A couple of weeks ago I received an invitation to a book swap party being held by a colleague of mine and upon reading the rules (one book per person and something you enjoyed) I felt instant regret for having left my latest, greatest read The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert in Australia with my mum after my recent trip back. Why regret? Well you see my bookshelf here in Colombia doesn’t exactly contain a lot of good, intelligent reads. It’s actually a bit embarrassing and given that I knew the other invitees would be book and writing people, I found myself wishing that I had brought Elizabeth Gilbert’s latest masterpiece back with me to share at this event.
But life should not be about regrets, so I set about analysing the books that met the following criteria:
1. I had read, and finished, the book
2. I was prepared to part with it
There were 15 books that I had read, and of those, there 2 that form part of my Latin American collection, and therefore are loanable, but un-giveawayable.
The 13 books included 3 rural Australian romances, 2 historical romances, Stieg Larsson’s Millenium trilogy, 1 American chick lit, 1 hideously self-indulgent autobiography, Pride and Prejudice and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.
In the end, the toss up was between one of the rural Australian romances Mum had left behind and had inadvertently inspired me to write a few chapters of a similar genre and The Book Thief. I chose The Book Thief. Not just because for a book swap party it is quite apt, but because there is a story behind how I came to have it in my possession.
I wanted to share the book’s story with whoever selected my book to take home. A book is not just about the story contained within the pages, but the journey it has taken. In essence there are two stories for every book and I wanted to tell the unwritten one.
The story of my copy of The Book Thief goes like this:
This book was given to me by Emily in July 2011. I met Emily in Asheville, North Carolina during my solo roadtrip across the US and then I stayed with her and her extremely hospitable family in Connecticut a few weeks later. As I was preparing to leave and hit the road to Vermont, Emily ran inside and came out with The Book Thief. She told me that it was one of her favourite books and she wanted to share it with me. I had heard about it, but hadn’t read it before.
The book travelled with me back to my base in Los Angeles where I left it while I took a life-changing trip to Colombia. In October 2011 I took the book (and a suitcase of other personal effects) to my new boyfriend’s home in Santa Marta to await my return in mid 2012 to live in Colombia.
Two and a half years passed before I finally took it off the bookshelf and opened it up to read, prodded by the pending release of the film adaptation.
Maybe it was the high expectation I had of it being someone else’s favourite book, favourite and important enough to gift to a passing traveller, or perhaps it is the quietly sinister and odd narration, but it didn’t end up in my category of favourite books. I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t a page-turner demanding me to devour it. That said, it is an interesting story and unique in it’s style. I like the peppering of German words, which really do help to firmly set the story in Germany and take you away to that place, even if you don’t know what they mean. And, it’s written by a fellow Australian.
I am swapping this book so that it can continue on its journey in the spirit with which I came to have it. I hope it passes through many more hands over the years, further adding to its own story.
There were so many interesting books shared and while I missed out on Laura Esquivel’s Swift as Desire, which would have been a great addition to my Latin America bookshelf, I came home with another book adapted for the silver screen, Atonement by Ian McEwan.
Perhaps the greatest gift out of the party was the inspiration to write this post. The desire to put my fingers to the keyboard instead of my crochet hook and get back to writing.