Summer is officially over, which means most people who went on vacation this year have already done so. And if you’ve ever wondered what happens to all the luggage they lost… I have the answer.
Most of it gets returned, if it’s checked luggage or it has a name on it. But the unfortunate few that are not reunited with their owners might end up in the Unclaimed Baggage Store. Yes, a place where you can purchase all of the random things other people have lost on airplanes or in airports. Everything from books to vintage baseball caps (there are weirdly a lot of those for sale). As I do not live anywhere near Alabama, I was excited to find out that they have an online store as well. And I decided to check it out.
I was focused on… you guessed it… books. I was actually planning a different reading experiment for this month, but this one was just too much fun to resist. So I went on the site and purchased – with my own money – five books that other people lost on planes. Okay, I purchased four, but one of them I already owned and didn’t think there was a point of buying a second copy just for this post. But it was for sale on the site at the time I placed my order, and now someone else will be able to enjoy it instead of me hoarding two copies. Options were limited, so I’m going with it.
There were a lot fewer books for sale than I was expecting, and the majority of them seemed to be religious/spiritual books or more self-help/psychology, which I stayed away from (read whatever you want, but that is not my thing). I was very tempted by The Evening and the Morning, but I think I want to read the rest of the series in order, and don’t have time for all three thousand-page books right now. I ended up with a mix of books I think I might like and books I think might annoy the hell out of me. So this should be fun! Right?
Last Couple Standing by Matthew Norman
When I do these reading experiments, it sometimes involves reading books I’m not very excited about. This is one I was not very excited about. So I decided to read it first to get it out of the way before getting to the books I thought I might enjoy more. And when I first started reading, I thought this might have backfired on me. The writing wasn’t bad, and the story was fairly entertaining. In a watching-other-people’s-drama-that-doesn’t-affect-you way. I spent the first forty to fifty pages thinking I might have been wrong about this book. It was pretty good. And then the inevitable happened… it started to annoy me.
Don’t get me wrong, I like books with entertaining drama (bonus points if it involves medieval queens getting revenge). But I can’t stand when the drama is caused by one character being a selfish asshole. Which is basically the entire plot of this book. Just needless drama caused by one person choosing to justify their selfish desires and be dishonest with everyone involved. Not my favorite kind of book.
That said, I can see why someone would bring this on vacation. It’s like a romance with darker thriller-y vibes. I can just see a middle-class woman in her forties enjoying this one. Or maybe she didn’t since she lost it, and the only evidence that this book wasn’t brand new was a single dogeared page. It’s also entirely possible this an airport impulse buy that someone gave up on at page 70 and just threw in their suitcase for the return flight. Either way, this will be going in my unhaul pile to be passed on to a third owner who will never know it’s sad history of being abandoned/lost on an aircraft.
Good Company by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
I wasn’t too surprised when another one of the books on this list ended up being about marriage. That seems to be a pretty popular topic. This is also a fairly new release, which makes it the quintessential vacation read (i.e. easily grabbed from an airport store or destination gift shop). But I still wasn’t too eager to read another marriage book. There is a reason I got these two out of the way at the beginning of this experiment.
I did like this one more than Last Couple Standing. Still not my favorite, but at least this didn’t make me want to scream. Mostly. In the past year or so I have realized that while I do enjoy reading romance books, or books with romance subplots or that feature relationships, I am not a huge fan of stories in which relationships go wrong because one party keeps secrets. Especially they are older adults, because that just seems so immature. I know that reflects real life, but that’s just not something I like experiencing in my reading.
Overall, this one was just kind of meh for me. I struggled to care about these characters. I honestly slacked a little bit and am writing most of my thoughts on this book quite a bit later than when I read it, so I don’t remember much. But I do remember just being vaguely annoyed by everyone in this book. I gave it a three-star rating, so I didn’t hate it, but this book didn’t do it for me.
The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel
Full disclosure: I did not purchase the copy I read from Unclaimed Baggage. There was one available in the store, but since I already owned a copy, I figured I’d leave that one for someone else to enjoy. But I’m counting it, because I could have bought it. I probably don’t need to justify this as much as I think I do, so I’ll just get into my review.
I was very excited to read this because I loved Station Eleven a few years ago (funnily enough, on vacation to Whidbey Island in Washington state). I even bought a signed copy of this one when it came out last year, and even read the first couple of chapters before putting it down. I just wasn’t feeling it at that time (I was basically in a semi-slump for most of last year), but I was hoping to pick it up again. I was so sure I would enjoy it because of how great Station Eleven is. But, unfortunately, I was wrong.
I really liked the writing (and definitely want to read more by Emily St. John Mandel), but this story was not my jam. It’s possible I wasn’t in the right headspace for this one and just didn’t quite “get” it, but I think it just wasn’t the story for me. There was a lot going on in this book, and I found it a little hard to keep track of. Especially because I didn’t fully connect to the central character. But I think what really kept me from enjoying this more was that it was kind of heavy on the rich people problems. And I do not care. That’s just something that annoys me whenever I come across it – in books, movies, or real life – and I did not enjoy it. I’m kind of disappointed. I thought this might be my favorite of this bunch.
If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha
One thing I’ve been struggling a bit with in my reading experiments is making them more diverse. So I was excited that two of the five books on this list were written (at least partly) by authors of color. This one has been on my radar for a while. But I think that was just because I like the cover. When I started this, I realized I had no idea what it was about.
This one actually reminded me of Girl, Woman, Other because it is a compilation of stories of different women and their different experiences, this time in Seoul, Korea. And while I an absolutely see the value of a book like this, I’m not sure it’s something that really works for me (I didn’t love Girl, Woman, Other either). I think I’m just the type of person who has to find something about a character that I can identify with, and I didn’t here. Which is fine. I have a friend who I think might really love this one. It just wasn’t for me, unfortunately.
Black, White, and The Grey: The Story of an Unexpected Friendship and a Beloved Restaurant by Mashama Bailey and John O. Morisano
Finally, we have a dual memoir by a white entrepreneur and the black chef who helps him open a restaurant. Their partnership resulted in The Grey, a restaurant in Savannah, Georgia. This is my kind of vacation read. I love memoirs, and this was the first one I’ve read written by two authors about their different experiences surrounding the same event (opening a restaurant). If I’d seen this in an airport gift shop, I might consider picking it up. (And judging by the hot Cheeto dust on the pages, the person who lost this book is my kind of people. It feels like this was meant to end up with me.)
I found it kind of surprising that I hadn’t heard of this one before visiting the Unclaimed Baggage store. It is a relatively new release (all of the books on this list were 2020 or 2021 releases), but it doesn’t seem to be getting much attention – as of this post, it only has 70 ratings on Goodreads and just 11 on The Storygraph. Which is a shame, because it is a really special story.
I ended up listening to the audiobook of this one, but I’m glad to have the hardcopy so I can go back and peruse the recipes featured at the end of each chapter, and maybe try a couple. It is narrated by the authors, which I love with memoirs – it really conveys the story so well. I still don’t know how I feel about the writing in this book. It’s difficult to judge something so personal. I don’t think it was my favorite, and it’s probably what kept me from loving this as much as I wanted to. Still, it was a fun read that was absolutely worthwhile. And my surprise favorite of this experiment.
And that is it! My predictions were… semi-correct. The books I thought would annoy me did, but so did two of the books I thought I would enjoy (to a lesser degree). I think I’m just happy about finally crossing off The Glass Hotel from my TBR, even though I didn’t like it as much as I was expecting to. We all know my least favorite of this experiment was Last Couple Standing. I still can’t believe a book that is literally about divorce and cheating is marketed as a romance, but whatever. And I think my favorite was Black, White, and The Grey. It was an interesting story, and having it be a dual memoir was really unique. I am proud of myself for reading these basically in order from least to most favorite. Which means I predicted the results fairly well.
I am the slightest bit bummed because there have been a bunch of books added since I purchased this that I would have loved to include. But I don’t think I’ll be doing this again anytime soon. I will say that my experience shopping at Unclaimed Baggage was a good one. The condition of the books was basically brand new (minus the Cheeto dust, but that probably would have happened in my hands, anyway), and they are very up front about the condition of the things they sell. Even though I don’t think I’ll repeat this experiment, I might do a little shopping in the future.
What did you think of this post? Did you know you can buy the things other people lost while traveling?
You can now go check out my bookshop, where you can go and buy books and also shop my curated collections of my personal favorites AND all of the books I’ve read for my reading experiments, including this one! Or you can just buy whatever books you want to. I get a small commission at no extra cost to you, and you get to support your choice of indie bookstores – it’s a win all around!
P.S. they are currently having a 20% off sale of Indigenous Peoples’ Day!