I sometimes post little travel updates for places I’ve been, but as it’s me, a lot of my trips involve city breaks, and cities mean book stores. Now, normally I don’t share the books I buy when I’m abroad, but I thought it was probably about time I change that.
So I thought today i’d share some of the books I’ve bought on my travels, where they came from, and a bit about the synopsis, because I still haven’t read 90% of them! Very on brand for me.
I visited New York back in March last year with my parents, and actually did end up buying two things – which was the cumulation of me debating in Barnes and Noble on Fifth Avenue for way longer than was probably necessary – which I’m sure they would agree with.
American books are a bit of a weird one, I bought two paperbacks, a novel and a graphic novel. Why are they so expensive?
The novel, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun is a mass market paperback, and is the floppiest thing I’ve held. Paperbacks in the UK are generally much sturdier and don’t lie flat in a 180 when you open them unless you break the spine and hold them like that. With exceptions of course.
As for a review, I haven’t read it yet. I’ve read We Should All Be Feminists, her essay on feminism and what it means today, and I own Americanah which I’m planning to start soon, but haven’t gotten round to yet. What I can tell you is that Half of a Yellow Sun is about the establishment of an independent republic in south-eastern Nigeria in the late 1960s and follows a few different characters, Odenigbo, Olanna and Richard, who are all very different.
The graphic novel I picked up is My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf. Unlike the book, it’s made of much sturdier stuff, and doesn’t feel like it’s going to fall out my hands.
I’ve written a review for this one on my blog already, so I won’t repeat myself, but it follows the perception of Jeffrey Dahmer at high school, how he was viewed by his classmates, and honestly, quite a lot about how weird and troubled he was.
I went to Luxembourg by myself on a press trip, where I was given a few hours just to wander around myself. My phone died, but not before I managed to navigate myself to the nearest bookstore that stocked English literature. Of course – get those priorities sorted straight away.
I did a mini haul post when I came back, which included the blind date with a book, so I won’t go into it again here.
I got three books, two I still haven’t read, and one I have. I still haven’t read my blind date with a book, and I’m saving the other one for winter so should get round to that soon. Those are Anita Shreve’s The Stars Are Fire, and David Guterson’s Snow Falling on Cedars (which is probably the most aesthetically pleasing book I’ve ever bought – the Bloomsbury Modern Classics are GORGEOUS).
I did however read The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner. I went into this with zero expectations, except for the knowledge that it was up for the Man Booker Prize, which I didn’t know when I bought it. I thought it was interesting, and I liked her writing, but the plot is very average. I know that there’s a lot of people who didn’t like this book, and I definitely get why. There’s a lot more world building than actual plot in The Mars Room, and I would have liked to see a lot more of the backstory behind the crime than we got to see.
I went a little overboard when I went to Prague, and ended up dragging my boyfriend into the same bookshop more than once so that I could look at the same books, and still buy more.
Staying true to the rest of this post, I still haven’t read any of them, although I am currently reading one of them, so that should count for something.
I picked up Bruno Jasieński’s I Burn Paris, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Girl In Snow by Danya Kukafka and Dancing Bears by Witold Szabłowski. Nothing if not a varied haul.
I’ve written about I Burn Paris in a previous post, so to save you all from boredom I won’t harp on about it again. I’m also not going to speak about Frankenstein, because I doubt there’s anyone out there who doesn’t know the general storyline, but it’s always a genuine embarrassment to me that I haven’t read it.
Girl in Snow seems just like a standard thriller. It’s about a school girl who is found murdered and the story is told from the point of view of three different characters, who each play a role in the aftermath, while it’s being figured out what happened to her. However, it doesn’t get very good ratings on Goodreads so I’m a little nervous about this one.
Dancing Bears is a little different of a purchase for me, but I’m so interested in the idea behind it. It’s written by a journalist (which I usually enjoy, being one myself) and is about people who live in former communist countries, and their previous lives, and whether they preferred it to how they’re living now.
London definitely isn’t as far to travel to as some of the places on this list, given that I live in the UK, but I went and picked up two books, so thought it was worth an honourable mention.
Unintentionally, they’re both about Nazi Germany. I took home Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada and The Tin Drum by Günter Grass.
Alone in Berlin is set in the city in 1940, where a man decided to start a resistance by dropping anonymous postcards attacking Hitler across the city after his son is killed on the front line, which obviously grabs the attention of the Gestapo.
The Tin Drum is a bit different in that it’s about a boy called Oskar who decides to stop growing because of the grief he feels over his parents death. It goes through his life in war and post-Nazi era, and the bit that grabbed me was that he’s in a mental institution. Always a winner for me.
Both books are quite long, and I know virtually nothing about either, so that’s always fun.
On a separate trip, I also picked up Tangerine by Christine Mangan, which I ended up disliking quite a lot, to the point I don’t even want to write a review on it. It’s boring and predictable, and also has the identity-theft trope which I think I’m just not a fan of.
It seems to get good reviews though, and it was an easy read because I read 90% of it while sitting waiting for my flight, and on the hour-long journey back home. However, it got unhauled straight after I read it and I wouldn’t recommend people pick it up.
Let me know if you have picked up any books abroad!