Traveling with Books

I’m headed to South Africa and Botswana in a week, and while I’ve been packing for this three-week-long research trip, I’m realizing that my biggest worry is what I will bring with me to read!

I don’t like e-books, so I am planning to bring actual physical copies of books, but I also have to carry those books. And my goal is to pack everything into a carry-on suitcase and a backpack. (And will I even have time to read anything?)

So my question for all of you is this: should I pack one or two big books OR five or six small books? How do you travel with books?

Pictured below are the books I would like to read soon. Which ones should I pack? Do you have any book suggestions that aren’t in this stack?


How do you travel with books?


37 thoughts on “Traveling with Books

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  1. I love to bring shorter length novels that are not too specific in topic so that when I am finished i can hand it off to a new traveling acquaintance. Summer reading is a time of pleasure so longer dense novels are heavy to bring to the corner coffee house. Also, bedtime, no matter where I am Is always a time to read. Enjoy your vacation! I also leave in a month on a 3 week work/play trip to Europe to visit 6 cities. I am bringing one novel. And then when I am finished I am going to search out a used book store. Can’t wait to see what I buy.

  2. I also pack physical books. I usually have two for the plane and one in my suitcase. I travel a lot and typically find I don’t read as much on vacation if I am with others or doing something. If it is a relaxed beach type trip with just my hubby, I read more. Thus, I pack books accordingly. I agree that lighter reads are better for vacation. And no hardbacks in you can avoid, they are heavy!

    1. Yes, lighter books (and paperback) are better for traveling for sure! I will probably only have a chance to read at night before bed, not on the beach. I may just take a few…

  3. I started taking my iPad for reading while traveling, although it is cumbersome. Sometimes books are actually easier to hold on the plane. I used to pack physical books, though, and I usually just brought what I was reading, regardless of size. But you might try weighing the books to see if several small ones weigh less than two big ones. You’ve got some good ones on that pile but also a couple I didn’t really enjoy.

    1. I like weighing them as a way of deciding! That’s smart. Also, which ones in the pile did you not enjoy? I’d like to avoid them if possible!

      1. I didn’t really like Outline or Midnight’s Children. However, I really enjoyed His Bloody Project and The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, and I remember The Agony and the Ecstasy as being good, although I think I was only 13 when I read it.

  4. Books are the first thing I consider when packing. I always take my Kindle as well as a couple of books. Definitely smaller paperbacks of lighter fare because my vacation head doesn’t want to deal with heavy issues. Sometimes I even read the first chapter of a few to give me a feel of the book before I choose to take it – sometimes covers can be deceiving. 🙂

    1. I’m totally going to read the first chapter to decide. What a good idea! Thanks for the suggestion, and I like the idea of lighter subject matter. Those are always easier to concentrate on, especially in public or on an airplane.

  5. I usually bring 2 to 3 and the lighter the better. Sometimes I have been lucky to find a free community library or an inexpensive book shop to stop in and explore when traveling too. Happy Traveling and Happy Reading 🙂

  6. I would advise definitely smaller books, travelling light is a joy. I try to take books I expect I can part with en route, but often bring one home after reading! Difficult to let a good book go. Often guesthouses/hotels have a book exchange shelf, but you know that already I guess. Botswana…land of Mma Ramotswe….are u familiar? Alexander McCall Smith….light fun reading, he gets inside a woman’s psyche so well, and achieves the rhythm of Africa in his diction. Happy travels Emily :o)

    1. Yes, traveling light is the goal, so smaller books are ideal. I hate to part with books. I have read all of the Mma Ramotswe books! I love Alexander McCall Smith. That’s partly why Botswana is on the agenda. I just want to be there instead of having to always imagine it. It should be magical.

  7. I think you should take several shorter books. That way, you can bring one with you everywhere you go and it won’t be too big, and the ones you’re not reading yet can be left in your room with your luggage.
    Good luck, have fun, and I hope you get some time to read! 🙂

    1. This is so smart! I do like to read before bed to make my eyes tired, but I suspect that jet lag and research will take care of that, so audio books are definitely doable!

  8. The pain of choosing! Oh yes, it’s also my biggest problem because we travel a lot. I have a Kindle but a physical book bring a new different joy. If it was me, I’ll bring six small books instead of the big ones.

    1. I love physical books! And I don’t have a Kindle, but given how many people have mentioned it to me, I may need to get one. I like the small books idea!

      1. I have my Kindle paperwhite for years now. I love it feel in love with it at first hold. It’s space effective. But… it can never replace the feeling of flipping the print pages.

  9. Midnight’s Children is so very good but it’s not light reading. I don’t think I’d take it on vacation. I’d read it in late Autumn on dark evenings cozy at home where I have time to think about everything it brings up. I do recommend The Art of Racing in the Rain for travel. It’s a pure delight and easy to get into and put down but still a great story. Enjoy your trip!

    1. Thank you for telling me this about Midnight’s Children. I’ve wanted to read Rushdie for a while but I suspected it would be heavy. I will take more fun reads!

  10. Happy travels, Emily!
    This question is a toughy😂! I, too like to travel with physical books – even though I know they add extra pounds. Having choices feels important. If I’ve been reading “heavy” non-fiction then I would want to take a 200-400 page novel that feels cozy yet substantial…..however, how do you know this unless you’ve begun to read it? Occasionally I’ve taken a book that was such a page-turner that between reading it en route to places and prior to going to sleep at night, I finished it and had a bunch of days left without a fresh book to read! (The flip side to that is taking a big book and discovering that you don’t like it). Since you’ll be scouting out some bookshops, you should be good!

    1. Right?!?! That is another problem: that we don’t know if we like the book before we take it, and we don’t want to start before we leave or then we won’t have enough pages to read on the trip! It is a whole thing. I think I’ve settled on 3 middle-sized books that aren’t heavy. We’ll see how it goes.

  11. I look forward to learning what you chose to bring and what you thought about your choices. I have Calvino on my TBR list; I use his essay about why we read the classics as an intro to an on-line lit course, and students really respond to him. I need to read what he’s done to talk about his work intelligently!

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