How Do I Bring Books to Europe?

I’m going to spend a lot of time on the train during the seven weeks in Europe. I’m excited about being able to do a lot of reading. But how do I square "packing light" with the dozens of books I will need to sustain me during this time?

My solution, at the moment, is to mail books right now to addresses where I know I’ll arrive along the way. When I finish books on the road, I mail them back home to San Francisco or just throw them out.

13 comments on “How Do I Bring Books to Europe?
  • Alas, in Zurich at least they were more expensive and not a wide enough selection. I’ve worked hard to build a 180-book Amazon list and already have dozens bought (used, often less than $8). The frugal traveler must try to transport, not buy new.

  • if you’ll have access to computers and printers as you travel, you can download etext of great books in the public domain at then just print books and throw out pages as you finish them — such a lovely sense of accomplishment as you lighten your load.

    or, if you have a laptop and decent battery life with you, you can read on your screen.

  • I heartily encourage packing as light as possible. Large blocks of wood really can put a damper on life when you are carrying your pack. As someone who lived on the road for a long time, I assure you there is a fascinating ecosystem of English language books out there for trade and local perusal. Sure, it might not be correlate 100% to the list you have laid out, but the serendipity can be very rewarding.

  • Audio books might work for you on Ipod. Or check out playaway: disposable and tradable audio books. Or bring two books and trade with hot Swedish babes along the way. Who cares if their books are in Swedish?

  • Hey Ben,

    You can buy the books on the road… as mentioned above, you’ll find plenty of bookstores with english books. Or you can order your flavor at or with a local delivery address. My advice is: Don’t carry more than two at a time…

  • Call me the lone voice amongst many, but do you honestly think this is a realistic goal? You mentioned have a 180-book list for the summer and you’ll be gone for 1.5 months before returning home. Rather than trying to cram several of these books into your pack and hoping you’ll get through them, reprioritize some things:

    Which are the longer books? Taking 2 or 3 longer books, rather than 6 or 8 shorter ones, will arguably be easier to deal with on this trip.

    Which books do you really want to read? As someone who loves literature a bit too much, I have to ask–and answer–this question constantly. Be sure you’re bringing books that you want to squeeze every last drop out of and not simply skim over quickly. Bring books that you could see yourself potentially reading twice, if it came to that, rather than several books you won’t want to touch again after you’ve skimmed them.

    Do I really want to read that much? Yes, you’ll be on a train. But do you really want to be reading the entire time? What happened to just looking out the window and taking in the countryside? You’re stopping in the major cities, but you could at least get a taste of the real geography of a country while you’re on the train–provided your nose isn’t in a book. While in the major cities, you can take some of the time you might read (evenings, mornings, etc.) to soak up the culture and immerse yourself in the city entirely. If you’re in Barcelona and reading a book before you go to bed, you need to seriously reconsider why you’re going on this trip: are you there to experience Europe–and all of the sights, smells, etc.–or are you there to say you’ve been, while using it as an excuse to read some books? If the answer is the latter, rethink the trip. If the answer is the former, get out of your room and walk along the beach at night.

    Correlatively, is there something else that you could do that would be more fulfilling? You will have downtime and you will have nights where you want to stay in. Would this time be better used sitting down and reflecting on your experience and writing about it? Maybe taking some photographs? Arguably, carrying around a journal and a pen would be easier than lugging around 4 or 5 books and could be equally–if not moreso–satisfying for the entire experience.

    Just some food for thought. In the end, I doubt you’ll be reflecting upon the trip and regret not reading more.

  • I think I might agree with Jesse’s sentiments: All of your normal intellectual persuits will be waiting for you when you get home, so why not spend as much time as possible meeting new people and engrossing yourself in different cultures.

    …That said, if you’re still set on having lots of reading material, you might look into those electronic bookreaders, which (I am told) store a ton of books. I have no idea if they’re cost-effective or at all comfortable to read, but it might be worth looking into.

  • Hi, Brian Spence told me about your European tour. I’m in Portugal and I said yes, send Ben! You already have a lot of alternatives to your book issue, but go ahead if you still wanto to send some by mail. Brian will give you my numbers and emails so… we will be in touch! If you wanto me to send you some info on what to do in Lisbon/Portugal, just say hello!

  • Please don’t throw away books. Leave them on a table or a train, trade them, hand them off to strangers, whatever, but please don’t just throw them away.

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