How to Get Your Hands on English Books While Living Overseas | The Expat Book Chat

A series of blog posts for Expats about how to book blog overseas.


I’ve always been a reader. I read when I’m happy. I read when I’m sad. I read when I’m mad, when I need to to destress, when I’m hungry… I think you get the idea. But once I moved from the good ol’ U.S. of A to Japan, all of that came to a screeching halt. Now, I can’t go spend an afternoon at the library like I used to. I can’t come home with a pile of checked-out books as tall as I am (and I’m pretty dang tall). If I were to try and tackle a whole novel in Japanese, I’m quite positive the sheer mental effort of it would make my brain explode. It would have to be labeled as one of the Twelve Labors of Hercules.


Japanese bookstores are much the same as Japanese libraries. Depending on the size of the store, it might have a few English books tucked away in a small section in some back corner. That “English Section,” more often than not, is going to consist of English Language textbooks, or else a handful of internationally famous titles, such as Harry Potter. And while I’m not against rereading a title that I love, sometimes you just want something new and shiny. You want to experience the magic of reading a book for the first time. Of meeting new characters and exploring new worlds. It’s hard to do that without any books to read.


So, what do you do? What do you do when you want to read like you did back in America, but you currently live in a country where English books are not readily available? Well,  good sir, you’re in the right place because that’s exactly what this article is all about.


#5 is very important to me (on both sides)


1. The Miraculous, Spectaculous Ebook

Technology is a miracle, folks. Without technology, I don’t know where I would be, especially regarding my overseas reading. My reading tablet is a priceless brick of gold – and uncovering the millions and millions of books stashed away in the Amazon Kindle Store was almost like discovering El Dorado. I’ve long been familiar with Kindle and other ebook platforms, such as the Nook, but I have always shied away from using them. I preferred actual books and was hesitant to make the jump from paper to screen, but once I did, I was glad for it.


2. Overdrive and Online Public Libraries

If you’re anything like me, you don’t have buckets of money just lying around. With my family’s budget being what it is, I can’t rationalize buying the obscene amount of ebooks that I want to. That I really, really want to. I was buying one ebook every couple of months, and it just wasn’t enough for my bookish soul.
Then one day, I had a Sir-Issac-Newton-level epiphany: I still had my library card number memorized. I went to the library so much growing up that the numbers have become ingrained in my mind, holding as much significance as a PIN or social security number. Despite the fact that I haven’t been to my hometown library in over five years, I was able to pull up their website and login. BAM! Suddenly, I had thousands of FREE ebooks and audiobooks available at a click of a button. FREE 👏BOOKS👏 PEOPLE 👏 Aren’t libraries just the best? It’s like Christmas, but everyday of the year.



Okay, so I recognize that not everybody is a weirdo like me and has their childhood library card number memorized. If you didn’t bring your library card with you when you moved from America to your new overseas home, don’t know your library card number, or simply didn’t have one before going abroad, don’t fret! All is not lost! Have somebody in the States go questing for you. Ask your mom to go dig up her old library card – it’s probably hidden somewhere within the depths of her Mary Poppins purse. Tell your dad to drive over to the public library, sign up for a card, and then commandeer his account like any good pirate. Have your little sister dig through your room and find your ex-boyfriend’s old card. It doesn’t really matter how you do it, but that card is like a Golden Ticket. If you have one, you’ll be in a world of pure imagination. *Insert singing here*



3. But I Want Hardcovers!!! 

Don’t worry if you can’t give up your precious hardcovers and paperbacks just yet. I understand the need for actual books – the smell of the crisp pages, the feel of the slick cover, the wonderful satisfaction of placing it on your bookshelf. Plus, they look so much better on your Instagram feed. If you are into buying books, you don’t have to stop simply because you now live overseas. There are some great websites that offer free worldwide deliveries. Let me repeat that, dear readers. Free worldwide deliveries (for a refresher on how I feel about free things, see above). I don’t know how these wonderful, wonderful companies do it, but I’m so glad that they do! My two recommendations are The Book Depository and Wordery.


Are you a bookish Expat?

How do you continue to read while living abroad?


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