Agatha Christie, elephants, and a chance to WIN your very own amazing literary prize pack!
In 2003, I discovered a tiny bookstore in Cork, Ireland, called Mainly Murder. Well, when I say "discovered", what I really mean is that I followed the instructions in my Let's Go guidebook - and I was not at all disappointed with their recommendation.
The elderly proprietress really did look like she could be a character in an Agatha Christie plot, just like Let's Go had described. When I presented my insufferably vague query (I wanted something to read while I was backpacking... something "good"), she intuitively directed me towards the perfect author. That's how I discovered Minette Walters, whose novels really were the ideal companion to backpacking - paperback books, easy enough to find around the world, suspenseful but not too scary.
Mainly Murder has since closed but it will always have a special place in my heart. It launched my passion for discovering bookstores around the world. So when I had the chance to try out a Sweet Reads book box and saw an Agatha Christie quote on their stationary, I knew it was the very thing for me.
Sweet Reads is a monthly subscription service for book lovers. Every month, you receive a box which contains a book, something delicious to eat, something to drink, and one or two other gift items. I received the September box and it included a package of gourmet herbal tea, a cute pink elephant tea steeper, a giant cookie, and a necklace with a charm featuring an E.E. Cummings quot - and of course a book.
I absolutely loved that the box came beautifully packaged in an understated kind of way. It felt like I was unwrapping a wonderful present for myself - and it immediately made me think how amazing it would be to give a Sweet Reads box as a present as well. The elegant dark tissue was just the right sophisticated touch and I liked how neutral it was. It would be perfect to send to as a birthday gift or a congratulations-on-a-new-job gift or for an office holiday gift swap. The idea that I could be anywhere in the world and easily send a loved one a beautiful gift that is suitable for all occasions (and not have to pay extra to make it LOOK like a gift) is genius.
The tissue wasn't the only paper I appreciated. Each box also comes with a post card (that's where I saw Agatha Christie quoted) that says a few words about why the book was selected and really draws you in to what you're going to read. It also describes all the other goodies in your box .
I love this for three reasons. The first is that you'll know if anything in your box is missing. I know it's a tiny possibility but it is reassuring all the same that your mystery box has all its contents. The second is that it's exciting to know why specific items were chosen. For instance, as maternal love was a reoccurring theme in September's book ("Fierce Kingdom" by Gin Phillips), it made sense that an herbal tea blend called "A Mother's Love" was included. Elephants also make an important appearance in the book, so it was very apt that, of all possible tea accessories, an elephant steeper accompanied the loose herbal tea. Last but not least, the gift descriptions share information about the suppliers. Sweet Reads is a Canadian company and they place a high value in including Canadian products - their cards are a great way to learn more.
Charming gifts aside, the main focus of the box is naturally the book. Every month, Sweet Reads curates a box around a theme central to the book they have chosen - but you don't know what that book is until it arrives.
The obvious drawback to this is that if you've already read the book or if you truly don't like the author, the surprise of opening your box might be dampened. On the other hand, you will also be exposed to authors and themes and subject matter and writing styles that are totally new to you. If you often find yourself in a rut when it comes to choosing certain cover styles or particular authors, this is the perfect way to discover something new.
I truly think any book lover would adore receiving a Sweet Reads subscription box - but what about a traveler? Does it live up to the standards embodied by the intuitive owner of Mainly Murder? I think it does. I love that Sweet Reads uses paperback books. That isn't to say that the book is necessarily going to be small and light, but it definitely cuts down on the inflexible bulk of a hardcover book. I also love that two of the gift items are always edible and/or drinkable.
As much as I love booked themed gifts, like most travelers I try to keep my belongings streamlined and somewhat minimal. Knowing that I'm getting yummy edible items makes me look forward to my reading time all that much more and it keeps my house from getting too cluttered. Obviously this is a very personal choice but I think that frequent travelers are happy to see that they're not just getting things, they're getting an experience. I can't think of a better way to fight jet lag than to curl up under a quilt with a great new book with a pretty plate and cup by your side, ready for an afternoon of reading, nibbling, and sipping.
You can subscribe to Sweet Reads for one month only - perfect to send as a gift or to treat yourself on your birthday or right before vacation - or in clusters of 3 or 6 months (which is the most economical choice.) Or you can get your very own box for FREE!! We've teamed up with Sweet Reads so one lucky Canadian reader receives their very own box! I absolutely know you'll love it!
Canadian readers, share your favorite book or bookstore in the comments and fill out a ballot below. The lucky winner will be drawn on Oct 19th. We'll pass your contact information along to Sweet Reads and they'll make arrangements to ship your box. (Of course, you could always request that they send it to a loved one as a gift, but let's be honest here.... you're going to want it for yourself!
Congratulations to our winner: Christie E!
Check out our other posts for book lovers!
Debating with Dickens: Harrisburg for Literature Lovers
Iceland's Best Bookstores
Dublin's Literary Legacy
Travel Memories Are Made When I Find New Bookstores
Romantic Reading: Prague's Shakespeare and Sons
Tribute to Kitty, Paris' Best Bookstore Cat
I received a complimentary Sweet Reads book box to facilitate this review. All research, writing, and opinions are my own.