Monday, November 17, 2014

Books That Travel

I've been extremely busy finishing up The Warrior and the Governor, the second book in my Warriors of Gaviron series of science fiction romance. The past two weeks reminded me how fortunate I am in family. My husband has been super supportive as have my sons. My daughter in Morocco offered to help any way she can, such as guesting on my blog. I wasn't sure what to expect. As her habit, she far exceeded my expectations. The two of us share many things and one of our deepest connections is our love of books. She's been busy carrying that love to different parts of the world.

Books That Travel       

 Not too long ago, I found myself faced with a week-long vacation from my semester in Morocco, and I had nothing to read. I had not brought any physical books with me for my semester abroad because of space and weight constraints. I only brought my Kindle which I was obliged to leave with a friend so as not to deprive her of internet while I lived it up in Spain.

 Faced with such a depressing dilemma, I went to the small library of the cultural center I study at, and though this library is small, the biggest section is undoubtedly the fiction section for English language (there are also extensive French and Arabic-language literature sections). The first time I had seen this treasure trove I wondered how they had cultivated such a wide variety of books. But, of course the answer is simple: books travel. In fact, I think they even like it. It just might be one of their favorite past times.

 All of these books in the glorious and beautiful English language had been brought and left by students of the cultural center stretching back decades. Each one of these books set out on a journey and ended up in Morocco. I decided to check out two and let them tag along on my excursion to Spain.

 When I was in Spain, I adopted a book for my friend and decided to take it on a journey to Morocco and then on to the United States.

 I came back from my stint in Spain early to sojourn in a small Moroccan beach town called Essaouira. As I strolled the souk one day it suddenly appeared like a blessing from the Literary Gods. A sign that said “Livres/Books” with an arrow pointing down a friendly-looking alley. In the friendly-looking alley was a friendly-looking bookshop where books dominated floor to ceiling. I can only assume they were all merely taking a brief rest before continuing their travels.

 I communed with a few of them, and inquired silently about their stories. For example, how did a book about the Sand Creek Massacre end up in a small African beach town? Did all of the Tom Clancys travel to Morocco with the same person? The creations of Robert Jordan, William Faulkner, and Agatha Christie have all touched Morocco in some way, and I am sure many other places as well.
Kelley on a camel in the Sahara

 The explanation for this extraordinary phenomenon is actually quite simple, though it does not make it any less extraordinary. Books travel. All the time, always. With worn and tattered pages and with crisp new pages. Through the internet and via e-readers. They get stuffed in purses, packed in suitcases, and tucked under arms. The most important part of a book's ability to travel, however, is that they always travel in your heart and mind. After you read a book, even though that particular book may continue its travels to touch the life of another person in a totally different country, it has left its mark on you. Whether you are reading a book or writing one, just know that one day that book might end up being a light to someone in a small Moroccan town or its name might be spoken in the stillness of the Saharan Desert. All books are books that travel if you just give them a chance.

Kelley Gourley is a junior at Boston University studying Arabic and International Affairs. Currently she is studying a semester in Morocco where she also teaches English to unwilling college students. Her personal blog can be found at The Open Roof.

Do you visit bookstores when you travel? Have you ever visited a bookstore in a country other than your native land? Any surprising finds? Are you as lucky in familial support as I am? How cool would it be to find your own novel sitting on a shelf in non-English speaking country? Do you love books even half as much as Kelley? 


  1. Hi Susan and Kelley - what a great post .. the wandering story teller = the book. It will be sad if real books don't travel ... we need to keep the idea alive ...

    They've started leaving books on tubes/metro in London .. and people read and take away or can add their own ...

    Great idea for a story here .. or many stories ...

    It's great reading Kelley's blog and hearing about Morocco ...

    Have fun and good luck with finishing your second book Susan .. love the photo of Kelley on her camel - cheers Hilary

  2. Beautiful post! And what a wonderful experience. I haven't been to another country, sadly, but my husband has, and he brings me books back. They each have a special place.

  3. I once found a book that had a message inside that said precisely that. It was a program where you find the book, read it, go online to log who you are and where you found it, find out where else it's been and then leave it somewhere for someone else to find. It was quite cool.

  4. That's cool to think people have taken books to other countries and left them behind for others to enjoy.

  5. That is an interesting thought indeed, how they could have traveled anywhere and read by anyone. Probably seen more than most humans, if a book could see lol

  6. How wonderful! I remember that program Michael mentions in his comment but i don't remember what it was called.

  7. Nice to meet you, Kelley!

    I do hunt books when I travel, but I've never considered the journey they might've taken.

    Stay safe and come home soon!

  8. Great guest post, Kelley! Best wishes with your teaching.

    On another note, I will NEVER ride a camel. Ever.

  9. It would be very cool to find your book nestled in a bookstore abroad.

    Susan... you are lucky to have a daughter willing to help you out. And she says such interesting stuff!!!

  10. I love visiting book stores when I travel.

    It is interesting the variety of books in this little library. I agree, books were made to "travel."

  11. How wonderful it is that books travel so much. I know my book has been in more countries than I have! I'd love to explore little libraries if I could travel. Thanks for sharing with us, Kelley! :)

  12. Yes, I do visit bookstores where ever I go. My husband knows if he doesn't see me go look in a book store. :-) I've donated books to bookstores in different countries, especially as a kid--kind of like trading. The only language I can read, other than English is Spanish. But still I'm amazed at the variety of English written books that do end up in the bookstores I've visited abroad.

    My blog co-host, Kat, left several books at Shakespeare's in Paris. Kinda cool.

    Susan, it's a blessing to have a supportive family. My husband is great about pitching in and doing anything needed. Bless his mother's heart for teaching him.

  13. Yes, I visit bookstores when I travel. In fact, a few of my favorite bookstores aren't in the country I live in . . . although Canada isn't really that far from where I live. :)
    Yes, I have awesome familial support and yes, I think I love books in all forms that much too. :)
    It would be so awesome to see my book sitting on a shelf in another country. I would probably jump and dance around and scare other book store customers.

    I love the heart of this post and Kelley's beautiful way of showing how books travel. I've purchased books in unlikely places and carted them through airports, subways, on hiking trails and canoe trips. I've even taken a few skiing . . . or at least to ski lodge areas.

  14. wow, so intriguing. I wonder how those books got there too. what they're "story" is. :)

  15. How sweet you are to help your mom out! Whenever I would check a book out in the library, I would always check the card and see who all had borrowed it. I suppose I was amazed that a single book could be a companion to so many different people.

  16. I LOVED your post, Kelley! Such a fantastic interpretation of how and why the books we come across get where they're going. And that it could be just a pause on their journey.

    I'm not surprised at all that Sue has such a smart and insightful daughter!

  17. Hi Susan and Kelley. What a lovely post. I love to browse bookstores when I have time in every place I end up on my travels. I confess I wouldn't have known where to find one in Morocco, but thrilled to know that you found one Kelley. I love it when hotels etc have bookshelves of books to read and allow you to leave yours and take some that appeal to you. That's how I got started on Jodi Picoult years and years ago. A little place in Italy had The Pact. The beginning of a beautiful relationship!!

    Hope the writing continues apace Susan! Would love it if you shared a few lines on my blog--What are you writing? is the topic.

    Denise :)

  18. Love this post-- I've encountered well-travelled books as well, especially in resorts in Malaysia and Cambodia, where travellers left the books in their rooms, and the hotel staff made a library out of those.

    Once in a while I leave my contribution, too-- but always at the 'library' not in my room.