Souvenir book hunting

When you travel, what type of souvenir do you get? For some people, it’s T-shirts. For others, it could be shot glasses, postcards, hats or fridge magnets. For me, it’s usually…you guessed it…BOOKS! (C’mon, people, were you really that surprised?)

I used to bring a lot of books back from my travels, but now I’ve cut back due to lack of storage space. However, the books I do bring back are wonderful; I love to go through them and relive my memories of the sights seen during that trip. One of my favorites is London from the Air by Jason Hawkes. This book is a great collection of aerial photographs taken from a helicopter, accompanied by brief descriptions. Here’s some images that I took from the London Eye to give you a similar sense of what you can see in this book:

London's Parliament building

Parliament in London.

London from the London Eye

Another shot from the London Eye. Buckingham Palace is near the center and to the right. Can you see the Queen waving hello from the balcony?

My other favorite souvenir book is a book about the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California. This house has got to be the strangest house ever built. Sarah Winchester, the heiress to the Winchester rifle fortune, converted an eight-room farmhouse into a 160-room mansion over the course of 38 years. This house has bizarre architectural features such as staircases that go up to the ceiling and stop there, windows set into the floor, a “Door to Nowhere” that opens to a steep drop to ground level, a closet that is only an inch deep and a secret passage. The house is so confusing that movers removing furniture after Sarah’s death in 1922 needed maps to find their way back out.

Winchester Mystery House

Winchester Mystery House. Look closely at the second floor to see a black-colored doorway which is the “Door to Nowhere.” Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, CA-2107, and Wikimedia Commons.

According to legend, Sarah had the house built this way to confuse the spirits of people who had been killed by Winchester rifles. Personally, I wonder if she was just an aspiring but eccentric architect who liked to experiment. Oh, well. I’m sure that in future travels, I’ll still be picking up more souvenir books. I guess I’ll find space for them somewhere. (Anybody got a crowbar?)

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “Souvenir book hunting

  1. That is strange. I have heard vaguely of this home before.

  2. Interesting about the Winchester Mystery House. OK, Eagle-Eyed Editor, perhaps you could answer this household dilemma. My new daughter-in-law is from South Korea. She wants me to suggest a book for her birthday. She loved “To Kill a Mockingbird.” I am stumped. What would YOU suggest? (Of course, I will suggest the mystery tour to them both.)

  3. I suggest “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte, “Pride & Prejudice” by Jane Austen, “Little Women” by Louise May Alcott, “The House of the Seven Gables” by Nathaniel Hawthorne and “The Count of Monte Christo” by Alexander Dumas. All are good stories! I hope these suggestions help. :-)

  4. Jaclyn

    Eeks, just tried to leave a comment – it’s too early. I’ll try again. I’d love to bring home books as souvenirs but I’m usually backpacking, so I have to keep the purchases small! I usually bring home bookmarks instead – and the memories of browsing in special bookstores on vacation. But I did buy a couple of books at Blackwell’s in Oxford last October – couldn’t resist!

    And wow, the Winchester Mystery House is beautiful and sounds fascinating. Now I’m pondering a trip to California!

    • The Winchester Mystery House has a website — just type it into the Google search box to get the times of the tours, etc. And if you’d like a preview of what the house looks like from the inside, you can find videos on both the WMH website and on YouTube. Enjoy!

  5. Books are a favorite souvenir of mine, too. For example, I just got back from Sydney, and I managed to pick up a few books on the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, when I was in their respective gift shops. I like to read up on their history, as well as see some gorgeous pictures, so it’s always good to bring a great book home! Also, I picked up one with a little more detail on the architecture in the Opera House, more than I could understand. But my dad’s an engineer, and I’m hoping he’ll enjoy it.

    Looking back, I picked up my own beautiful copy of Peter Pan and Wendy, when I was in London, so you can always get a storybook, instead of a history. Good stuff!

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