The only thing I love more than travel is reading
If I could only describe myself with one word, it would be “reader”. I am a reader. I've been reading since I was 4 years old and, as much as I love being a writer and feel that writing is at the core of who I am, I would never have written a word if I didn't love reading so much.
When people say that they haven’t had the time to read anything lately, that they don’t have a favourite book, that they find reading dull, or that there’s never been anything interesting to read, I immediately recoil. Who are these mutants? I feel it would be easier to connect with some of the case studies on Criminal Minds before I could trust, love, confide in a non-reader.
Books save lives, they help people fall in love, they spark revolutions and they guide the way to peace. But there’s nothing interesting enough for you to read? I’ll be in the other room, thanks.
Reading, of course, is a source of pleasure, entertainment, education, and thought provocation but it is ultimately a form of escape. I remember reading and re-reading Iggy’s House by Judy Bloom again and again and again one summer, oblivious to nothing else but the compelling words on the page. During the cold winter nights in my attic room in university, I snuggled down with a hot water bottle and the words of Lucy Maud Montgomery, entrusting only her to whisk me away. I think authors like J.K. Rowling deserve some kind of humanitarian award for the millions of children they saved, give hope to, rescue from drudgery.
When I travel, I always try to spend some time in a bookstore. I love absorbing the local flavor and discovering new authors, as well as handicrafts and stationary. Whenever possible, I try to visit independent bookstores, but I’m not adverse to chain shops as well. I confess to being that girl who curls up in the reading chair for hours, absorbed in a stack of magazines, or stealing away a few chapters of the new John Grisham novel (don’t laugh – his work makes for perfect travel fare!).
I remember entering Shakespeare and Co in Paris and thinking “I’m home”. It felt safe, cozy, intuitive, and right. In Cork, Ireland, there once existed a wonderfully atmospheric shop named “Mainly Murder” and I asked the elderly proprietress for her best recommendations for backpackers (Minette Walters, in case you’re wondering).
In Malawi, I discovered just one bookstore in Lilongwe and ended up spending a small fortune on Jeffery Deaver novels, the two Jane Austen’s I brought from home having been long read and passed on. In Dublin, I sat in WH Smith and tried to gather my thoughts about my research project –which was easier said than done!
For me, travel is about relaxing, enjoyment, getting to know yourself, and getting to know a community. While it might not sound very exciting, there’s no place I’d rather visit than a bookstore to realize these goals. As a writer, my relationship with books helps me improve at my craft and visiting bookstores is a source of great inspiration.
Discovering bookstores has led me to explore writers’ museums (Dublin and Edinburgh are great for this, as well as the British Library in London). I have learned about great community events through their notice boards, met local authors, and consumed more than my fair share of cookies at the in-house cafes.
Traveling doesn’t have to always been adrenaline fueled, extreme adventure, always doing something new and exotic every day. Just do what makes you happy and the rest will follow!
As always, I welcome and encourage your comments. Do you have a favourite book?
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17/7/2013 02:34:22 am
I love reading and books too. I don't even have an ereader device yet., But am seriously considering a Kindle. One of the things that makes me most sad these days is that I can not keep my eyes open to read more than a page or two at night - my preferred reading time.
17/7/2013 08:59:33 am
I have one of the original Kindles that came out in Canada, about 4 years ago, and it's still going strong. I do love it, but I still really enjoy paperbacks.
17/10/2013 01:23:26 am
We love bookstores too. Just stumbled on to a little shop yesterday and wandered in. Next thing we knew an hour had gone by. Great places to lose yourself for a while.
18/10/2013 01:43:45 am
I can totally relate to the experience of "losing" an hour in a bookstore. It's like they suck time away when you go through the door!
13/3/2014 05:01:14 am
Your comment "who are these mutants?" is exactly how I feel! I also love stopping in book stores. I went in every WH Smith I came across in the UK just to look around. I love sitting and having a second to myself to just think. And even if I don't sit and relax, looking through the stacks of books is rejuvenating.
17/3/2014 03:39:25 am
I agree - WH Smith has been a frequent sanctuary for me!
16/3/2014 09:51:30 am
I can totally relate! I agree so much with you about not being a writer if I didn't enjoy reading so much! I'm also a sucker for bookstores, but I tend towards used book stores, reading an old, used book is like walking the cobble stone streets of Rome - they take on a whole new energy and life of their own.
17/3/2014 03:40:14 am
What a gorgeous analogy between the old books and the energy of an an old cobblestone street in Rome - I couldn't have said it better myself.
15/1/2015 08:58:07 am
I simply couldn't trust anyone who doesn't love to read. Have you been to Daunt Books in London? It's a must-see for us wandering readers. Read on!
15/1/2015 09:12:50 am
I haven't been to Daunt yet - thanks so much for the recommendation. I'll check it out on my next trip.
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