My absence the last couple weeks was one abandoning the routines and topography of everyday life. My wife and I went off on an 18-day cruise from San Francisco to New York City through the Panama Canal. As our youngest lives in NYC, we spent a few days there before returning home. And as much as I love travel and cruises, there truly is no place like home.
And, of course, what do I write about first? The books I got along the way.
I’ll write more about the cruise itself in the days to come. It even included an encounter with Norbert while it was a tropical storm. But both my body and mind remain a bit exhausted. especially since my wife and I caught a cold (or tropical disease) near the end of the trip which made for miserable return flights.
Since one of my favorite bookstores — Green Apple Books — is in San Francisco, that was a required stop upon our arrival there. In fact, it was the first stop if you don’t count the hotel and one of the best seafood dinners we’ve had in years at a restaurant on Fisherman’s Wharf. And going to a bookstore when you know you’re going on a trip where you will spend more than seven days simply at sea can be dangerous, as the picture to the left shows.
One of my favorite things about Green Apple is its selection of slightly used recent releases. That accounted for about half the books my wife and I picked up. We didn’t break the $200 mark but did sufficient damage that our books were placed in a complimentary tote bag. And putting my time on the ship to good use, I read six of the books I bought at Green Apple. All but one got donated to the book exchange in the ship’s very nice library.
Yet there’s also a downside to reading that many books you just bought. It
left me more vulnerable gave me a good excuse when we hit Strand Book Store in NYC, another of my favorite bookstores. (Our port stop in Norfolk got cancelled so I didn’t get a chance to investigate its bookstores.) As in SF, the bookstore was our first stop in the city (and the day before this event). While the picture at right shows fewer books were purchased, we met my daughter for lunch just after I got to my favorite part of the bookstore. I’d spent too much time looking for books on my shopping list. From a financial and travel standpoint, that was probably serendipitous.
The Strand also gave me the opportunity to buy autographed copies of newly released books by three of my favorite authors — Ian McEwan (The Children Act), David Mitchell (The Bone Clocks) and Ted Rall (After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back as Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan). Those with keen eyes may notice that the book on top in both pictures is the same. While on the ship, I was approaching the end of a book so I grabbed The Burning of the World: A Memoir of 1914 to take with me in case I finished the first while away from our stateroom. I mislaid it during the course of the day without ever opening it.
Of course, Manhattan has more than one bookstore. Two others I’d never been to were on my list of places to visit but we only made it to McNally Jackson Books. It’s located on the north edge of Little Italy, where we’d stumbled upon the the 88th annual Feast of San Gennaro while visiting Chinatown. McNally Jackson has the strongest translated literature section I’ve ever seen. I found a book there that had been on my wish list for more than a year. Were it not for the fact we had to get all these books back home, I would have bought more than the two I did.
So, yes, I’ve been to Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama and Colombia this month. And I’m writing about and posting pictures of books.
Born to read. Forced to work.
Magnet purchased at Strand Book Store