keep you going for a while.

ETA: Huh, seems Amazon even has a little package deal for these two. Perfect!

I always keep the latest issues of Skeptic and Skeptical Inquirer in my car to read if I get trapped with no reading material. This doesn’t happen that often, since I carry whatever book I’m reading with me if I’m going somewhere where I might have to wait.

I keep a copy of Houghton-Mifflins’ A Timeline of History’ in my glovebox. Each page is approx. 30-50 years, and it gives a brief description of any advances / significant events in the areas of History, Arts, Religion for that time period. But at any given time, I usually have some other book with me.

Right now mine is The House of Stairs, by Barbara Vine. It’s a reread, so I can pick it up and remember what’s going on no matter how much time has passed.

Penthouse Variations

Kim by Rudyard Kipling. I must have read that 50 times over the years. A small cheap paperback (also a free ebook). I’ve always got it with me.

I always have a paperback mystery in the car, which I then take into the gym and my kid’s karate lesson. So it changes about once a week. Currently I’m favoring Ayelet Waldman’s Mommy Track mysteries, though I did stick a Wodehouse novel in there last week.

Mysteries are perfect because it’s about all I can handle at the gym while I’m working out and only have a limited amount of attention to spare. They’re brain candy!

I have both ‘The Art of War’ and ‘Wuthering Heights’ in my T/X. :smiley:

If you have to wait, not if you have to wank.

Anything by Dave Barry.

And I’m an anything Bukowski. I usually carry a bookbag (man-purse if you will) that will have something in the rotation.

Mine is currently Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird. I don’t know that I’ll ever be a writer but I love reading books about writing. Although I usually have another book with me, this one has been in the car for a while just in case I get stuck waiting somewhere.

I usually have a selection of current lightweight mysteries for my emergency car books or for taking to the gym. When I lived in the Seattle area and would have long ferry waits, I usually had some non-fiction as well, something for every mood. Pop science and Buddhist practice, mostly. Very good to read advice on practicing patience while in a two-hour ferry line.

Right now in my car- The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, and Inside Delta Force by Eric Haney.

I always have whatever book I’m reading on me at all times…I always buy purses large enough. If I’m going somewhere where I want a small bag, I will still carry the book out to the car so it’s there, just in case.

I have an emergency book of mystery short stories. Not much depth but enough to entertain me for short waits.

I find that poetry is just right for these kind of situations - if they are good, you can read them over and over again. I usually find small editions and keep in my bag. For the longest time it was a small collection of poems by Catullus, then The Waste Land and Other Poems by T. S. Eliott. About a year ago I swapped that for Thoreau’s Walden. I have read it a few times, so now I just flip it open on a random page and start reading.

To-may-to, to-mah-to.