One of the joys of cruising is that you get a lot of time to read. One of the problems, though, is that there’s only so much space on board for books. This is often solved by the various and varied book exchanges one finds in the places where boats congregate. Sometimes it a well stocked and organized set of bookshelves, and sometimes it’s just the corner of a bar on which people dump their old books. Either way, it’s a great source for gems as well as those books you pick up because you’re desperate for something to read.
I’ve gotten a few that were worth a mention, from either end of the spectrum. The most recent one that sticks in my mind the the late 80s thriller “The Eighth Trumpet” by Jon Land. I’ve always liked thrillers as escapist fiction, so I’ve read many and think I have a pretty decent critical eye. This book was startling in its complete lack of anything that made any sense. It was one ridiculous escapade after another, with implausible plotlines and unbelievable motivations from start to finish. It has no less than two horror-film quality serial killers, three global secret societies and shootouts at Madame Tussaud’s, a cathedral in Malta and a military outpost in Antarctica. It also has a stolen, secret nuclear submarine. And I’m only scratching the surface of the insanity. It was admittedly a very fun read, but not one tiny iota of sense in it. I didn’t even know there were books this crazy getting published, even in the 80s.
On the other hand, I’ve been lucky enough to be able to trade for some real winners, including Octavia Butler’s “Lilith’s Brood”, an SF trilogy about a post apocalyptic Earth saved by aliens. I’ve caught up on a lot of the books on my “to read someday” list thanks to book exchanges, like “Beloved” by Toni Morrison, The Great Gatsby” and “Memoirs of a Geisha”.
Book exchanges are like libraries, only better in some ways because their selection is limited, so you end up with stuff you’d never ordinarily pick. It’s a great way to expand your reading list and just because that issue of Ellery Queen or Analog is four years old, that doesn’t mean the stories are stale.