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Hidden Gems

‘They must have one,’ I said to my daughter, ‘all good hotels have one . . .’ and this was an lovely little hotel on the shores of Lake Garda. In the end I did discover it on a window sill along a little-used corridor: a small collection of books left behind by earlier visitors. It was something of a disappointment: the only thing in English that really fitted the bill was Michael Connolly’s latest – and I’d read it.

I thought fondly of the collection in the hotel we stayed in last year: the excellent Hotel du Lac in Bellagio on Lake Como. It’s a long-established hotel and they had clearly reached the admirable decision that they wouldn’t throw out anything. There were hundreds of books, forming a kind of snapshot of popular reading stretching right back to the 1960s: James Herbert’s The Rats, Arthur Hailey’s Airport, even The F-Plan Diet(remember that?), to name only a few. I picked out Betty MacDonald’s Onions in the Stew, a book I have never actually seen anywhere else and read it during my stay. And before I left, I made my own contribution, Jane Harper’s The Dry.

There’s something very enjoyable about discovering a gem in a hotel library of generally rather dog-eared paperbacks. One of the most memorable for me was around twenty years ago in a hotel in Greece, picking up Michael Connolly’s The Concrete Blonde, and being so gripped that I read it all in one gulp. I’ve been reading Michael Connolly ever since.

I would love to hear of other serendipitous discoveries . . .

8 Comments

  1. Margot Kinberg
    September 22, 2018

    I know just what you mean, Christine, about finding hidden ‘book gems’ in hotels or in other places. I discovered Edward Rutherfurd’s work when I was in London at a conference, and I’ve loved his historical novels since then. I’ve often thought that it’d be lovely if boarding gates at airports had a ‘borrow bin,’ where you choose a book for the flight, and then leave it in a bin at your destination. Of course, that’d only work for long flights, and I’m sure the airport book concessions wouldn’t like it. But I think it’d be an intriguing idea.

    Reply
    • Christine Poulson
      September 22, 2018

      That is a marvellous idea, Margot! The airport book concessions certainly wouldn’t like it. But what fun it would be . . .

      Reply
  2. Bill Selnes
    September 23, 2018

    I have enjoyed the libraries on the larger ships of the Oceania Cruise Line. There are probably 1,500 to 2,000 books in the libraries of Riviera and Marina.

    Reply
    • Christine Poulson
      September 23, 2018

      I have never been on a cruise, Bill. But this does make the idea tempting, especially the thought of having days at sea to read.

      Reply
  3. moira @ Clothes in Books
    October 7, 2018

    What cheers me up most is to see the spines of green Penguins on a shelf of randoms – always exciting. I have found some pretty obscure books that way. I will read just about anything in a green-and-white…
    And isn’t Margot’s idea brilliant?

    Reply
    • Christine Poulson
      October 8, 2018

      Yes, quite brilliant! I too dearly love to see a row of green Penguins.

      Reply
  4. Michael Guarino
    October 18, 2018

    Once, when visiting a bed & breakfast in Mendocino, I came across a shelf of beaten up paperbacks—the most beaten up [by far] of which was entitled “The Quest for the Grail: Arthurian Legend in British Art.” In spite of myself, I spent much of the rest of the day marveling over one very engaging author’s attempts to resolve how much Burne Jones’ and Rossetti’s extra marital affairs had influenced their renderings of Lancelot, Guinevere and Galahad. Between phone calls from clients, I downed roughly 100 pages of sacred and profane love by 6pm. Determined to read the whole damn book before I left the next morning, I wound up skipping the legal ethics conference I had come to attend, enjoying a delightful evening with someone named Christine Poulson instead.

    Reply
    • Christine Poulson
      October 19, 2018

      Wow! Thank you so much, Michael. I am very flattered. Having a book published is like launching messages in bottles: you never know where they are going to end up or who will read them. I am delighted to learn that we spent such a pleasant evening together and how nice of you to take the time to tell me about it. I have just taken The Quest for the Grail down from the shelf and read a few pages. It’s so long since I wrote it, that it is almost as if it was written by someone else – and yes, it’s not bad!

      Reply

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