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The Travelling Book Lover’s Dilemma

The Travelling Book Lover’s Dilemma

I’ll be in New York later this week to conduct some research for my book, Finding England in America, and I’ve been trying to figure out how to squeeze a visit to the Strand Book Store into my tight schedule.  The Strand is a book lover’s paradise filled with more than two million new and used books.

My son William and I are the most dedicated collectors in a family of book lovers.  A good used bookstore is an Aladdin’s cave brimming with the possibility of unexpected treasure, and we share a common delight in trolling for hidden gems, whether it’s the last volume he needs to complete a manga series, or an obscure British cookbook I’ve never come across before.  I even call William when I come across a good used bookstore during my travels.  I’m no longer self-conscious about standing there reading every titles to him so that I can snag anything he covets.

The real danger in my love for used bookstores is that I tend to buy books without thinking.  I don’t worry about how I’m going to get them home until they’re sitting in my hotel room.  That’s okay if I’m driving, although I have been known to fill the entire back seat with books.  However travelling by plane is another story.  I’ve been on at least one trip – okay, multiple trips – where I’ve had to buy an extra suitcase for my purchases.  Of course the days when you could check two free bags are long gone.  That means bringing books home on a plane has become an expensive (and sometimes back-breaking) proposition.

I’ve also mailed books home while travelling – at least twice from Hawaii and once from Colorado.  I sent a record-breaking five boxes of books home when I was in London last fall.  Royal Mail will ship up to 5 kilos (just over 11 pounds) of printed materials at a special rate, but it’s still an expensive proposition.  And even after I mailed five boxes, my suitcases were still loaded with books on my flight home.

It’s no wonder that I’m torn about whether I should visit the Strand when I’m in New York.  On one hand, it’s hard to pass up the opportunity to browse through millions of books.  On the other hand, unless I find Aladdin’s lamp in the Strand’s 18 miles of bookshelves, how will I get all those books home?

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