If you moved country what books would you take?

My friend Claire moved to Canada recently, to live the freelancing dream in beautiful Vancouver. She sold me some of her books (for the very reasonable price of £1 each) and her mum offered to send a box or two of her books over to her.

Now, I’m rather attached to the books I own. I live in a (not literal) box, so the books I end up hanging on to are special. Would they fit in the two suitcases I would only be able to take if I emigrated on whim? No they would not.

I would rather own books than change my life.

But it got me thinking, what books would I take with me if I moved – or had to move – as it’s clear they mean more to me than wonderful new experiences.

It’s not even just a case of picking favourites, I can pick them up (hopefully, what a gamble) at the place I move to. I have some old copies of books I could never replace – a 60s Persuasion by Jane Austen I stole off my mother for example. Are you telling me I’d have to give that back? What kind of book thief do you think I am!

So let’s imagine I can only take 10 books to my new country with me, five per suitcase, and that no one can afford to ship them to me.

What would I take?
persuasion

Persuasion by Jane Austen, 1960s
So some of the pages are a little loose and the cover looks like a Spanish Mills and Boone, I love it. It was my mum’s and now it’s mine. That makes it family.

Some Do Not . . . & No More Parades by Ford Madox Ford, 1969 (ISBN13: 9780722136126)
I want to own the Parade’s End tetralogy book by book, but this seems to be the best I can find. I remember seeing this copy for £40 on Book Depository in 2013, I got it for a £1 in Oxfam.

Six Cousins at Mistletoe Farm by Enid Blyton, 1980s
I’ve owned this copy since I was 10 and my sentimentality knows no bounds. How could I leave the country without a memory of home and its idylls.

tmnsMansfield Park by Jane Austen
I literally cannot go anywhere without at least two Jane Austen novels.*

Tell Me No Secrets by Joy Fielding, 1999 (ISBN-13: 978-0773726864)
This was the first adult book I ever read, one of the few books I’ve read several times. My aunt let me have any book off her shelves when I was 13/14 and this is what I chose. She’s turning 80 now, it wouldn’t feel right leaving it behind.

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, 2005 (ISBN13: 9780007189885)
Of all her wonderful, wonderful novels, this is my favourite. Adichie is a must, if only I could take them all! (I’m starting to feel like I’m actually going now, guilt and anxiety are settling in.)

havHeroes and Villains by Angela Carter, 1991 (ISBN13: 9780140119305)
The first novel I ever studied at University. It introduced me to a whole new world of literature and studying. I read it in one sitting (after avoiding it for a month….., shut up).

An Inspector Calls by J.B. Priestly 
I stole this one from school.**

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
This or Slaughterhouse-Five. How could I abandon Vonnegut? I don’t have a physical copy of it to weep over. Both these novels blew me away, they were utter perfection in every way I needed them to be.

Beloved by Toni Morrison, 2004 (ISBN: 978-1400033416)
It was this or The Color Purple by Alice Walker, both influential books. However, I remember being so in awe of Beloved, so desperate to understand it (this was before I was aware of my white privilege) I couldn’t bear to abandon my copy now.

What books will always move with you?

Are you as precious of your belongings as I am?

* This is a lie, literally carrying two novels around would become problematic.
** True story.

22 thoughts on “If you moved country what books would you take?

  1. Aahh, I love this. I have a mini-shelf on my desk that only houses those books that I absolutely adore – my version of your “books to take when you leave the country.” They are: The Trip to Echo Spring (Olivia Laing), Americanah (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie), H Is For Hawk (Helen Macdonald), Tiny Beautiful Things (Cheryl Strayed), Possession (AS Byatt), The Wolf Border (Sarah Hall), Cryptonomicon (Neal Stephenson), and Love Me Back (Merritt Tierce). They’re a slightly odd bunch but they’re the ones that spoke to me in a way that went beyond critical appreciation; I wouldn’t be without them!

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    1. What a wonderful selection, and definitely suitcase friendly. Who needs clothes when you have books eh? I’ve only read Americanah from your selection, so this will give me an idea of what wonderful books I can read next (once I finally finish The Night Manager).

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      1. I’ve not watched the series yet, I really want to know where they differ too. All I know at the moment is that the book is set during the Gulf and the TV series in the Arab Spring.

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  2. There is no way I could choose. If I couldn’t take them all (or at least most of them – I could probably get rid of a few), then I would have to leave them in storage somewhere and get them again when I come back from wherever it is I am going. So, I think I’ll just stay put. 🙂
    But, it would be fun to come up with 10 like you did… I like your reasons!
    One I can think of off the top of my head is my set of AA Milne books that belonged to my mother when she was little. She even wrote inside them with her little girl hand-writing.

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    1. Hahaha! Me too, I’d rather have the books. Feel free to do this challenge yourself, I’d love to see what you pick. The AA Milne books are definitely keepers, I love that you have your mother’s hand writing in them.

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  3. I did move across the Atlantic once, and it took a lot of money and patience to ship all my books to my new home, one little box at a time. (Thankfully, my parents didn’t mind storing them for me in the basement for several years.) It was totally worth it. But now I am stuck with my books for good, because how could I ever get rid of any of them after that commitment?

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    1. Those books can definitely never leave you now. They’ve travelled across and ocean, which makes each one super special. Good luck moving them all if you ever go back! I commend you on your commitment to have your books with you and still have an adventure 🙂

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  4. Oh, God, moving with only ten books would be impossible. Going on a two-week trip with only ten books would be impossible! But I guess I could do it. When I moved to New York, I was only able to take two boxes of books, and I actually found it surprisingly clarifying to make those decisions. I do, however, prefer to have my full complement of books available to me at all times. That is the far preferable situation.

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  5. Picking out books is horribly difficult! I struggled when I was packing to come to the UK last year. I wanted to take my copy of Pride and Prejudice or Persuasion (I agree, it’s impossible to go anywhere without at least two Jane Austen novels!) and Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, because these are just about the only books I know I’m always in the mood for, no matter what. I also wanted to take an ancient poetry anthology that I bought at a secondhand book sale several years ago, which is filled with my annotations, and has other poems that I’ve copied out and tucked between the pages. Sadly, my suitcase was so full that the only things I could take were some books for uni, which has led to the unfortunate buying of almost two dozen new books since I’ve been here. Mind you, I still know that all my books are safe and sound at home if I ever decide to go back to Australia. I can’t imagine having to sort through them and decide what to keep and what to throw away.

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    1. That’s good that you’ve still got them there back home, is it expensive to get any shipped over?

      I commend you for being able to leave them behind, I think not being able to take my books is my main reason for not trying to go to another country. Silly as that is.

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      1. I’m not sure how much it would cost, to be honest – I guess it depends on where I end up living. It definitely makes me sad to think of all my books just sitting on my shelves at home, especially the ones I bought and never ended up reading!

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  6. Definitely if you could buy/borrow another copy that makes it easier, though I understand your wanting to hold on to them in such a situation. At least half of those you’ve listed are editions you might not find any more: it’s a good choice.

    Maybe The Reader and Slaughterhouse-Five would go into the heads or tails pile and one you could get as an ebook?

    If there were anyway I could take them I would, otherwise likely give them to good homes.

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    1. I think you’re right, keeping most of what I’ve listed really is based on them being copies I can’t get again or ones that hold sentimental value.

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  7. Hahaha. You book thief.

    It’s interesting learning about those books and what they mean to you. 😀

    I am honestly not sure. The ones that I would probably cling to are the Harry Potter series and some from my childhood, like Hairy Maclary. xD

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    1. Hehe. Harry Potter is a must really, isn’t it.

      Hairy Maclary? This sounds amazing, what is it about! My childhood never had such an awesome book title.

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  8. Ooo… This post has really got me thinking! When I first started reading I thought ‘yeah – I could fit all the books I wanted in 2 cases’ but then when it was time to narrow it down to ten things got tough!! I love the idea behind this post, and think I may share something similar on my blog in coming weeks (all credit to you, of course!). I see quite a few classics on your list, and I’d imagine mine to be much the same.

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