Travel Love: The Joy of Book Swaps

This summer I’ve been travelling around Central America with a friend.  While I have A LOT to say about this experience, I want to limit myself to books for this post.

Travelling has given me the most wonderful opportunity to read again.  While I’m at uni, my reading time is sadly far too limited, and I constantly feel guilty if I’m not reading something course related.  But while travelling, I’ve had so much time to just sit around and simply be in a place.  While reading.  Bliss.

And the fuel to my reading fire has been hostel book swaps.  I find hostels superior to hotels in so many ways – the sociable atmosphere, guest kitchens, (generally) friendly staff etc etc – but the book swap is very possibly my favourite aspect.  I simply cannot get over how marvellous it is that I can come away for 3 months with one book, and keep reading the whole time.  There is such a range of genres and different tastes, and on occasion I’ve been forced into choosing books I normally wouldn’t even look at (this is how I found Still Alice, one of my new favourite books).

I’ve heard other travellers complain that book swaps are only ever full of terrible beach reads – I am here to tell you this is a lie.  On this trip, my goodies have included The Help, Slaughterhouse Five, A Visit From the Goon Squad, and I am just embarking on The Kite Runner, probably my final read of the trip.

As I get closer and closer to going home, I’ve been lamenting the soon-to-be loss of the book swap in my life.  What will I do back in England without a place to pick up free books, then be able to get rid of them when I’m done and save my space? It’s such a useful resource!  We should adopt this idea in everyday life at home!

Then I realised quite how much of an idiot I had been.  What are libraries if not a place to temporarily acquire new (to me) books?  I am a useless library user – I’m not even a member of the public library in Bath, where I’ve been at uni for two whole years.  So my new academic year’s resolution is to join this library and start making use of one of our most fabulous resources.  It’s no wonder David Cameron and his government are doing their best to wipe out libraries, when even active readers forget to use them!

Is anyone else a lapsing library member?  Do you agree with me that it’s a great way to make a dent in the to-read list, or do you prefer the thrill of buying books for yourself?

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3 thoughts on “Travel Love: The Joy of Book Swaps

  1. I enjoyed your post because I love to read and to trade books, too. I joined a website called Bookcrossing.com and when I’m done with a book while traveling, if there’s no bookshelf to leave it, I “release” it for someone else to find. I also belong to an informal book club that we call “the great book exchange”. It started with another coworker scheduling quarterly lunchtime get togethers where we each bring some books that we thought were great. We take turns giving a little info on the books and then take turns picking from each others’ collections. When books remain that no one else wants to read or have made the complete rounds, we either donate them or release them. You should try it! And by the way, Still Alice is one of my favorites, too. I also loved The Kite Runner and hope you do, too.

    • What a great website, I’ve not come across it before. I’ve just finished travelling, but I might have a go at joining in when I get home – I live in a pretty touristy city, so there are probably quite a few people passing through. Your book club sounds fun too, I really need to get myself organised for things like this! Now to find other bookworms around me… 🙂

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