Books and Friends… two of life’s essentials

One of the things I long for, living in a small town in the Netherlands, is the opportunity to go to a local bookstore and buy a book in my native language. I miss the leisurely ambling through the stacks, perusing the heady selection of books.

One of our favorite excursions, when living in Boston, was to the huge Barnes and Noble, or the local independent bookstore in the nearby town. Those visits were guaranteed to be several hours long and we would always leave clutching a treasured purchase, excited to get home and crack open that perfect book spine, smell the new pages and dive into a world of adventure, intrigue or romance.

Those of you in the cities are lucky to have a small section in the local library or bookstore but for my fix, I go to Amsterdam where I immerse myself in the American Bookstore or Waterstones, on Spui. When I visit my daughter in London one of my favorite spots is the enormous Waterstones near Piccadilly Circus, London’s largest bookshop with six floors, eight miles of bookshelves and over 200,000 titles! Once in there I am lost for several hours! Libraries are also a much-missed experience. There is nothing so lovely than entering the hushed world of a library filled with books and fellow readers. Den Bosch library does have a fairly good selection of English books, but of course they are limited and there are no newly released books.

I am fortunate to belong to the expat community of The Hub in Eindhoven and there, in the basement, are hundreds of books to borrow on a "take a book, leave a book" policy. The selection is wonderfully eclectic as it was gathered from the local library, when they were downsizing, and from donations from Hub members. Co-founder of the Hub, Lin Pender, was the driving force behind the library’s creation and with the help of her husband and other Hub members who built the shelves to a young woman called Emilie who sorted the books, a large collection of books is now on display. Lin would like to source more children’s books and hopes to expand the non-English section with more Spanish, Russian, Chinese and Japanese book donations. Having this available is such a bonus for all of us expats.

Next to that, I have learned to embrace the technical world of downloaded books onto an electronic reader. I readily admit that my Kindle is one of my most treasured belongings these days and without it I would be a constrained reader, or have the most horrendous shipping bill with Amazon! This is something I never expected to say, as I was adamant, when the Kindle first arrived on the scene, that I would never lower myself to reading one of those "new fangled" devices. They would be the death of books I surmised. My son was even more obstinate but when we bought him one, at his request, for his yearlong backpacking journey around South America he discovered the joy of availability and even better, free classics!

I thank the electronic reader for saving me, a lover of books, but there really is no comparison when you down-load a book, to the excitement you get seeing that shining new cover and the sensation of actually turning those crisp new pages. I have a habit of tucking in a ticket or postcard into the book I’m reading and I love the moment, when I re-read it years later, when the postcard falls out and I am reminded of where I was the last time I enjoyed that particular book. Another major downside is the inability to share great books with family and friends. When I lived in the USA there was a campaign to leave a book in a public place, such as a bench in the park or on a train, with a note that told whoever picked it up to enjoy it and pass it on afterwards. It gave me such pleasure imagining the happiness that the next reader would feel as they tucked it under their arm and walked home.

Maybe when I leave a book at the Hub on my next visit I’ll tuck in a postcard, just to make the next reader smile as they open it up in the future.


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