Power Tips for Traveling with Books

Do you like to read when you travel? For many people loading up some books on your e-reader (maybe from your local library) or audiobooks on your phone or tablet is the way to go. If that is you, you needn’t read further. But there are some of us who don’t want to abandon the feel of print books on a trip. Or you may not want to be dependent on being able to re-charge a device to read. So I turned to the power readers on the Bob on Books Facebook page to get their power tips for traveling with books.

First, a few don’ts:

  • Don’t take library books. If you lose them, it could cost big bucks.
  • For the same reason, don’t take that irreplaceable treasure.
  • Leave that fat hardback behind. You really don’t want to lug that thing around airports.
  • And don’t read and drive!

And now for the power tips:

  • The big consensus: take paperbacks–more compact and disposable
  • Take books you are willing to donate or pass along when you finish them. That way you don’t have to carry them home. Maybe you can even exchange them with someone else. A number suggested taking “throwaway” paperbacks. Then again, some of us think that’s a sacrilege!
  • One person suggested taking a fat paperback and slicing away the parts they’d read.
  • One way not to read and drive is be the passenger.
  • Some don’t start with books but pick them up along the way. It gives you a reason to detour into that interesting bookshop, or even a local thriftshop or library sale. You might even look up bookstores at your destination ahead of time.
  • Take slim books that fit into a handbag, or messenger bag.
  • On the other hand, there were those who aren’t concerned about space or weight. They said pack fewer clothes, pack a bag just for books, or take more than you think you will need. I guess that’s the value of roller bags.
  • Take sunglasses for reading outside.

I loved this reader’s ideas: “I have a small clip on LED light to read by in-flight thus avoiding using the overhead light which can still be annoying to other passengers. I use my book to store little reminders of my holiday within its pages like my used boarding pass, the receipt from a nice restaurant, a pretty leaf, a postcard. By the time I’m home it’s become a journal!”

My reading friends had some great ideas, don’t you think? Here’s a few I might add:

  • Think about what kind of trip this is. If there are quiet evenings in an Amish Inn, you could pack something that takes greater attention. On the other hand, if it is a work trip with intense meetings, or a beach vacation with family, something light or fast-paced makes sense.
  • I also leave the heavy hardback at home, even if I’m in the middle of it. I usually take two or three slim paperbacks and my e-reader. The e-reader is my fall back if I end up flight delayed and get through the print stuff.
  • I take less if I know there will be a conference selling books or I’ll be in a place known for its bookstores. I don’t have to explain.

There are times for other things than books when traveling: meetings, friends, scenery, recreation, good food for starters. But good trips have “down time” or even time to “introvert” for some of us and books are the perfect complement to those times. Then there are times in cars, trains, buses, and planes (or waiting in terminals) when a book is a good way to forget you are in this big impersonal place with thousands of people you don’t know. The book is your friend.


Review: Travel


Travel: In Tandem with God’s HeartPeter Grier. London: Inter-Varsity Press (UK), 2018.

Summary: A travelogue with a difference, exploring travel from a Christian perspective and how God may work in and through our lives as we travel.

Never has travel to anywhere in the globe been so readily available. In conversations with graduate students, it is not uncommon to hear of people traveling to southeast Asia, central Africa, central or South America, the South Pacific, you name it. Nor is it at all unusual to encounter travelers from all these countries in one’s own. Students and young adults, often unencumbered with jobs and families and able to travel cheaply without concerns for amenities often make the most of these years. What nearly all will tell you is that travel changes you–exposes you to incredible beauties, diverse cultures, and underneath, our common humanity.

What Peter Grier has done in this book is share something of his own travelogue, and how he has reflected as a Christian on his travels, and indeed the role of travel in the Christian narrative. He explores the goodness of travel and the goodness of God’s world while recounting travels to the Arctic Circle.  Alongside travels to China, he reflects on life “east of Eden”–our finite and broken humanity, how we also are “beautiful ruins.” Negotiations in a Middle East market lead to discussions of the difference between honor/shame and innocence/guilt cultures and help us see how the biblical story speaks to people from both. A pair of chapters look at travels in the Old Testament, where people experienced the faithfulness of God, and the New Testament, where travel was connected to the mission of God. A risky journey to Columbia prompts reflections on dying into the Jesus life. The final chapter thinks about the better destination for which we are destined, the identity as one of God’s beloved that this implies, and the freedom to enjoy travel, or not, without wanderlust or a drivenness for experience.

The mix of travel stories, reflections, and biblical reflections help the reader connect to their own travel experiences and musings about life. Each chapter ends with some reflection questions and a prayer that is worth the price of admission. The book lives well in a tension between the goodness of travel and our desire for home and community and nurtures a contentment whether we may travel or not. It helps us listen for God’s invitations in our travel.

The book includes two helpful appendices with travel tips. The first deals with ethical questions like money, photography, environmental sustainability and culture. The second is simply a list of top ten travel tips with everything from a packing list to the encouragements to find out and join in on what God is doing locally at your destination. He also provides a helpful bibliography of recommended reading.

Are you a travel lover? Thinking of some summer or gap year travel? Get this along with whatever travel guides you are buying. Sometimes we leave our faith journey behind when we travel. Peter’s book suggests how both our faith and our travel may be immeasurably enriched when one puts the two together. 


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Review: In Search of Deep Faith

In Search of Deep Faith
In Search of Deep Faith by Jim Belcher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jim Belcher and his family were at a crossroads. He’d spent ten years pastoring a church from its very beginnings into a thriving congregation. He made the bold decision to resign. His wife needed a respite from the bubble of pastoral ministry. And he was facing a significant question as a parent: how do I help my children come to own a “deep faith” in their own lives, not just an inherited faith that disappears when one is removed from a Christian social context, but an enduring faith?

Belcher’s answer was a pilgrimage through England and Europe revisiting the sites where thoughtful and courageous Christians he had looked to as heroes lived, and sometimes died for, their faith. This book is a kind of travel or pilgrimage narrative of that year.

The first part of the book follows their journeys in England exploring the martyrdom of Thomas Cranmer, Sheldon Van Auken’s struggle for a meaningful faith, the life and places of C. S. Lewis, and the conversations that changed the life of William Wilberforce, who changed the course of British history with regard to slavery.

The second half of the book (Parts Two and Three) recount their journeys through Europe. He begins, interestingly enough with the life and art of Van Gogh, and his struggle between despair and belief. They move on to the French village of Le Chambon, where Andre Trocme and a village of Protestant Huguenots hid and saved thousands of Jews from the Holocaust. We shift then to Holland and the German prison camps where Corrie Ten Boom lost her sister but held fast to her faith for the same courageous act of protecting Jews. Then we consider the life and death of Bonhoeffer, and the equally courageous decisions of the von Trapp family, both like, and unlike their Sound of Music counterparts. We end with Heidelberg, and Martin Luther, and finally the soldier’s cemetery at Normandy.

Belcher interweaves the narrative of his travels and interactions with family with the narratives of each of his heroes. And this also seems to have two major parts to it–the challenge of ordinary obedience in things like home school lessons and our Jekyll-Hyde struggle with sin during their stay in England. In Europe, and particularly as they witnessed the sites of courageous acts and even martyrdom, they wrestle with what constitutes a deep faith that sustains one through despair, danger, suffering, resistance, and in the face of death. It does seem that when Belcher realizes that the education in faith of this pilgrimage is more important than math and writing and grammar lessons that they all are opened up more to what God had for them on this pilgrimage.

I’ve read other narratives of many of the lives he profiles but I found Belcher wrote with a concise freshness that brought people like Lewis and Bonhoeffer to life in new ways for me. Perhaps it was the act of inhabiting their places. And I appreciate that Belcher “kept it real” with regard to the struggles as well as the moments of insights his family faced on this pilgrimage. One of the best books I’ve read so far this year.

[I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through a contest hosted on Goodreads.]

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A Room With A View and…

That literary allusion is inspired by the hotel where I’ve spent most of the week at a conference. I have stayed in a number of places over the years and, working for a non-profit, many are very plain, low cost retreat centers, inexpensive hotels, and the like. This time we are at the Hyatt Regency by the arch in St Louis and the accommodations, while not lavish are very comfortable and represent what makes a good room.

1. The view. Nice view of the town hall and a good part of the downtown. We didn’t draw the arch side of the hotel, but just have to walk around the corner for that!

2. Quiet. Rarely have I heard less street noise, plumbing, HVAC or other sounds outside the room. And we have over 1,000 people here!

3. Full size pillows. I don’t know where hotels get the idea that these “mini-pillows” were more comfortable. The full size ones here are wonderful!

4. With that, a firm but comfortable mattress and sheets and blankets that keep you warm without weighing a ton!

5. Robust internet. And free.

6. Lots of outlets in accessible locations, not behind a piece of furniture.

7. Two sinks separated by a door.

8. Just the right amount of lighting.

9. Ample towels.

10. And a big shower head on the shower.

It actually seems that with a bit of forethought, even modest establishments can probably do most of this. Still, I consider the circumstances many people live in and consider myself blessed. But one thing better all this is that, Lord willing, I will see my home and my wife tonight!