Do We Bond Over Books the Way We Do During Travel?

Travel Blog  •  Jim Benning  •  06.05.12 | 9:44 AM ET

Bryan Basamanowicz observes that people bond over mutually beloved books much the way they bond with fellow travelers in a far-flung place.

If we try to extend this “traveler’s comparison” to other narrative mediums—television programs, movies, plays—it can often lose some of its steam. Why is this? Relative limitlessness in physical and emotional sensory potential is the privilege and burden of the reader. The book, more so than any other form of narrative media, rings true, more synonymous, with the limitlessness and loneliness to be found while facing the open road or holding a one-way airline ticket to Azerbaijan. In my hypotheses, it is the loneliness quality in particular, physically and intellectually inherent to the act of reading, that lays the bedrock for the powerful social bonding achieved through literature. The limitlessness is critical too, as it promises a bounty of fertile avenues for conversation, but it’s the loneliness of the reader—or, as Rainer Maria Rilke might say, it’s how “two solitudes protect and touch and greet each other”—that assigns to a very special category those friendships formed over books.

I’ve had much the same experience. Though I’ll never forget meeting a young Canadian traveler in a lonely village in western China. When she learned I liked the band Rush, she literally jumped up and down with joy and ran over to give me a hug. You never know what, exactly, will float another’s boat.



4 Comments for Do We Bond Over Books the Way We Do During Travel?

Flights to Bangkok 06.06.12 | 2:26 AM ET

I met an old man who has fair bit of knowledge about copy writing and article publishing, so I managed to keep contact with him and get regular help with publishing my articles for my own company magazine.

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I like many stories books and write many article.
I managed to keep contact with him and get regular help with publishing my articles for my own company magazine.

Kris Farring 06.18.12 | 5:25 PM ET

It is so funny how people bond on such obscure things. I was on a Mediterranean cruise through http://www.travcoa.com and met a Mexican fellow who saw me reading Malcom Lowery’s Under the Volcano. He became very animated, but spoke little English. Through a flurry of half translations and with the help of my travelling companion, we managed to figure out he lived in Cuernavaca where the book is set. I have also been in Mexico City which is just North of Cuernavaca and we spent hours over beers trying to chat about our experience in Mexico while the islands of Greece were passing by. Kind of ironic maybe?  I learned a lot about him, his wife recently passing away, his father’s textile business having a tough time with the economic crash, his brother in the army fighting drug dealers and all because of a book we’d both read; but one of us had sort of lived it as well.  Too funny as we probably wouldn’t have spoken much to each other. To this day I have a standing invitation to visit him and maybe one day I will take it up and return to Mexico City and take a drive south.

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