When I don’t travel and buy books, I buy books and travel.
Oh, the life of the book lover! So solitary at times and yet so full of people, of ideas, of stories and adventures!
Always carrying a book around, always waiting for a beloved author to write a new book, always looking at future publication dates, always visiting bookstores, always waiting for the postman to bring in the latest book ordered.
Never having enough time to finish one book before the next one comes in.
Books piling up everywhere around the house, on the nightstand, on the coffee table, under the coffee table, on the desk and all around, the bookcases filling up, adding new shelves on top of them to create extra storage space. Naturally, now there are the e-books, which take up no space at all, except some MBs on your hard drive. But I like the good old paper books. The ones I can pile up. The ones I can look at whenever I pass by my bookshelves. The ones that with the passing of time get that smell of a book that’s been around for a while. A good, old book!
Ever since I can remember myself I would read. It still remains one of my favorite pastimes. Luckily, things are constantly improving for book lovers. For me, the biggest joy has come with the internet! Oh, my! How did we ever live without it? I remember in the pre-internet era how hard it was to get my hands on foreign books. In my hometown there were perhaps a couple of bookstores carrying some foreign language books. That was good, of course, but hardly enough. If one wanted a particular book it would have to be especially ordered, meaning also quite a higher cost. Besides, the possibilities of knowing which books were out there were very limited. Someone should’ve recommended a specific book, or perhaps you might had read an article or book review in a foreign newspaper or magazine. Or, you’d just be hoping and waiting for your favorite author to publish a new book. In a couple of words: too complicated.
And then came the internet. And with it came the online bookstores and cheap, and in some cases even free, international shipping. Now, that has been a blessing! Along followed the websites of literary agencies and authors, with new book announcements and upcoming release dates. Oh, heaven! So, now I mark my calendar; six months from now this one is being published in that country and then a month later in that one. And I know when I can order it online and have it delivered to me within a few days. I am actually expecting three books in the mail this week.
With languages playing a big part in my life, it’s always been important for me to find the books I want in the language they are originally written. That makes me feel so much closer to the author and the author’s thoughts and energy while writing the book. It feels like being there while the ideas are popping out of the mind and onto the paper – or computer screen! Sometimes I’m even tempted to buy books in languages I don’t speak yet. Why? Because one day I might, and then the book will already be there to accompany my learning. Because every book, especially in the original language, is a part and a representative of the culture it comes from. And I love collecting cultural artifacts. They make my life more beautiful and rich.
Traveling is a fantastic way to find and buy new books. In particular, before online bookstores it was essential. I remember once, a long time ago, I had discovered a bookstore in downtown Prague that carried Spanish books. Quite an unexpected surprise! On the flight back home my suitcase weighed 30 kilos. Yes, you could do that back then! I’d also ask friends to bring me the books I wanted from their travels, or when they’d come to visit. In fact, I still do that. As I still buy books when I travel. It’s such an uplifting feeling. Wandering inside actual bookstores all over the world. Such a thrill! Plus, books make for wonderful souvenirs to cherish for years and remember the whole adventure behind them. On my last trip to South America my friend was teasing me that we had been at every bookstore in every city we had visited.
Now, even my niece, at the age of five, owns a wide collection of books in various languages that I’ve brought her from around the world. I don’t know when or if she’ll ever be able to read them all herself. She’s just now starting with reading Greek. But, hopefully, some of my multilingual reading will eventually rub off on her, and then one day she can say, “Oh, I got that from my aunt!”
by Melina Stefanidou