Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Camel Bookmobile” as Want to Read:
The Camel Bookmobile
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Camel Bookmobile

3.34 of 5 stars 3.34  ·  rating details  ·  1,671 ratings  ·  415 reviews

Fiona Sweeney wants to do something that matters, and she chooses to make her mark in the arid bush of northeastern Kenya. By helping to start a traveling library, she hopes to bring the words of Homer, Hemingway, and Dr. Seuss to far-flung tiny communities where people live daily with drought, hunger, and disease. Her intentions are honorable, and her rules are firm: due

Hardcover, 308 pages
Published (first published 2001)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Camel Bookmobile, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Camel Bookmobile

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
A downside of living abroad in a country with a different language is that the selection of books in English is always minimal. Searching through the raggedy shelves at hostels or tourist-oriented cafes becomes a treasure hunt. Finding a copy 1984? Elation. Finding out that it is in German? Back to the shelves.

All of which is to say, I didnt pick up this book on purpose. But I finished it because a lack of other options.

If you want a book where you can lose track of how often African is used as
Book Concierge
Fiona Sweeney is a librarian who accepts a job with a charitable foundation to bring books to remote villages in Africa, promoting literacy among the tiny, far-flung communities of northeastern Kenya. These settlements are impoverished, lacking roads or schools, and the people’s lives are steeped in tradition and superstition. Because the donated books are limited in number and the settlements are many, the library has initiated a tough fine: if anyone fails to return a book, the bookmobile will ...more
This was a very interesting story based on a real life experience. A librarian wanting to do more than work in a library and shush children applies for a job in Africa in order to deliver books by camel to villages that would otherwise not ever be able to have access to books. However, because the books are scarce, if any books are lost or damaged the camel bookmobile will not return to that village.

The book deals with issues of whether bringing books to a people who still depend on the earth an
Dina Roberts
Basic plot of this book: Young boy in Kenya gets scarred by hyena attack. Then he grows up and causes problems by not promptly returning his library books.

Then there's other failed marriages and deep thoughts about Americans and Europeans imposing their cultural viewpoint on Africans.
Big disappointment. Interesting premise, but so poorly written. She includes some neat proverbs here and there, but the book as a whole has a cardboardy feel - the sort of formulaic writing of a cheap romance. At times they even start speaking in "thees" and "thous", not a way I've ever had the urge to translate Kiswahili or any other language.
Not an awful book but definitely not one to keep or recommend. The main story was just ok and I wanted to know how it turned out but I did not enjoy the individual stories and I didn't care for the characters. None of the characters were well developed. I always felt as if they were a bit unfocused and there wasn't enough for me to grab on to.

The book follows an American, Fi, to Africa as she volunteers to guide a new library program that sends books out to the villages on the African plains. T
Fiona is an idealist who is tired of her New York life and wants to do something more to make her mark on the world. When she reads of an opportunity to work on a Camel Bookmobile, she decides to go immediately, even though her friends and family don't fully approve. Once in Africa though, the story focuses less on her, and more on the lives of the people of the small nomadic tribe of Mididima. Here people's lives are changing, in reaction to the ideas the books bring, the threat it brings to th ...more
New York librarian Fiona Sweeney believes in books and literacy with a missionary zeal that sends her to Kenya, traveling with camels loaded with books to distant villages in the bush where most people have never held a book in their hands, nor seen a white woman

Her camel bookmobile is popular, but many in the village worry that books will bring modernization which will destroy their way of life. Others believe that modernization; more contact with the outside world; is what the village needs to
Fiona Sweeney is an American librarian with a desire to do something with her life, something that matters. Her family has always been rooted in the same New York neighborhood, but Fi isn't content to stay rooted. Instead, she decides to take a job in Kenya, helping to start a traveling library. The library takes books, by camel, to different tribes of people throughout the bush of northeastern Kenya.

The people of Mididima have differing feelings about the traveling books. Matani was sent away
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Certain books are allowed to be less than perfect. For example, any book about librarians or book collecting or even writing is such a welcome publishing event that I give it some slack; just the mere fact that someone decided to choose these as subjects is enough to allow the author some latitude. The Camel Bookmobile, consequently, I have let the belt out a couple of notches. The writing is acceptable. The characters shimmy up against stereotype here and there. The author lets the genuine deta ...more
A librarian who wants to do something that matters, goes to the
African bush to run a bookmobile that brings books to far flung
settlements by camel. The story focuses in on characters in a
particular settlement called Mididima. Because of the preciousness of
the books in such a setting, the Camel Bookmobile has a rule...if
anyone fails to return a book, the bookmobile will stop coming to the
settlement. In Mididima, one of the young men does not return some
books, and the librarian goes to the settlem
Fiona Sweeney is a 36-year-old librarian from New York. She decides, somewhat naively, to move to Garissa, Kenya in Africa in the hope of educating the children and adults of small villages dotting the vast landscape through reading books and learning English. Of course, their current language is Swahili. Fiona receives help from Mr. Abasi and soon her mobile library becomes a reality, thanks to the ‘camels’ who carry the books over the rugged terrain! As they set off, the village of Mididima be ...more
Ginger Hallett
I liked this book. It wasn't what I had expected, and didn't end as I had feared it would. While on the surface it appeared to be simple in scope, and the beginning of the book describing how the "The American" became involved in the camel bookmobile project supported this idea, it soon turned out to be quite complex. The author did a good job of weaving all the personal, cultural, environmental and zoological elements of the story together to create a very thought-provoking, disquieting picture ...more
La biblioteca sul cammello un'idea bellissima: quella vera per, qui sotto trovate il sito per le donazioni in libri alle piccole biblioteche africane.

Questo invece l'indirizzo per donare in particolare alla Biblioteca sul cammello

Garissa Provincial Library
For Camel Library
Librarian in charge
Rashid M. Farah
P.O. Box 245
Garissa, Kenya

Peccato invece che il romanzo, pur cercando di trasmettere a tratti idee e concetti interessanti come il significato dell'istruz
La biblioteca sul cammello un'idea bellissima: quella vera per, qui sotto trovate il sito per le donazioni in libri alle piccole biblioteche africane.

Questo invece l'indirizzo per donare in particolare alla Biblioteca sul cammello

Garissa Provincial Library
For Camel Library
Librarian in charge
Rashid M. Farah
P.O. Box 245
Garissa, Kenya

Peccato invece che il romanzo, pur cercando di trasmettere a tratti idee e concetti interessanti come il significato dell'istruz
I liked it and the descriptions were good, main characters likable. Despite being prepared for the ending with constant reminders of the nature of migratory communities, it was quite a letdown. Or rather the reactions of the characters were a letdown. They were too accepting of "the way things are." But wasn't the whole point of Fiona doing the bookmobile to make a difference, to change the way things are? I'm afraid that with this ending the book might not motivate people to help such communiti ...more
Loved this book!
It gave me a fresh perspective on how helping "those in need" may be done to benefit the helper more than "the needy." Do those who have their own traditions and live apart from modern society really need to learn how to do things "our way?" Is it better? If so, better for whom?
I thought the book was well researched and the characters well developed.
I also think it would make a great movie.
Absolutely five stars.
Laurie Hanan
The author made a number of trips with the real-life camel bookmobile in Kenya and interacted with the villagers who eagerly awaited the chance to explore new books. Photos of her time in Africa can be seen on her website. From this she created a poignant tale about Fiona Sweeney, an American librarian, and the people in one of the villages visited by the bookmobile. The point of view moves between the naïve, altruistic librarian and that of several of the villagers – some who welcome the presen ...more
The Loopy Librarian
Lyrical, descriptive writing told from the point of view of a variety of characters allowing insight into each of their lives and thoughts, especially regarding the bookmobile. Authentic dialogue, rich characterizations, complex ideologies and clashes of culture brought to life as well as complex relationships. Recommended for fans of travel fiction and anyone with a passion for books.
An interesting account of a librarian (Fi) from New York working in Africa to bring books to people via camels (this is based on a book project that actuslly happened). It is thought provoking reading how this changes both the people of Africa and Fi. I will be using this in my book discussions and will be interestedin seeing how the group likes it.
Alison Smith
Worlds collide when a noble, idealistic voluntary American tries to introduce books & literacy to a nomadic tribe in Kenya. A quixotic scheme at best; foolish, at worst. Sharing one's love of reading does not always bring the desired results! Masha Hamilton's own bio reads like an adventure novel. An interesting read.
This is an interesting fictional account of an actual bookmobile that travels by camel in Africa. The issues related to the nomadic tribe and its interest/disinterest in books were really interesting. I'd give it 3 and a half stars, really, but not 4 because some of the storyline seemed contrived.
I was pretty disappointed in this book. I was hoping for a fictionalized look at Western books influencing a traditional African culture. In this soap opera, the books were barely even mentioned. At least it only took a couple hours from my weekend to finish.
I picked this up because I thought this was a non-fiction account of a women taking books on a camel to remote villages. The ideas was intriguing, but not the main thrust of the book. I was hoping for higher ideals, not the run of the mill everyone everywhere has the same desires and needs and gives into them.

The characters were well developed and the writing done very well. I was drawn into the their lives and saddened by the abrupt sad turn at the end. The meeting of the library and sponsors
This book was really fun. It is very cool to me that there actually is a camel bookmobile that this fictional story is based on. It's sort of a beach read kind of book, but set in Africa. It has travel, mystique, love, etc.
A concept as old as time, a stranger in a strange land. An interesting story, if a little predictable. Loved the mosquito theme that ran through, but didn't care much for the protagonist.
“Here is a link to the story behind the book:
The Camel Bookmobile really does exist but this book is fiction and the people are made up for the story. A cute story of an American librarian, leaving her life in NYC to fulfill her need to do something bigger with her life. The Camel bookmobile, gives her that chance. The book revolves around this one nomadic tribe, some relishing the thought of getting a book for a couple of weeks to others who think this i
So much stuff to talk about at book club! The different thoughts the characters had about the books, the relationships, Kenya in general, etc.
a very good read that sheds Kenya in a new and bright light. Story is poignantly well told.
This book was refreshingly different. It centres around the population of a tribe of people living in Mididima in Kenya. Fi visits the tribe on her trip to issue and collect books as part of the travelling library. While staying with the tribe we get a glimpse into the lives, loves, relationships and culture of the people of Mididima. Beautifully written, would actually rate it a three and a half. Won't be everyone's cup of tea, but won't disappoint readers who enjoy something different and orig ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Shelf Life: Romance, Mystery, Drama, and Other Page-Turning Adventures from a Year in a Book store
  • A Pound of Paper: Confessions of a Book Addict
  • In the Stacks: Short Stories about Libraries and Librarians
  • Every Book Its Reader: The Power of the Printed Word to Stir the World
  • An Alphabetical Life: Living It Up in the World of Books
  • Old Books, Rare Friends: Two Literary Sleuths and Their Shared Passion
  • Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books
  • Beowulf on the Beach: What to Love and What to Skip in Literature's 50 Greatest Hits
  • The Child That Books Built: A Life in Reading
  • The Case for Books: Past, Present, and Future
  • Librarian's Night Before Christmas
  • Slightly Chipped: Footnotes in Booklore
  • Curiosities of Literature
  • The Witch Doctor's Wife (Amanda Brown #1)
  • Between the Covers: The Book Babes' Guide to a Woman's Reading Pleasures
  • The Smithsonian Book of Books
  • Biblioholism: The Literary Addiction
  • The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop: A Memoir, a History
Masha Hamilton is the author of five novels: Staircase of a Thousand Steps, (2001) a Booksense pick by independent booksellers and a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection; The Distance Between Us, (2004) named one of the best books of the year by Library Journal, The Camel Bookmobile, (2007) also a Booksense pick, and 31 Hours, named by the Washington Post as one of the best book ...more
More about Masha Hamilton...
31 Hours Staircase of a Thousand Steps The Distance Between Us What Changes Everything

Share This Book

“The stories she'd read of others' lives over these last few months had left her with a greater appreciation for the thread of her own life.” 6 likes
“Books allowed her vicarious tastes of infinite variety, but they didn't supplant the need to venture out into the big and the messy. In fact, just the opposite. Books convinced her that something more existed---something intuitive, beyond reason---and they whetted her appetite to find it.” 5 likes
More quotes…