Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Bookstore Backpacking

How does one master the art of travel? Even more importantly how does one stay replete with reading material? I’ll be jet-setting around the world soon and getting hold of books may become difficult. Seven months traveling time will make for lots of reading – to entertain myself on the train or when stuck in a hostel at night. Great books will be needed to suit my wanderlust mood.

Initially, I’ll leave home with three choices – one for the plane, one for the stopover in LA and one for ‘emergency purposes’. Excessive, maybe, but I don’t think it differs from my everyday stuff-the-handbag-with-books routine. Let me confess, in the guise of ‘travel entertainment I’ve splurged on books recently – including a YA book by Sacher called Holes and Paul Auster’s New York Trilogy. I hate, hate, hate parting with books and now I don’t want to take them with me knowing I have to abandon them on the road. What to do? But anyway, any reader tips on satisfying bibliophilic needs when traveling?

I’ve managed to track down some must-see international bookshops. Two on the top of my list are English language bookstores, Atlantis Books in Santorini, Greece and Shakespeare and Co. in Paris. Of course I will be coasting in to these havens to replenish my supplies and will let you know what exciting things I find!




Poodlerat said...

Cab drivers and libraries are good places for recommendations, if you're in a town big enough to have an English-language bookstore.

And if you can trade in your books at a used bookstore, it might not be such a wrench to part with them. Or you could bookcross your finished books, which could be neat.

Bybee said...

What poodlerat said about Bookcrossing. Have you joined?
Lots of expats at hostels leave their books behind for others, so you may stumble upon a book or two. It may be dreck, or it may be a treasure.
Oh wow, you're going to visit Shakespeare and Co. If I had a time machine, I'd like to be an expat in 1920s Paris.
Holes is a quick read. Maybe too quick for travel.

Bookfool said...

I'm so envious of your trip. I've tried convincing myself to take along books and abandon them, but I never succeed because if I like them, I want to hang onto them. Sigh.

acquisitionist said...

poodlerat, thanks for some awesome suggestions. Arrrrgh, the thought of exploring the gorgeous libraries in Europe excites me... Definitely cheap entertainment.

Bookcrossing is a wonderful idea. I'll have to set up an account before I go. I like the thought of bookcrossing finished books even better than trading them in.

Bybee, Also a great point. I think I will probably pick up the dreck anyway because at least it's something to read. I'm wholeheartedly with you re. being an expat in Paris. When I read Hemingway's A Moveable Feast I was so envious of the fact that Hemingway would be sitting in a cafe where Joyce happened to be lunching across from him.

Thanks bookfool! Yes it's the dilemma I must confront. I'll have to console myself with the fact that I can always purchase/order another copy when I get home.

meli said...

Just don't take depressing books. Not good for long haul flights. Abandoning books is bad - my life in two continents has meant I've had to buy Great Expectations twice. You can sleep at Shakespeare and Co (for free) if you don't mind the cockroaches, the smelly young men posing as poets, and not being let out till midday. Can't say I recommend it... Have fun!

tanabata said...

Shakespeare & Co. is quirky and definitely worth a visit. I second (or is it third) the Bookcrossing idea. If you're organised before you go, you can see if there will be any Bookcrossing events in the places you're visiting while you're there.

alexandr0s said...

Well Henry Miller's - The Colossus of Maroussi was my best friend during a trip to Oia Santorini.

Eva said...

sounds like fun :) I'm so jealous of you! I have a somewhat-similar dilemma: I'm going the Peace Corps, so I have to figure out 3-6 books to take to a place without English bookstores for two years. So far, I know I'm bringing War and Peace. Thinking about bring Philip Pulmans' Golden Compass series. But it's so awful to think of all the books left behind.

meli said...

I mean I don't recommend staying there, but it is worth a visit.

acquisitionist said...

Hahaha Meli, did you ever sleep there? I imagine there is a mix of the excessively bookish and riff-raff at Shakespeare & Co.

Thanks also Tanabata. In the weeks ahead I must transit from procrastination mode to getting-things-done mode. I might have to check out what events are happening on the road via internet cafes.

AlexandrOs, thanks for the visit! Will definitely try and get hold of a copy as I've been intending to read Miller for awhile.

Wow eva, when are you heading off? I think your choices are perfect so far.

tanabata said...

BTW, have you read Time Was Soft There, Jeremy Mercer's memoir of his stay at Shakespeare & Co.? (Called Books, Baguettes & Bedbugs in the UK) I haven't yet but have it in the stacks.

acquisitionist said...

Oooh tanabata that would be a perfect Parisian read. I hadn't heard of it before. I will try to track it down here in Aust but otherwise I'll get along the way - perhaps in the store itself! Let me know what you think of it when it gets to the top of the TBR.

Dark Orpheus said...

Another book to recommend would be Sylvia Beach and the Lost Generation by Noel Riley Fitch - which is about the original Shakespeare & Co. Apparently the current Shakespeare & Co. is not it's not the same bookstore as the one ran by Sylvia Beach, where Hemingway and Joyce hung out. But it's still has quite a bohemian spirit to it. the owner, George Whitman, wrote this:
"I may disappear leaving behind me no worldly possessions - just a few old socks and love letters, and my windows overlooking Notre-Dame for all of you to enjoy, and my little rag and bone shop of the heart whose motto is 'Be not inhospitable to strangers lest they be angels in disguise'. I may disappear leaving no forwarding address, but for all you know I may still be walking among you on my vagabond journey around the world."

If you're okay with Graham Greene, you should be book-safe in Vietnam. There's always someone trying to sell me a copy of "The Quiet American" when I was there a few years back.

acquisitionist said...

Dark Orpheus, Thanks for the recommendation and the wonderful quote. I particularly loved Whitman's 'Be not inhospitable to strangers lest they be angels in disguise'. I should definitely practice it more myself. I will look out for a copy.