Brooklyn, Books and Tree of Codes

Monday, July 25, 2011

(The book I got, Tree of Codes, and me at the bookstore where I bought it)

I always buy books as souvenirs. I’m sure it’s a bad habit (books are heavy!) but I can’t help myself. I’ve bought copies of Alice in Wonderland in Oxford, Kafka in Prague and Treasure Island in California (Stevenson’s stomping grounds). Each time the book becomes a beloved part of my library.

While in Brooklyn last weekend, I stayed in a gorgeous neighborhood, Park Slope, and found out that it’s a place many authors call home. This group of literary greats includes two of my favorites, (who happen to be married), Jonathan Safran Foer and Nicole Krauss. So it was only fitting that I buy one of their books as a memento of my trip.

I’m crazy excited about the one I got…

(How the inside of the book looks)

Have any of you heard about this book, Tree of Codes? Foer took another book, “The Street of Crocodiles,” and cut an entirely new novel out of that text. It’s an unbelievable idea and turns the book into a piece of art. I’ve had my eye on it for awhile, but it’s not one that’s easy to find at a used bookstore.

My sister had the brilliant idea to cut a piece of card stock into a size, slightly larger than the book, and read it by placing the paper behind each page as you read it. I think it will work wonderfully and I can’t wait to try it.

(The book with a sheet of dark paper behind one page)

So I'm curious…
Do you buy books as souvenirs?

What do you think of this concept for a book, art or just a hassle to read?

*Last photo by moi, middle photo from here.


(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I have never heard of The Tree of Codes, but what a cool looking book. I love picking up a special book when visiting different places. I am also really weird in that I remember what books I've read on vacation's away over the last 10 years...LOL

Sandy Nawrot said...

No, I would totally try to read this book. It would be an "experience"!!! I love stuff like this. I'm not really a book as souvenir person, but I do buy books just about everywhere I go. If that counts!

Mumsy said...

I buy books wherever I go, but I don't buy them thinking, "This will be a souvenir of [place]." And yet...often when I pick up a book, I think, oh, I got this in that bookstore in London and read it in that flat in Shepherd's Bush...

For instance, I have a copy of Hilary McKay's Wishing for Tomorrow which was an advance copy that shouldn't have been on the shelf at all in a London bookstore, and the clerk shoved it at me, whispering, "Don't let anyone see you," and I whisked it under my coat and slunk away. And now every time I read it, I think of that whole episode.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Diane - I always remember the books I read on vacations too. Isn't it funny how those stick with us!

Sandy - I know it will be an experience. i'm kinda looking forward to it.

Mumsy - I love that story. All my souvenir books take me back to where I got them. I love it.

B said...

The idea of this book is fascinating. I haven't come across it yet in a bookstore, but I'll keep my eye out.

I'm so happy to hear you enjoyed The Brooklyn Follies so much! It's such a good one.

Cori said...

I try and pick up a book whenever I travel somewhere new. I'm not a big souvenir person, but I love knowing the books on my shelves came from New Zealand, England, Scotland, Italy, etc. :)

Also, what a fabulous book you picked up!

MJ said...

That book looks beautiful! I'll have to see if I can locate a copy. I'm glad you enjoyed Brooklyn - I love it here!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Brenna - Yes, it was so good. I'll post a review soon!

Cori - I feel the same. I never forget where I got those books and I try to pick ones that are specific to that area.

MJ - Brooklyn was just wonderful. I loved all the old churches and little shops. Prospect Park was beautiful too.

Enbrethiliel said...


What a creative book! If I were wealthy (and more importantly, had more shelf space), I'd definitely snap it up! =D

To answer your question, Melissa, no, I'm not really into books as souvenirs unless they have a deep connection to the place I'm visiting. A novel by a little-known local author, for instance, would be good--or even a novel by a really famous author, if bought in his hometown. Without such a connection, I'm prosaic enough to think, "Oh, I can always get that book in the chain store at home . . ." =P

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Enbrethiliel - I think you just explained it perfectly. At home my book budget is small and I could never justify buying this. That's why I love making them my souvenirs. I feel like I'm allowed to splurge a little that way and I'd much rather have a book than a T-shirt.

Jillian said...

I am freaking out since no, I haven't heard of this book. Foer is amazing and he is one of my favorite writers for sure, so I must get this.

As for books as souvenirs, I think I agree with Enbrethilel. I too, buy books, ONLY if it has a connection to the place. However, what you're doing is great too, since not every place has a book dedicated to the place. I would probably put a small signature on the front or back of the book though and put where and when I bought it as a reminder! It would be cool to look back on how many books you have that are from other locations!

Jenny said...

Heyyy, Park Slope! I am very fond of Park Slope! Rachel from Book Snob and I have been to the Chip Shop in Park Slope, where they have proper British fish and chips. Yum.

Vaishnavi said...

I love the idea of books as souvenirs. Planning a trip to Prague this September, Kafka seems a wonderful idea :)

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Jillian - Yes, you'll have to find a copy. If you're a Foer fan it's a must. I do make a note in the back cover if I got it on vacation and usually they have paper bookmarks in the shops and I leave one in the book.

Jenny - Oh, that sounds delicious. I'll have to check that out next time I'm there!

Vaishnavi - Yay for Prague have fun! There's a great English bookstore there called the Globe... should check it out. I got some Milan Kundera there as well as Kafka. Yes, I know I have a problem.

Danielle said...

I love buying books in new places- but have never bought a book corresponding to the place! I'll try that when I go to Canada next week (I'm excited to leave the country but also excited to see what types of books they sell most frequently in their bookstores).
As for Tree of Codes- I actually flipped through a friend's copy, and thought it was an interesting concept. I heard the ability to see the next words- through the pages underneath- is part of the experience but think it would drive me nuts, with my eyes jumping everywhere.

Heather said...

Wow. I've never heard of this book book but I think it's extremely cool (as long as the other author didn't mind it)! Unfortunately I don't get to travel much and never really thought to get a book (shocker, I know) but I think it's a GREAT idea! I may have to adopt this habit. :D

Enbrethiliel said...


Now I'm reminded of a family I know, in which the parents are passionate about reading and collecting books. They actually had a special stamp made so that they can mark the inside covers of every book they buy in this way:


And then the person who bought the book stamps it inside the cover and fills in the details.

This family might be able to buy everything at home, in the well-stocked chain store nearest them, but they travel a lot and they like having books from all over the world sharing shelves in their home.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Danielle - There are so many great authors in Canada, that's the perfect place to start.

Heather - It makes a gerat souvenirs for a bibliophile.

Enbrethiliel - I love that! I need to find a stamp like that, it'd be perfect!