Aug 30, 2010

A Library in my Suitcase

I'm a great book-hoarder.

No easy feat for an ever-moving person without a fixed address, right?

But I get books everywhere; as gifts, at garage sales, through tips from well-read friends. My pile of unreads is a teetering mess. 

I'm off to South Korea soon. This is a place where the English section of a book store boasts Wordsworth Classics, a paperback pyramid of Tuesdays With Morrie, and little else. Not really a vast selection for a voracious reader. 

I've learned that when moving abroad, it's best to bring a little library in your luggage to keep you busy. When you're a book nerd, assembling and packing that library is too much fun. The trouble is, though, that some books are better suited for going abroad than others.

Should I immerse myself in Korean literature and essays? Should I get revved up on travel with Theroux and Pico Iyer?

A book can be a wonderful companion when you're travelling. The right book can reflect the many emotions of travel and change. Reading On the Road while backpacking in England, I readily drank in the giddy sense of freedom. Reading A Portrait of a Lady in China, where I stood out as a single foreign female, I felt comforted.

Some books, I read in the wrong place at the wrong time. In busy Istanbul, The House of Spirits made me long for family. I read The Unbearable Lightness of Being when I was last in Korea, and the bleak and gritty scenery never synced with my bustling, neon-lit surroundings. 

I'll be making my luggage-bound library soon, and I'd love some tips.

From my fellow travellers and fellow readers, what are the best books to bring overseas?


  1. Ditto, and I refuse to jump on the ebook reader train. ;) If you want a little Newfoundland flavour, pick up "The Navigator of New York" or "The Colony of Unrequited Dreams" by Wayne Johnston, or "Bay of Spirits" by Farley Mowat which is one of my all-time favourites. Keep the wanderlust flowing!

  2. I'm really enjoying The History of Love right now. It might make you want to write :)

  3. Where in Korea are you headed to? In Seoul there's a pretty nice English language bookstore called What the Book?, which has a lot of cheap used books!

  4. Wrote in to mention What the Book in Itaewon (central part of Seoul), although other major cities have English-language bookstores as well. Quite a few libraries are around, some of which offer English-language books, magazines, and/or newspapers.

    Although you shouldn't have any problems finding these places, I wrote about a couple of libraries in Seoul awhile back: and

    The latter has mainly non-fiction academic sorts, but if you're looking for reference guides, this is the place to go. Meantime, keep reading :)

  5. I'll be far from Seoul, but I know that What the Book will ship around Korea - thanks for the tip, ROK-folk. It's something that took me like 8 months to learn when I was last in Korea...