What to Bring on a Research Trip (Part 1- Books)

In less than two weeks, I will be on a plane to Belgium for my research trip.  As the days become my own with my teaching ending tomorrow for the summer and I prepare myself over the next week and six days, I’ve come across a conundrum of sorts that I’m sure plagues many a writer of historical fiction who is about to embark on a research trip.

Which books should I bring??

This stack of my current research books will definitely not work.

This is just the tip of the iceberg as far as books I’ve been reading while writing my novel.  It doesn’t include all of the internet resources and papers I’ve printed out and the many, the many files I’ve created and three 16th century Dutch cookbooks translated into English that I’ve printed and pages and pages on medieval astronomical instruments and medieval astrology and all the books from the library that I’ve checked out and returned and checked out again.

Okay, I know I cannot possibly bring all these books.  I think I’ve narrowed it down to the following:

I’m sure to get big biceps lugging around these titles all over Belgium!   🙂
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6 Responses to “What to Bring on a Research Trip (Part 1- Books)”


  1. 3 laurastanfill June 20, 2012 at 7:48 am

    Hi, Nicole! I just gave you the Beautiful Blogger Award! You can learn more here: http://laurastanfill.wordpress.com/2012/06/20/twice-the-excitement-beautiful-blogger-award/

    Can’t wait to hear more about your travel planning!

    • 4 nicolemarieschreiber June 23, 2012 at 4:52 pm

      Wow, Laura, thank you so much for the award! I am so surprised by it. 🙂

      I will need some time to choose who I would like to pass it on to, so it may be that I can’t until after I come back. But I definitely have some ideas.

      It was great meeting you at the lace meeting, and let’s get together after I get back to talk books and publishing while the kids play! 🙂

  2. 5 Naomi Baltuck June 20, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    Hi Nicole,

    I did several research trips to England before and during the writing The Keeper of the Crystal Spring, which was published by Viking Penguin, and selected for the Doubleday Book-of-the-Month Club.

    I highly recommend leaving the stack of books at home. Take a couple at most. Believe me, you are going to be buying new books as you conduct your research, and you can read them while you go, without lugging the other books along as well.

    Do your research at home–narrowing down where you want to go, ie. locate the open air history museums and living history museums, art and culture museums, tours of very old houses that will give you the feeling of what it was to live in the time period you are writing about.

    Except for a couple of the best travel guides, I left the others behind, and copied pages with highlighted passages that were relevant to what I wanted to know–the crafts, the history, the locations in your the story.

    I would also leave a little leeway in your schedule for interviewing people you meet. I had tea at the Gold Hill home of a historian in Shaftesbury who I had heard about when visiting the little local museum. I called her, she was glad to meet me, and we talked history, and then she took me in back to show off her garden! It was a lovely connection that I was able to make only because I didn’t have a reservation in the next town or shire. I took the abbey historian out to dinner after she spent hours explaining to me what abbey life would have been like, what life in a medieval infirmary would have been like for the patients and the nuns who cared for them, and even the layout of an Anglo-Saxon garden–what they grew and what they were used for. But I hadn’t anticipated such a golden opportunity. Just be open to human as well as historic resources.

    Bring your camera and take pictures, pictures, pictures! Take many more than you think you will need, because you will refer to them.. Not just the pretty pictures, but one to help you remember how things work, or looked. I documented the charcoal making process, because it was relevant to the story, although I didn’t know it at the time! You never know what you will need until it is too late to go back.

    Best of luck to you, Nicole. What an adventure–the research and the creation of a new world!

  3. 6 nicolemarieschreiber June 23, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    Hi Naomi,

    Thank you so much for your suggestions! They were really great and helped me to think again about bringing the books. I also heard back from Emily Whitman on my Kickstarter blog (Her book WILDWING, just recently won the Oregon Book Award), and she mentioned very similar suggestions about leaving the books at home and simply being “present” in the places I will be visiting to get a true sensory feel for them. I agree with both of you and have narrowed my choice down to photocopying anything I really need and can fit in one file folder (not stuffed, mind you), bringing my journal, one travel guide, a middle grade historical I am currently reading, and bringing my camera with lots of batteries for pictures and video. I also know that I will probably be bringing home some books, so I need to leave room for them in my suitcase!

    I definitely hope to make some connections with as many people as I can just as you did. I’d love to have a similar experience to what you described. How special that was for you!

    Thank you again, and I look forward to checking out your book, too. 🙂 I’m so intrigued by its setting! 🙂 Take care.


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