Reading on the Road

This is going to be a controversial statement among the readers out there, but here goes: my e-reader changed my life. I know, I know. It's not the same as having a book in your hands. It doesn't have the smell, the feel, the weight. But if you're a traveler I urge you to give one a try - it revolutionized how I read on the road. Before the Nook (BTN): I had to pack at least 3 or 4 books just to get me through an international flight. Then I had to cross my fingers I would find a hostel or a cafe with a book exchange that had a halfway decent English language selection. After Nook (AN): I have an entire library in a device the size of a paperback novel. I can carry 50 books in my purse at one time! It holds a charge for 2+ weeks at a time, and it even has a built-in light for reading in a dark hostel dorm. It's pretty much the best thing ever.

Normally I use the Multnomah County library to keep 1000's of free ebooks at my fingertips, but the Chromebook/Nook combo that I traveled with doesn't work with the library app (a Kindle would have), so while I borrowed some books for my first 3 weeks, I had to find other ways to stock my library for the rest of my 3 month journey. I joined a site called BookBub that sends me a daily email with free/discounted books (some of which turned out to be pretty bad, but some were things I'd been interested in reading); I made a wishlist on Barnes and Noble and kept an eye out for sales; and I searched online for free ebooks (usually classics).

A few of my favorite reads from my trip:

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy - My first attempt at Russian literature was Crime and Punishment - and I hated it. All the characters have the same names and I couldn't keep track of who was doing what to whom. But when I saw Anna Karenina for $0.99 on Barnes and Noble, I had to get it. When else are you going to read a 1200-page Russian epic, if not when you're on vacation in the former Soviet Union? Plus, it would keep me busy for a good long while, making that $0.99 an even better value. Lucky for me, I wound up really enjoying the story - and I was able to tell all the characters apart!

The Smoke Jumper by Nicholas Evans - One of my fellow tour-mates in Iran had only brought one book for our two week trip - The Smoke Jumper. We had a lot of long days on the bus between destinations, and she found herself finishing it way too quickly, so I offered to trade her my Nook for the week in exchange for this book by the author of The Horse Whisperer. Unfortunately I liked it so much that I finished it before she finished reading the book on my Nook and I was left trying to figure out what to do with my free time without a book to read. (It mostly involved staring out the bus window.) 

The Lanvin Murders and Dior or Die by Angela Sanders - these "bath-tub mysteries" are light and fun. They're set in a vintage clothing store in Portland, and written by a former coworker of mine, so they made me feel at home no matter where I was reading them.

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson - One of the "classics" that I had never read, I figured a cruise off the Turkish coast was as good a time as any to give it a try. It was fun reading this tale set on the high seas from the deck of a boat. 

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand - This WWII novel was super intense, but it opened my eyes to the horrors of the Pacific theater of the war, which I honestly had never heard much about.  

I also treated myself to two paperback books while I was traveling - Ali and Nino was THE book to read in Georgia (it's set in the Caucasus) and I bought it as a birthday present for myself at Prospero's Books, a cute English language bookstore in Tbilisi with an attached cafe where I found my birthday bacon in the form of a yummy BLT on sourdough. I also came across a random bookstore in the center of Yerevan that had a good - and more importantly, CHEAP - English language section. I got Tom Perotta's Little Children for about $2!

How and what do you read on the road? 


  1. It's funny. Amazon held out a long time before finally allowing Kindle users access to ebooks through their public library and now it's a pain to download them onto any other reader. But it's possible.

    Overdrive is the largest distributor to libraries in the world and the formats they provide can be read by a Nook. There's multiple steps and you'll have to plug into a computer, but this should save you money if not time:

    1. Yeah, I use overdrive to get library books on my Nook all the time via my Mac - but, unfortunately, the Samsung Chromebook that I got for my trip does not make the connection between Overdrive and the Nook, even when plugged in. I was pretty devastated when I figured this out. It still makes me angry, actually. Why, Chromebook, whyyyyyy?

  2. I'm still very much on the fence with e-readers. I mean, I understand how handy they are... But at the same time, I really can't see myself giving up actual books. I guess the glow of an electronic device makes my eyes tired and makes me distracted. I've tried it, but maybe I should try again.

    1. Elina, have you tried the e-ink readers? There can still be some glare, but they have a much more matte surface than something like an iPad. They don't have any of the bells and whistles (like games, email), but I don't feel I need those in a book! The Nook calls it a SimpleTouch, Amazon calls it Kindle Paperwhite and I'm sure Kobo and others have a similar version (bonus - it's usually way cheaper than a color tablet).


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