I apologise for starting this post with a slightly alienating statement, but it was when I was in Buenos Aires recently (I hear your annoyance) that I had this strange thought. What if Library Books had an air-miles tracker in them? What might we learn?
But where did this strange thought arrive from, as I sat there on Plaza de Mayo in the early Southern Hemisphere Summer, basking in the sunshine and drinking an ice-cold Quilmes, the beer of choice in Argentina? I guess – to be honest – it came from my habit in these smartphone days of taking a photograph of a beer or coffee on the table in a far flung location and sending same to my family or friends via Whatsapp. And I usually position the Travel guide in question casually on the table, just to drive the stiletto home more effectively – ie ‘wish you were here’. Kind of.
So we have now established that rather than buying Travel Guide after Travel Guide, I swing by my local library, cheapskate that I am. There I pick (typically) a few from the shelves, leaf through them to compare or contrast and then tell the lucky prize winner that they’re coming with me to (fill in location of your choice). So the guidebook and a few carefully chosen novels – which I do tend to buy – make it into my overweight suitcase.
But am I the first one to bring the Lonely Planet guide to Argentina on the plane with me? Did that Rough Guide to New York make the transatlantic crossing many times prior to falling in with me? Has the book actually been in exactly that same (highly recommended) bar on Plaza Dorrego in Buenos Aires before I brought it there to browse with my morning coffee? It’s an interesting idea, is it not?
And what do they say when – three weeks later – they snuggle up to each other on the library shelf back home?
Book One – a Lonely Planet. ‘Ah, you’re back. You seemed to be gone for a long time there. Were you on holidays, go anywhere nice’? ‘
Book Two – a Dorling Kindersley. ‘Actually yes, not bad at all this time out. The guy flew business class to Hong Kong, put me up in a five star hotel. Really classy luggage he packed me in, and – as far as I could see from the table – the view across Hong Kong harbour to Kowloon was fantastic.’
Book Three – a Rough Guide, chips in. ‘You five star travelers make me sick. You see nothing of what goes on. My last trip to Hong Kong was in a backpackers rucksack – actually that was my fifth time passing thru Hong Kong. This time we stayed in a hostel down near the waterfront – amazing buzz. Best trip yet’.
Book One – ‘I wonder will we get any more outings soon or will we be stuck here on the shelf for a bit longer? By the way guys, I’ve heard a disturbing rumour that there are some new editions on the way, so I think we’ll need to up our game to stay competitive’.
So there we’ll leave it, and I guess we’ll never know if our ‘loans’ have ever made it out of the country or have simply been borrowed for pre-trip research purposes. But It’s an interesting concept, I think. Next time you pack your suitcase, take a moment and wonder ‘Does this book know more about my destination than I do’…