In Defense Of Books

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Let’s all give a collective sigh of appreciation for the pure unadulterated joy of books. Let’s toast their smooth, creamy pages, their musty smell, their meticulously designed covers. Recall the weight of a hefty book in your hand— it’s much better than the overly bright, soul-sucking computer screen you’re staring at right now.

The best kind of book is the one where putting it down in order to accomplish such pleasantries like eating or sleeping or using the facilities would be akin to the apocalypse. (I confess, when each Harry Potter book debuted my family wouldn’t see me for three days until I emerged blinking in the sunlight, mumbling incoherently about Muggles, Diagon Alley, and the Sorting Hat.)

Books are even more beautiful to read while traveling. They provide you with a nuanced understanding of the place you are visiting. Regardless if it’s fact or fiction, history or travel-centric, a book offers a parallel narrative to your experiences. This narrative widens your perception of a city or country, allowing you to dive deeper into its belly, and (forgive me for the analogy), pry open its ragged shell to find the glowing pearl hidden within.

Expectedly, Smithsonian understands the power of reading when traveling, as evidenced by their recent article outlining great books and where to read them. I agree with most of the author’s suggestions, such as Homer’s The Odyssey in Greece and Bryson’s Notes From a Small Island in England. The article also recommends travelers read Krakaur’s Into the Wild while visiting Alaska — which, while fitting, has potential to scare you from ever venturing into the wilderness alone again.

When I road-tripped through the American Southwest several years ago, I recall reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal Dreams, an Arizona-based novel filled with cacti and adobe buildings, Native American themes and the natural landscape of red-hued mountains. It was a moving and memorable way to journey through the sometimes stark, sometimes breathtaking roads of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado.

Simply put, books are transcendent. They change us even when we aren’t traveling, and their contents make us grow as human beings. We are better people because books exist.

So what should you do?

Rediscover your affection for books. Go to a bookstore. Borrow one from a friend. List your top travel book recommendations in the comments below (don’t everyone rush and recommend The Expeditioner’s Guide To The World at once.)  And for goodness sake, if you plan on reading Fifty Shades of Grey, for everyone’s comfort, download it to your Kindle.

By Jenna Blumenfeld


About the Author

Jenna Blumenfeld, (Jenna Ogden Blumenfeld when she’s in really big trouble) hails from the wee state of Connecticut. Although her childhood dream of becoming a bug doctor — with a specialization in ladybugs — has gone unfulfilled, she is content writing about travel, cuisine and culture. A vegetarian, she currently resides in the food hub of Boulder, Colorado. Read more of her food-centric writing at

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