The Traveling Paperback: ‘Currency in the Land of the Transients’
Travel Blog • Eva Holland • 02.08.08 | 9:13 AM ET
Over at Brave New Traveler, Rachel Friedman wonders about the impact of Amazon’s Kindle e-book reader on the traditional paper book—and most importantly, on the traveling paperback. I’ve been tuning out the e-book debate for several years now, but this story caught my attention thanks to its loving reminiscences about that essential backpacking rite: the hostel book swap.
Friedman trades innumerable books during the course of a two-year round-the-world trip, and makes innumerable connections with strangers. In her final trade, she passes along a well-traveled copy of Betty Mahmoody’s “Not Without My Daughter”:
I read the book on the plane to JFK. Before I handed to it off to a harried-looking young woman extricating her massive backpack from the conveyor belt, I scribbled “New York City” in it. And then I sent it off into the world feeling like I had left some piece of myself in its pages. Some part of me would travel to far-flung cities long after I was back in the routine of my settled life.
Friedman could have been reading my mind when she wrote those last two lines: I felt the same way as I watched my copy of “The Devil Wears Prada” work its way around an all-female dorm in Florence. Each of us wrote our names and nationalities in the book after we’d finished it—Eva from Canada, Amanda from Australia, Liz from New Zealand—and I wondered if someday I might find the book again, in a hostel in India or Argentina, the inside cover entirely filled with names and places. It was a surprisingly powerful moment—and far more memorable than the paperback novel that inspired it.