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Running out of reading material when you're on holiday - - -

My husband and I read a number of books while on holiday. It's one of our pleasures when relaxing in the evening, or sitting on a terrace, sipping a local beverage. One of our challenges has been trying to find English language books when we run out of what we've brought -- especially on a longer holiday. We try to make sure that what we've brought is enjoyable for both of us, but invariably we run out. What have been your successes in finding satisfactory reading material? Would love to hear what works for you.

Posted by
9044 posts

Flea markets can be a treasure trove and also places like Oxfam. Most larger cities will have bookstores with at least a small selection, larger selections will be at train stations, airports, large department stores, and in cities with large expat communities, you may find English bookstores.

Posted by
3313 posts

This is a great question. I have had moments of desperation when close to the end of my last paperback. Obviously, the challenge is to begin the trip with enough books to last, while still fitting into luggage. Coupled with the additional guidebooks I carry, it's tough for me.

Primarily I "trade". One advantage of staying in budget hotels is that they're more likely to have paperbacks left by other travelers lying around. So I trade books I've finished that way. I generally take gently used books with me. Another place to "trade" is Irish bars. Cities all over Europe have Irish bars which generally have no real Irish folk but do attract congregations of English speakers. Look in the corners or to the side of the bar. You can sometimes find books to trade. I feel great about passing along books I've finished to pick up new ones.

Of course, this works bests with popular fiction. In larger cities and major tourist destinations, local bookshops may have a secondhand English language bin hiding somewhere. For example, there's a bookstore down the Lista de Spagna in Venice that keeps a box of English language books in the back. (There are, of course, English bookstores in the biggest cities but you will pay high prices for new copies.)

Posted by
71 posts

Susan-
Each of you should take books the other is interested in. That doubles your supply.
Enjoy!
Duane

Posted by
440 posts

Hi Jo. I've seen Oxfam in Britian, but haven't seen them anywhere else. Are they also throughout Europe?

Posted by
15716 posts

Have you thought about getting either the Amazon Kindle or Sony E-reader? I have the Kindle and it's great. I can carry up to 200 books on a device that weighs less than a pound. Easy to read. No glare. Changeable font size.

Posted by
2744 posts

Frank, I have been thinking of getting a Kindle. Are Rick Steves and other guidebooks available on it?

Posted by
15716 posts

I spoke to the RS office about it. Their plans are to only put some of the city guidebooks on it. I think that's a mistake. But I think they're worried that people might try to "share" books with others.

Posted by
1503 posts

We took a sony e-reader (had 80 books downloaded onto it) on our last trip which worked out really great until the last few days of our trip, my husband put it in his backpack without closing the cover, and the display broke. (lesson learned!) We're thinking about replacing it before our next trip because it was so convenient.

Posted by
1317 posts

This depends on you and your destination, but one thing I did in Italy on my last trip was hunt down a dual-language Italian/English book (Pinocchio!) to practice my Italian with. I found it in the kids' section at the back of the bookstore. Especially if you are learning the language of the country you are traveling in, this could be a fun way to supplement your learning.

Posted by
440 posts

Thank you Frank for the information on the e-readers. We haven't explored that technology yet. We did some Googling on both the Amazon and Sony models. The Amazon Kindle doesn't appear to be available in Canada yet, but the Sony models are -- with a smaller selection of reading material. Excellent ideas though -- it will be a new "toy" for our list of must haves.

Posted by
331 posts

We read alot too when we travel. Luckily with the 4 of us each carrying a book, we had reading material for a few weeks.We did manage to get 2 books from one of the hostels we stayed at. In desperation, I paid 14 euros (yes, euros) for a John Grisham paperback at a train station. But, because we all read it I consider it about the price of a Coca Cola each, and it was a Great Book.

Posted by
12193 posts

Why not write a travel journal? Bring a blank journal and spend your spare time filling it in.

Posted by
881 posts

Hi, Susan. I had a wonderful experience my first trip to Europe trading books with another gentleman. He gave me a copy of "The Irish PM" which still sits on my book shelf to this day. So maybe bring some books you aren't afraid to give away or trade, and maybe something magical will happen!

PS - I've always been able to buy English books by just heading to the largest bookstore in any downtown. It's worked even in smaller countries like Slovenia, and was a breeze in Munich, Vienna, Amsterdam, Haarlem, etc.

Posted by
319 posts

Many European book store have a small selection of English language books. Often times it you'll classics. I've also found a lot of current Briritish fiction in mainland bookstores.

Posted by
196 posts

Almost all of the B & Bs and small hotels where we like to stay have a shelf or two of paperbacks that others have left; just leave one, take one.

Posted by
5678 posts

I always look up online or in my guidebook to see if there any any bookstores with English language books. It's amazing how many towns have bookstores with a section on English language books. Actually, our local Borders has books in foreign languages. I too trade and swap out with B&B libraries. When I'm in the UK my first stop is the local bookstore where I stock up for my trip. I love reading books based in the place I'm visiting. In a pinch, I pick up a copy of the Herald Tribune. ; )

Pam

Posted by
104 posts

I also buy really cheap used books to take on my trips so I can leave them behind and grab one that someone left. On our last trip to Vienna, Venice & Lake Como in 2007, there were hardly any "donated books" in any of our lodgings and what was there wasn't reading. Also, no real English language bookstores and the few books that I would find in a train station were outrageously expensive. I'll be looking into a Kindle or something similar for future trips.

Posted by
19171 posts

I don't understand. Do you want to experience Europe or read English language books? It almost sounds like you don't really want to admit you are in Europe; you have to have some English-language diversion.

When I am in Europe, I buy newspapers in the local language and try to understand what is going on in that culture. Due to the ubiquitiousness of printed material in that language, and my slow reading skills, I never run out of things to read.

Posted by
15716 posts

Lee..which paper do you buy in Paris...Le Monde or Le Figaro? And how about in Rome? Do you prefer the national Corriere della Sera or the more local Il Messaggero?

Afterall, to experience "EUROPEAN" culture, you wouldn't limit yourself to one country and one language, would you?

Posted by
440 posts

Lee, one day I hope to aspire to being able to read a local german-italian-french-czech-etc newspaper in anything else but english. While I can struggle through in french, the other languages are currently outside of my reach.

Thank you everyone for your comments and ideas. We currently practice many of your ideas, but I've certainly opened my eyes to many more.

Posted by
9044 posts

hmmm, I think I am gonna have problems with that Greek newspaper. :-)) Seriously though, when sitting on a train for 4 hours, or right before bed, or sitting on a beach, or if by myself in a restaurant, I always have something to read. Though I do read German pretty well, including novels and research materials, I still prefer reading for pleasure in English. Reading Steven King or John Grisham in English just isn't the same. I do not go see American movies in German either. One loses something in the translation. I admire anyone who wants to immerse themselves in the language, but it truly is not for everyone and one should not expect it either. Especially when going from one country to another. I stick with my basic phrases, picking up vocabulary as I go along and for me that's plenty.

Posted by
345 posts

I usually overpack books, so my only problem is leaving them behind. For my next big UK trip, I'm planning on only taking things that I want to leave behind. I'm stocking up on thrift store copies, or second copies so that I can just leave one without remorse. I'd rather spend the extra dollar on another copy and be able to enjoy a favourite book rather than take something and not enjoy it (this from a person who has a personal library in the thousands, don't think I don't ever read anything new).

I'll either just leave them behind, or possibly use bookcrossing.com so that I can see where they end up.

If I run out... I'm already putting together lists of used bookstores and thrift shops in the areas where I'll be... and of course, a copy of my booklist just in case I find anything missing from my collection. :)

Posted by
191 posts

For the Iphone and Ipod touch owners/users there is a kindle app that will allow you to purchase and download books to your Apple device.

Also the Stanza app gives you access to lots of free books, mostly classics.

Posted by
11507 posts

Lee, many people read to relax and pass time,, ( as Jo said, on beaches, long bus or train rides, waiting in lines, or if like me , when I am solo it is nice to have a book to read while I wait for my meal to arrive ) . People who LOVE to read can find 10 minutes here and there all day to read. They do not really want to have to struggle and study to read the newpaper( and quite frankly, unless one has the launguage , I can't think of anything drier then sitting with a dictionary trying to decipher an article only to discover its about last weeks football game!)

Also ,, I do not experience much "culture" while sitting in my hotel bed at night,, I don't always want to wander the streets late at night( sore feet maybe) and there is nothing better then a good book. I have heard of people not bringing reading material with them,, ( I have such a friend, she is an accountant, and finds reading boring), but I would be terribly sorry if I didn't.

Some people like to do Sudoko( I would rather have a tooth extraction, LOL ),, some like crossword puzzles( yup, I like them) , we are all different.

Posted by
57 posts

The thought of running out of something to read while traveling puts me in a cold sweat. I always carry several books that I can leave behind. The space/weight thing is hard to deal with so I've resorted to tearing out the pages of guide books and then found I i wanted to go someplace I had no data on so now only take one or two with me and photocopy pages. Recreational reading material usually means something not too big and with smallish print. In desperation I used to take a big book which I never got to which accounts for the number of trips my copy of The Brothers Karamozov has logged LOL. I know check for English language bookstores as a back up and the suggestion about Irish pubs is good and lots of hotels and small hotels have shelves of books left behind by others. I think if I got totally desperate I'd keep an eye out for a fellow travel and ask about a swap.

Posted by
3580 posts

Hot topic! I often buy magazines. National Geographic and The Economist in English are often available in kiosks, train stations, and other places selling magazines. Either will keep me busy reading for several days.