Travel and Books Part 3: Always Room for Another Book

Sydney, Monday

I like to get to airports early.  Partly this is to get through check-in, passport control, and security without worrying about time.  It’s not just getting through that gauntlet, either.  Clive and I both have a hot button about being forced to walk through one or more duty-free stores just to get to the departure area and other shops.

We have no interest in duty-free, other than getting it behind us and avoiding perfume-squirting salespeople.  We head for a place we can have a coffee, send final text messages to our families, and reward ourselves with a pre-flight browse, and usually a purchase or two, at whatever bookstore or newsagent is available.

After security In Sydney, NewsLink is where I usually buy a bestselling novel, often from the “Women’s Recommendations” table.  I always check the Travel Narrative section to see if there’s anything new, especially related to our destination, and sometimes we have a last-minute impulse to add a small Sydney picture book or Australian children’s book like Ruth Parks’ The Muddle-Headed Wombat as gifts for those we’ll see on our travels.

Local Interest  

Airports around the world have excellent selections of guidebooks and coffee-table books about their own country and city.  Sometimes we’ll make note of a book we’d like to have at home, so we can buy it when we’re back.

What I really like is the local section of airport bookshops.  They usually extend beyond guidebooks and gift books, and I love browsing the non-fiction shelves for current events, business, and self-help books that might not be available in other countries.

When flying from Sydney to New York via the U.S. west coast, we’d rather go via San Francisco than Los Angeles, and one reason is Compass Books.  It’s the first bookstore you see upon arrival, and it’s always a treat to see the latest goodies on display.  We almost always find something for the flight across the U.S., even if it’s only a newspaper or magazine, and the beginning of a mental list of what we’ll look for later, when not quite so jet-lagged.

Clive often picks up one or two computer magazines when we’re in foreign airports, to read product reviews and columns from other countries.  And there’s nothing better than finding a little jewel that’s both educational and amusing.  This past March, at London Heathrow’s WH Smith, I bought Lonely Planet British Language and Culture, an excellent pocket-guide, especially for someone living with a Brit.

Global Interest

My business career and continuing interests are around globalisation in general and being part of the Asia Pacific region in particular.  I always look forward to a browse at TimesNewsLink at Changi Airport in Singapore.  It has a large Asia section with current non-fiction, fiction, and local guidebooks by writers from across the region, including China and India.

We only have a short stopover at Changi Airport on our upcoming trip.  I don’t know if we’ll have time to fully explore what’s available, but I know I’ll try.  We’ll just have to hope for a longer time there, and in Singapore itself, another time.


Then there are the odd or delightful finds.  In our early dating days, I told Clive I thought he’d like “84, Charing Cross Road,” by Helene Hanff.  Walking through the Beijing airport at the end of a business trip, I passed a rack of dusty paperbacks , including that one.  Naturally, it was printed in China.

I’d never rule out airports for potential book treasures.  But getting outside the airport is the best way to fully satisfy travel-and-books urges.

More to come.

Travel and Books Part 1:  Will There Be Room for Clothes?
Travel and Books Part 2:  Clive’s Magnificent Trip Book 

6 Responses

  1. Hi Carolyn thanks for getting back to me on my blog…I used to live in Bury St Edmunds, not far from Ipswich…used to go to Felixstowe, in fact I think my mum still goes, with her over 60’s club or whatever it is called!!!

    Not that I fly a lot, but when I do go to the airport, first thing I do is send my husband to get coffees, and I head to the book shop…love them, no matter where they are.

    Do you want people to read your blog? I will add you to my blog roll if you wish, also you need to add your website when you leave comments, that way people can get back to you!! They would just click on your name that would take them straight to you.

  2. I agree. You can’t travel without books. I always head for bookstores in airports as well. At any French airport there are depressingly few English books but I always have a look. If I don’t have a book on an airplane I always think I will die of boredom.

  3. Thanks, Anne and Linda 🙂

    Anne, yes I’d be honoured to be added to your blog roll.


  4. well this is useful… (at least for me)

    very thanks

    travel directory

  5. I also head to the bookstore at every opportunity. As part of my employment, I spend six months of the year writing about Hawaii. Now that is a subject I never tire of reading about and the photos …

    Thanks so much for your posting.

  6. Kim, your Hawaii writing sounds great. Maybe we’ll pass in a bookstore somewhere … cheers and thanks.

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