Books

What we’re reading

On the road or off, it’s good to have a book or two handy.

In addition to book stores, some airports have free book swap stations.

This one we spotted in the airport in Walla Walla, Washington is pretty basic.

This one in the Helsinki Airport is more elaborate.

Need some suggestions on what to read? Here are some travel-related books that have recently arrived in the Stuck At The Airport mailbox.

Atlas Obscura: 2nd edition: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders is out and is full of even more odd, entertaining and must-see spots around the world.

There’s an Atlas Obscura page-a-day calendar and an Atlas Obscura wall calendar out for 2020 as well.

For anyone interested in Roman mythology or who may be traveling to Rome, David Stuttard’s book Roman Mythology – A Traveler’s Guide from Troy to Tivoli may come in handy.

And if you’ve ever been to Massachusetts or New England, you’ll likely recognize the names of just about all of the 25 Pioneer Valley towns that serve as settings for the stories in A Book of Fields – Tales from the Pioneer Valley , by my friend, Stephen Billias.

Greenfield, Deerfield, Springfield, Westfield, Sheffield and Pittsfield are all in here.

Plus one imaginary town and, says Billias, one field that is not a town at all.

What travel-related books are you reading?

(All the links here will take you to Amazon, but if you can, buy these books from your local bookseller.)

Souvenir Sunday: a journey with “Luggage”

On my travels this week I’ve been toting a review copy of Susan Harlan’s book, Luggage, which is part of Bloomsbury’s charming Object Lessons series.

The slim book is travel-sized, but densely-packed and Harlan has stuffed it with stories and side-trips that touch not just on the actual history and development of suitcases, bags, trunks, carry-ons and valises, but on the role baggage plays in literature, art and films.

Remember Mary Poppins’ carpet bag?

“It contains all of her desires,” writes Harlan, and is a “powerfully enabling object” from which the nanny is somehow able to produce a lamp and a mirror (in the 1964 Disney movie) and, in the novel by P.L. Travers, everything from an apron to an armchair.

Poppins’ luggage was not only magical, notes Harlan, it gave her freedom. “She can come and go as the wind changes, which would hardly be possible with a steamer trunk,” Harlan writes.

In “Luggage,” Harlan tells us about her own collection of vintage luggage, a bit of how she and others approach packing and of her visit to to Alabama’s vast Unclaimed Baggage Center, which is not just a store but a tourist destination.

Along the way she unpacks the role and relationship baggage has to everything from home and gender to class, memory, loss and, of course, travel.

“The history of luggage is the history of travel: how we traveled, and why, and where, and what we have packed,” Harlan tells us at the beginning of this journey, “It is virtually impossible to think of traveling without luggage.”

 

 

 

 

A rare and much-loved amenity at Raleigh=Durham International Airport is closing this week after serving passengers for almost 34 years.

2nd ed. Booksellers – a used bookstore located post-security at RDU – is closing it doors on December 31 after 33 and half years at the airport.

“It is quite sad to see it go, but it is time to retire as I have arthritis issues that strongly recommend that I stop lifting and toting boxes of books,” owner Walter High, who operates the store with his wife Karen, wrote on the store’s Facebook page. “We will miss our faithful customers and RDU will lose one of its most unique aspects. A used bookstore behind security at the airport doesn’t happen anywhere else in the US that we know of.Thank you all for your support over the years!”

RDU’s used bookshop was a favorite with travelers and a rarity at an airport. Two other airports have bookstores (that I know of) that also sell used books: Renaissance Book Shop at Milwaukee’s General Mitchell International Airport and a branch of Powell’s Books (selling new and used books) at Portland International Airport.” But these are pre-security.

Souvenir Sunday: read an illustrated history of travel

Journey – an Illustrated History of Travel, published by DK in association with the Smithsonian Institution, arrived in the mail a few weeks back and our household has been leafing through it since then.

It’s a big coffee table-style book – 440 pages, in full color and pretty heavy – and is separated into 7 chapters, or “ages,” each tackling advances, experiences and the means by which humans have made their way around the world.

Chapters 1 through 3 tackle the Ancient World (including travel in ancient Egypt and the travels of Odysseus and Alexander the Great), travel that powered trade and conquests, including the travels of Marco Polo, and The Age of Discovery, when explorers set out to find “new” parts of the world.

Chapters 4 through 7 dig deep into the ‘The Age of Empires’, ‘The Age of Steam,’ ‘The Golden Age of Travel,’ and “The Age of Flight,’ with lots more achival images, historic maps, artifact images, bits of journals, and works of art.

I was delighted to find a spread on the Wunderkammern – or curiosity cabinets – that collectors began putting together in the 16th century to show off souvenirs such as shells, preserved animals, scientific and mechanical obects, and other odd tidbits they’d picked up on far off journeys or purchased from others who had gone on adventures.

The three voyages of Captian Cook are detailed, as are the inventions and inventors that brought the world flight.

There are sections on the rise of the manufactured souvenir, World’s Fairs, Grand Hotels, luggage labels, national parks, efforts to create maps that accurately reflect the world and parts of it, camping, Route 66, travel to every corner of the world, the Jet Age, space travel – and much, much more.

Towards the end of this big book there’s a section of biographies stretching from Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen, to Amelia Earhart, Thor Heyerdahl, Ernest Shackleton, and Amerigo Vespucci.

This one is a keeper and a good gift for anyone interested in travel or history.

All images from Journey – an Illustrated History of Travel.