Saturday, July 17, 2010

Sunday Salon: The Well-Traveled Book

I used to drag my textbooks home for each and every holiday from college. Before I left my dorm room, I would dutifully tuck them into my luggage and fly home with them. If they left my luggage at all, it was only so I could stow the suitcase away for the duration of my visit home. Mostly though, they just few back and forth across the country, weighting down my suitcase. (Thank heavens the airlines didn't charge for baggage way back then in the dark ages.) Once I graduated from school, I only ever took books on vacation, and for pleasure, so they were generally read in a timely manner. The book that white water rafted down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon with me (Edward Abbey's The Fool's Progress) is water-stained and stuffed with a few sparse pressed leaves and blooms. I dragged 10 books on my honeymoon with me to Turkey (and actually read most of the 10 so feel very sorry for my long-suffering husband, who had to lug my heavy suitcase and lose my attention to book after book after book after... well you get the picture). And I've already written in a previous Sunday Salon how much joy it gives me to sit down and decide which books make the cut to go on my annual summer vacation. So it's clear that many of my books are quite well-traveled. I even enjoy Bookcrossing so that I can see where some of my books might be traveling without me.

But today an era came to an end. One of my very well-traveled books, one that I have continuously had a bookmark in for well over a year, is finally finished and will cede its place in my luggage to other books. And a great shout was heard in all the land! I turned the last page of The Far Pavilions this morning. That book started traveling with me sometime last year and it was no tiny, compact darling to carry around. No, this book caused carpal tunnel just thinking about lifting it, weighing in at a whopping 955 pages. My copy also happened to be one of the books that went down with the ship last summer and so it was even larger than it appeared, swollen to twice its size. M.M. Kaye and company went to Savannah for Christmas and Easter with me (twice). It went to my summer cottage, also twice. It came home from the cottage dripping wet last summer and then went back up there again the same year, dried out. It hid in my luggage on our anniversary trip to Asheville (if I took books on our honeymoon, D. should have expected me to take them on our anniversary too, right?!). It went back north with me this year and flew home to attend my daughter's last dance competition of the season. And that is where the final page was turned. Because it was time. And by golly, I was tired of schlepping it back and forth and forth and back in suitcases and bags and sliding around on the passenger seat of my car.

I wonder what the next well-traveled book from my collection will be. There's just no telling what I'll start and set aside to be dubbed the book permanently on my bedside table no matter where in the country or the world that bedside table happens to be. Do you have books that you cart around with you and yet never seem to finish or am I the only one?

In addition to India under the British Raj, books took me to many more places this week than I took them. I altered the past by re-writing it in order to change my present. I went to the ancient world to learn about their foremost thinkers and scientists. I lived in an 11x11 room with a five year old boy and his mother, who was kidnapped years prior while a college student. And I learned the truth behind the authorship of Shakespeare's best plays as confided by his much maligned wife.


  1. Well, that is surely a well-kept and traveled book you have. to think of it, i don't really bring book around.i like to buy a new one at the airport and read on my flight.since i dont travel a lot ;p

  2. I read library books so mine don't get carried around for long. As a matter of fact, if a book gets carried in my bag without being read for a week, then it is proof that I'm not really enjoying it and I need to send it back.

  3. Do you associate scenes from the book you were reading with the place you were reading it? I do that sometimes and enjoy the well-traveled book more for it afterwards (being a re-reader).


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