Recommended Novels for your Travels: 2006
As anyone can attest from reading The Agony & the Ecstasy before a trip to Michelangelo-land or Trinity before visiting the Emerald Isle, recreational reading can make your sightseeing a lot more fun and meaningful. Which books carbonated your travel experience best?
Hungary, Romania and Turkey - in one book!
If anyone is traveling to Hungary, Turkey or Romania, read "The Historian" by Elizabeth Kostova. Not only is it a wonderful read in its own right (the legend of Dracula and how it affects a young girl and her historian father), but the descriptions of these places they travel to will make your mouth water!
Cincinnati, OH USA Sun 12/31/2006
The Third Secret by Steve Berry (a mystery novel about the third secret of Fatima) was one of those books that kept me up at night reading. One of the novel's venues is Bamberg Germany and I made it a point to spend two nights in Bamberg on a trip to Germany and Austria this October. I absolutely loved the town and wouldn't have thought of it if it hadn't been for the book. I place Bamberg near the top along with Rothenburg, Heidelberg and Salzburg as one of my favorite travel experiences.
Milwaukee, WI USA Fri 12/08/2006
So sad that people think there are no good German reads! They have a strong literary and philosophical tradition that rivals all other European countries! All these are available in English. Goethe and Schiller for starts, if you plan a trip to Weimar...
For Pre-War(s) try Thomas Mann's "Magic Mountain". HUGE but really captures the time. Doeblin's "Alexanderplatz" is good for Berlin lovers. The style in which it's written reflects the change in media at the time along with all the social problems. Hermann Hesse also a must -lots to think about with his "Steppenwolf". For a female/roaring twenties perspective and Bridget Jones-like read try "Artificial Silk Girl" by Irmgard Keun.
CA USA Thu 12/07/2006
Uproariously funny-- "A Year in the Merde"
Paul n Sara
USA Tue 11/28/2006
The books the "Broker" by John Grisham and "Angels and Demons" by Dan Brown helped me to know a bit more about the famous locations, and a little history about Italy.
Hacienda Heights, CA USA Sun 11/26/2006
Novels to Enjoy before visiting Italy
While traveling in Italy this past summer, we had several novels all taking place in Italy. Reading the novels and seeing the places really made the trip that much more exciting. The first novel: The Thief Lord is by Cornelia Funke. It has a reading level of 5 and is suitable for anyone from 4th/5h grade on up. It is usually found in the teen section of book stores. The next is "The Birth of Venus" by Sara Dunant. This takes place in Florence during the time of Savonarola. Being historical fiction made the area come alive. My daughter and I made sure we found the spot marking the location where Savonarola was burned. We had fun pointing out other sites, streets, and buildings mentioned in the book. This is for an older teen or adult. It does have some descriptions of sex (wedding night)that are fairly detailed. The last book we read was "Mirror Mirror" by Gregory Maguire. This is the story of Snow White with a twist. The evil step mother is played by Lucrezia Borgia. The story takes place in Tuscany and Umbria at Montefiore (the farm where Bianca de Nevada, Italian for Snow White, lives with her father). While this was a good book, it was not a light read. It can be difficult to follow if you are not concentrating. For this reason, it is better for the more advanced reader.
Manassas, VA USA Sun 11/19/2006
Almost French by Sarah Turnbull
What a glimpse into French life from the eyes of an Austrailian. Although I am from the US I enjoyed the faux pas she describes. Other good novels about foreigners in France are "A Year in the Merde" and "In the Merde for Love" by Stephen Clark.
USA Sun 11/12/2006
I enjoyed Sharon Kay Penman's books on medieval England and Wales. They are some of my favorite books.
I also like Bill Bryson's travel journals.
Winter Park, FL USA Fri 11/10/2006
The Broker, by Dan Brown, piqued my interest in Bologna, Italy. The novel's frequent descriptions of this medieval city with its covered sidewalks, arched porticoes, 666 arches leading to Santuario di San Luca and ancient defensive towers, led me to add this fascinating city to my itinerary.
Dan Brown's Angels & Demons will test your knowledge of Rome's layout. Have your city map ready. A fast paced read before or after your visit.
Mission Viejo, CA USA Mon 11/06/2006
Bologna, Rome, Italy
The Broker, by John Grisham, piqued my curiosity regarding Bologna, Italy. This novel with its frequent descriptions of this medieval city, its covered sidewalks, arched porticoes, the 666 arches that lead to Santuario di San Luca and its remaining defensive towers, led me to add this fascinating city to my itinerary.
Dan Brown's Angels & Demons will test your knowledge of Rome's layout. Have your street map ready. A fast paced read before or after your visit.
Mission Viejo, CA USA Mon 11/06/2006
Florence, Italy, Michelangelo, The Medici
"The Agony and the Ecstasy," a fictionalized biography of Michelangelo by Irving Stone, master of this genre, brings Michelangelo's life alive in a way that no art book biography or description of his work can possibly do. It also brings The Medici alive as real people. Have a street map of Florence nearby as you read, and follow Michelangelo through Renaissance Florence and then to Rome. This is a book you won't be able to put down. It's long, so set aside a long weekend, don't sleep, or call in sick! It brought Florence alive in a way that will animate my every moment during my upcoming visit there.
Los Angeles, CA USA Sun 11/05/2006
Beyond Diana Gabaldon
There is a wonderful series about a fictitious Scottish noble family, focusing primarily on one of the sons, set in the time of Mary Queen of Scots. The author's name is Dorothy Dunnett, and she has done extensive research into the period, including what people ate, drank, wore, read, and sang!
The books all have chess-themed titles (not that chess features in any of the books); "The Game of Kings," "Queen's Play," "The Disorderly Knights," etc. As the action follows what happens to those who are interested in protecting (or destroying) young Mary (who is just a toddler in the beginning), they take place in France and England as well as in Scotland. This helped me to understand, among other things, why Scotland and France had a historic alliance -- and why the names of some Scottish clans have a distinct French accent!
When we visited Scotland a few years back, we saw many of the castles where Mary had lived, and learned much about how she had changed Scotland after having been raised in France. Having read those books, it was much clearer to me why she was considered "Mary Quite Contrary" by many of her advisors.
I have read and enjoyed the "Outlander" series, but Dunnett's series about Francis Crawford of Lymond is better-written, IMHO. Plus, there's a great deal of information about the political maneuverings in Europe and the British Isles at the time, without it being tiresome and dull. More focus on history and less on sex, compared to Gabaldon.
USA Tue 10/31/2006
Princes of Ireland - great historical fiction. read it before you go
Poulsbo, USA Mon 10/30/2006
Glad they clarified this topic
Even when this was called "books for the journey," I always assumed they meant novels and was wondering why people kept talking about guide books, especially repeating "just Rick's book" over and over.
NYC, Sun 10/29/2006
Books to read in Italy
We're in Italy for our 7th trip, this time for five months (each prior trip was no longer than three weeks). We've rented an apartment in Siena that we love. We've used Rick on all our prior trips and have found absolutely no shortcomings, but since his coverage of Italy is not comprehensive, we supplement his books with the Rough Guides, and have found them to also be invaluable.
As to non-travel books to read, one of our favorites is Mark Helprin's "Soldier of the Great War", a wonderful book to read in Italy, particularly if you're travelling into the Dolomites or otherwise up the Alto Adige. Otherwise, check out Brunelleschi's Dome if you're interested in a detailed, short, very readable account of the design and construction of the dome of the Florence duomo.
San Luis Obispo, CA USA Sun 10/29/2006
I recently made my first travel to Europe with my husband in Spring '06. I read the most recent travel guides from Rick Steves on each country and city that we visited before leaving on our big adventure. I found these extremely helpful in navigating through the streets of foreign cities. The one Rick Steve's guide that I referenced almost on an hourly basis was the French, Italian, and German Phrase Book. This was so helpful when a barista in Venice kept urging my husband and I to take a seat to drink our cappucino and espresso. I simply asked him, "Costa ugale a tivalo o al banco?" (Is it the same price to sit or stand?) A big thank you to Rick and his staff for all their helpful information. Thanks to you we saved a few Euro's by standing in the Venice coffee bar and made some incredible memories by the great experiences we had. Your guide books and TV shows are very informative.
Lebanon, IN USA Tue 10/24/2006
I, too, like the Eyewitness Guides, though they're heavy and not updated frequently. They're just great for planning and make good souvenirs because of all the glossy color pictures. Yes, it's impossible not to get lost in Venice, but it must be the best place in the world to get lost.
USA Sun 10/15/2006
Can't beat the Rick Steve's Travel Guides. However, for detailed street maps...I have used The Eye Witness Travel Guides for both Paris & Italy. That way you can tell exactly where you're going. Only exception is Venice, where we still got lost 99% of the time.
Marietta, Ga USA Tue 09/26/2006
used rick steves' books for italy
I have just returned from a trip to Italy. I bought the full set of Rick Steve's books (2006) for Italy on seattle's craigslist.org for a great price.
seattle, wa USA Thu 09/21/2006
books on Prague
For anyone going to Prague or who has been there and developed an interest in the city, I might recommend a book entitled "Prague Pictures: portraits of a city," by John Banville. I grabbed it out of curiosity which looking for regular travel guides before a trip to Eastern Europe. I'm not great at analyzing books, but I can say that I am glad I picked this one up, as it is a highly intriguing collection of historical "tidbits," social commentary, and anecdotes of the author's adventures and misadventures in Prague. The very first chapter - an account of the author's first visit to the city in the late eightys - is, to me, an especially engrossing, chilling account of life in Communist-era Prague. I am now interested to compare what Banville describes to what I see and experience in Prague in three weeks.
Lansing, MI USA Tue 09/12/2006
Rick's guidebook schedule is on http://www.ricksteves.com/books/update/guidebook-release-dates.htm
I've used his books for two trips (London/Paris and Italy-17 day tour with his tour company). All recommendations were spot on, although you will see TONS of people with his book wherever his recommendations lead you. Also, hit a used book store to get "old" copies - most of the museum info is still accurate, and you can rip apart the old books for easier carrying purposes (and toss as you use them).
Salem, OR USA Thu 09/07/2006
THE ALCHEMIST by Paulo Coelho
The Alchemist is one of those magical books that relates big ideas with simple language. It speaks to all ages like great literature does--soul to soul. It plays with the larger issue of why we are drawn to travel and how it fits into the overall journey of our life. It is a book that sweeps you up on a grand adventure and won't let you go. The book is a classic and has sold millions in many languages. The boy, Santiago, follows his dream that takes him from the hills of Andalucia, across the Strait of Gibraltar to Morocco, through the desert, and onward to the Pyramids. A must read for all who still believe in the magic of life, as revealed by travel and following your dreams.
Bellingham, WA USA Wed 08/30/2006
Rick's Publishing Dates
I'm a first time Euro traveler and planning a May 2007 trip to Ireland and London. Does anyone know when Rick's 2007 guides come out? I'm not sure if I should just go ahead and purchase the 2006 or wait for the 2007 editions. Thanks all!
Bloomington, IN USA Wed 08/30/2006
More Reading for Impressionism
My favorite author for my pre- Italy trip reading, Ross King (Brunelleschi's Dome and Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling) recently wrote The Judgement of Paris. He vividly brings to life the decades of the Academy and the ridicule to which the early Impressionists were subjected- great color plates and fascinating art history in his always readable style. If you will be spending any time at all in the Louvre or d'Orsey, you must read this book!
USA Sun 08/27/2006
Painters of the Impressionist Era in France
I am currently reading Irving Stone's "Depths of Glory" in anticipation of our visit to Paris and travels throughout France next month. It is a fictionalized history of the life of Camille Pisarro and his relationships with Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, Berthe Morisot, Edgar Degas, Alfred Sisley and Edouard Manet and their struggles as a group to gain acceptance for a new style of painting, Impressionism. I feel like Paris and France are already alive in me as I finish this captivating book. We will definitely include the Musee D'Orsay on our "do not miss" list once we get to Paris and look forward to traveling through the French countryside, seeing France through the eyes of those who captured it so beautifully and at such a dear cost over a century ago. I can't wait.
Colorado Springs, CO USA Thu 08/24/2006
Kevin O'Hara's The Last Donkey Pilgrim is an entertaining travelogue about his trip along the entire Irish coast.
Keizer, OR USA Fri 08/04/2006
Books to read - not travel guides
There are lots and lots, depending upon what you are looking for. Here are some I would recommend for various reasons. Ireland: The Sister Fidelma mysteries by Peter Tremayne. Be sure to read the introductions and notes! Spain: Certainly Michener's Iberia.already mentioned numerous times. UK, France and Spain: A lot of Bernard Cornwell - the Grail Trilogy, as already mentioned, and the Sharpe series for Wellington's Pennisular campaign. UK and Ireland:Earnest Rutherford. Sarum, London, The Princes of Ireland, the Rebels of Ireland. Central Europe: Let's face it, most of us don't really know much about it - and we should. So a few non-fiction selections are in order. A concise History of Hungary (I've forgotten the author, but you can find it on amazon.com) Just remember that Hungary was a lot larger than it is today, so this will cover considerably more territory than you might expect (Czech Republic, Slovakia, Croatia,Slovenia, and parts of Romania.) It's by an Hungarian who seems to have an axe to grind - but that's my opinion. Central Europe-Enemies, Neigbors, Friends, by Lonnie Johnson. A really good insight into many otherwise nearly incomprehensible biases and continuing grievances in the area. Includes Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia, parts of the Ukraine, Romania. The numerous typos are very irritating, but just try to ignore them. And, if you don't believe him, get the big postcard of Hungary(?) up at Matthias Church in Budapest. There is a long memory of past grievances in this area. Now, for somewhat lighter(?) reading, try Sienkiewicz' massive Polish trilogy. (Fire and Sword, the Deluge, Pan Michael.) Watch out though - the whole thing runs to about 4000 pages. Yes, you may have heard of Sienkiewicz - he wrote Quo Vadis. This trilogy is, however, the work that propelled him to the Nobel prize for literature. An historical novel of Poland in the 17th century. If you want to go back farther, try his Knights of the Sword, also sometimes called the Teutonic Knights. (For another 'view' of them, try Sergei Eisenstein's classic film Alexander Nevsky.) OK - I'm obviously 'into' ancient and medieval history. I find that this is most rewarding when travelling in Europe, as I have some idea of what to look for, and also how deeply events from the past have shaped the present, and why.
I also love mystery novels. Be glad to send some recommendations for the UK, if anyone is interested.
Another comment: To understand at least part (not all, of course) of the present Middle East crisis, one should read Stephen Runciman's 3-vol. set on the Crusades. Learning something about the Byzantine (or Eastern Roman) Empire would also be advantageous for travellers to Greece and Turkey.
No, I can't think off-hand of historical novels from or about Germany. Wish I could. If someone finds some, let me know. I'd love to read them.
Denver, CO USA Sun 07/30/2006
Reading for Europe
Here are a few books that I have read that give some great history of Europe: "Poland" and "Iberia" by James Mitchener Armageddon by Leon Uris (if you're going to Berlin)
They're easy reads and full of historical facts to boot.
Orange County, CA USA Tue 07/25/2006
My Life In France by Julia Child
Just loved Julia Child's My Life in France. I don't know why it surprised me that even back in the late 40s early 50s, the rue Cler was a great market street. It just seemed to me that Rick had discovered it!
Boulder, CO USA Wed 07/19/2006
Rick's Book Was All We Needed!
We traveled to Ireland for one week and used only Rick's book and a map. The next time we travel, especially with limited time, we will only visit those sites that Rick has rated highly! He was right on the money on everything he recommended and those things he left out! We packed too much in for such a short visit. Loved the Dingle Pennisula could've stayed there much longer. Wanted to see three things on the Ring of Kerry, but it was very disappointing after the Dingle Pennisula and was so much driving!!!!
Gainesville, FL USA Mon 07/17/2006
Looking forward to my first trip to London in September, having read tons of required English Lit (Dickens, Shakespeare, Austen, Conan Doyle, etc.)I have enjoyed Bryson's Notes From a Small Island and am now plowing through Peter Ackroyd's Biography of London. It is huge and full of historical facts, illustrations, and quotes from many other writers throughout the ages. It is an easy read, however, and I have kept my London A-Z and my Middleditch mapguide by my side as I read to get an idea of where important sites are. Hopefully, I will go armed with a boatload of London history in my head as we get ready to tackle this great city.
Cartersville, GA USA Thu 07/13/2006
Just want to reiterate the positive comments about the Italy guidebook...led to a fun trip. I'll also put a plug in for the Italian phrase book. Ciao bella!
Plainsboro, NJ USA Thu 07/13/2006
Rick Steves Guidebooks
Although everyone here is listing some terrific travel material, I just want to restate the obvious and sing the praises of Rick Steves' 2006 Spain and Italy guidebooks. Having never been to either of these countries, I was a little nervous. I had nothing to fear - I encountered no situation that could not be navigated successfully by using the guidebooks. Awesome information. And everywhere I went - in both countries - I instantly made friends with other travelers who had the book in hand. THANKS!
Atlanta, GA USA Mon 07/10/2006
Italy Shopping Guidebook
Shopping in Italy There are some GREAT off-the-beaten-track finds in Laura Morelli's book, Made in Italy: A Shopper's Guide to Italy's Best Artisanal Traditions from Murano Glass to Jewelry, Leather Goods, and More. I used it to locate some fabulous craftspeople and shops in Florence, Venice, and Naples.
Atlanta, GA USA Mon 07/10/2006
Bookks for Journey
"Outlander" Diana Gabaldon. I know that this is not a new rec.,but how great is this book!Any tripper to Scotland needs to read about hot Jamie and Claire. Great historical info!
USA Fri 07/07/2006
Thanks to all!
Since I am not able to travel this year I want to say thanks to everyone for sharing these great books. It is refreshing to get an unbiased opinion on various books and reading them has "taken me away" on an imaginary vacation. From this list I have read "Round Ireland with a Fridge", "McCarthys Bar", "A Celtic Childhood", and "Life in a Medieval Castle". The first three were wonderful reads and the last was very informational.
Keep 'em coming!
MI USA Fri 07/07/2006
Ireland's role in Western civilization
Thomas Cahill is one of the best synthesizers of history and culture that I've ever come across. His books are short and highly readable. I've just finished a second reading of "How the Irish Saved Civilization" in preparation for my upcoming trip to the WISE countries. What a fabulous perspective he gives! I can't wait to see the Book of Kells now....
Seattl USA Tue 07/04/2006
If you think that you will be reading a lot of books on your journey, just bring one. Many other people on your tour will probably be reading books too, so when you are finished your book, ask to trade! On my tour, the guide left a 'book box' on our bus so that we could put our books in and share the good readings. There was only one problem however: you have to ask for your book back before the trip ends if you want to see it again!
PA USA Thu 06/29/2006
Modern Scotish Non fiction
THe best thing i have read getting ready for my trip to Scotland is Ian Banks, in search of the best dram. Ian is a hilarious writer and he drives around scotland visiting every distillery. It's partly about the scotch, partly about all the diiferent cars he drives and partly travelogue of the great roads and hotels and restaurants he visits. A must read.
Ingersoll, On Canada Tue 06/27/2006
Time Was Soft There
Time Was Soft There by Jeremy Mercer. great book about the historic Shakespeare and Co. bookstore in Paris.
kennedale, tx USA Sat 06/24/2006
Tim Webb's Good Beer Guide Belgium has been tremendously informative and helpful. I can't say enough good things about it.
Austin, TX USA Tue 06/20/2006
A Year in the World
Aside from the fact that Frances Mayes is a sizeist, I did enjoy reading about Spain and Portugal. Previously, these had never been countries I had any desire to see, but after reading her new book, it makes me think of the possiblity. However, she really harshes on fat people in the book and makes some very unkind remarks at the people's expense. I wonder if any of the people she makes fun of in the book have actually read the book and are upset by her words? Oh well, as a chubette, I was fairly insensed by the numerous references to the obese. Off my soap box now!
Boston, MA USA Mon 06/12/2006
Round Ireland with a Fridge
Just read "Round Ireland with a Fridge" by Tony Hawks. Great fun. I enjoyed the look at the small towns he visited and the "fridge pholosophy". An easy and enjoyable read, whether or not you are going to Ireland.
red bluff, ca USA Fri 06/09/2006
Traveller's History of You-Name-It
I've purchased a used copy of a Traveller's History of London to read on the plane on the way over. Buying a book like this used is great as I paid less than $5 on the Internet to purchase it and I can toss it out at the end of my trip.
The Traveller's history series is great for getting the background of what most Americans want to see in Europe: historical sights. There's books for France, London, England, etc...
Portland, OR USA Mon 05/29/2006
Almost French by Sarah Turnbull
I, too, just finished Almost French and really, really enjoyed it. Sarah Turnbull shares with us her immersion in French life with humor, insight, and an engaging writing style. The book is full of wonderful, very human stories. My next trip to France (I have been there twice) I will have a much better understanding of the French after having read this very entertaining book. She takes you beyond the superficial and into the heart and psyche of the people she encounters. Well done!
WA USA Thu 05/25/2006
favorite travel books
For the plane i usually like to read a good novel, but as far as a "travel read", I love Almost French by Sarah Turnbull. It's a memoir about a twenty something australian girl who meets a frenchman in her travels, falls in love, and moves to Paris. It's very fun to read and has a lot of insight on the french culture. She writes about how she struggles to fit in and be accepted. Another fun read is Entre Nous- A Women's Guide to Finding her Inner French Girl by Deborah Olivier. This read talks about the french girl's customs, do's, dont's and all the in betweens. As far as travel guides, I love the Unnofficial Guide series, and the Rick Steves also, love all the back door tidbits.
CA USA Wed 05/24/2006
A valuable introduction to Europe
Still a marvelous and highly readable account of the development of art and culture in Europe since the fall of Rome is Lord Kenneth Clark's book entitled "Civilization." Written around 1970 it is open and honest and fascinating. Written for the general reader but written by someone with real experience, knowledge and understanding, not a travel writer whose least defect is superficiality. Will give the reader a real feel for life and art from the Dark Ages through the end of the nineteenth century. Hard to find a better preparation for what one will encounter travelling in Europe.
USA Sun 05/21/2006
An Irish Read
If you have time before that trip to Ireland, try Edward Rutherfurd's two-part historical fiction, "The Princes of Ireland" (which covers up to the 15th century) and "The Rebels of Ireland" (which covers 15th century to 20th century) The combined page total is something like 1,600, but they make a fascinating read that give wonderful insights to the place and people. (Rutherfurd's other historical novels "Russka," "London," "The Forest" and "Sarum" are also all worthwhile).
Portland, OR USA Tue 05/16/2006
The Birth of Venus
I love to have someone read to me as I do housework and other mundane chores! "The Birth of Venus" by Sarah Dunant, read by Jenny Sterlin on CD, was an enjoyable historical novel about a wealthly Florentine girl and her relationship with a young painter. This story played out against the turbulent backdrop of the seizure of political contol by a fundamentalist religious monk, over the Medici state, which valued learning and beautiful art. It was an enjoyable, suspense-filled way to learn about and appreciate the history of Florence.
Bend, OR USA Wed 05/10/2006
The Dark Heart of Italy
"The Dark Heart of Italy" by Tobias Jones, 2003, is a sympathetic, intelligent study of contemporary Italy and its confusingly corrupt government. The author, a Brit who has fallen in love with his adopted country of Italy, is nonetheless a very critical and open-minded observer. I gained a much deeper understanding of another country's political and social mindset by reading this fascinating book.
Bend, OR USA Wed 05/10/2006
John, "Prague" by Phillips is not a story about Prague except as a final destination. it is set in Budapest when that city came out from under communism in the early 1990s. If you don't have much time, read something else unless Hungary is one of your destinations. In that case you should read Michener's "Bridge at Andau", an account of the Hungarian uprising against the Soviets in 1956.
San Diego, CA USA Mon 05/01/2006
Just finished reading "Band of Brothers." Absolutely my favorite book ever! It covers great WWII history and gives a great perspective of what the soldiers actually went through. Should be required reading for ALL Americans, and is a great read for trips to France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany or Austria
Mooreland, OK USA Sun 04/30/2006
Bill Bryson and Diana Gabaldon
I haven't looked through all the postings, but there doesn't seem to be any mention of Bill Bryson. My favorite is 'Neither Here, Nor There.' His books are usually better once you've returned from your trips as you'll understand the jokes better, and you'll laugh so hard that you'll cry.
A great one for Scotland is the fictional-historical series 'OUTLANDER,' by Diana Gabaldon. I have read these mulitple times. Just realize that you will likely get sucked in and start neglecting those things that once used to be important to you, like family.
USA Fri 04/28/2006
What about Prague by Arthur Phillips? Set in the early 1990's...it might be good for the plane, in trade paperback size.
USA Thu 04/27/2006
Czech List? (Sorry.)
Can anyone recommend a concise history of the Czech Republic, Czech culture, Prague, etc.? I'm travelling there in three weeks and want to learn before (or as) I go. Thanks.
Dallas, TX USA Thu 04/27/2006
To Lindsay of Chicago
I read years ago The Road Back by Erich Maria Remarque, the same author of All Quiet on the Western Front. It's a sad book but I found it facinating since I always heard about the allies after WWI and never the Germans. You can read about it on Amazon.com.
chapel Hill, NC USA Tue 04/25/2006
Fresh Air Fiend
A great all around travel book is "Fresh Air Fiend" by Paul Theroux. I have read many travel books and up until 3 weeks ago never heard of Theroux but now I can't put his books down. He is sometimes cranky, but always thought provoking. He's a lot like Bill Bryson except with a little less humor and the writing is much better.
New York, NY USA Fri 04/21/2006
My family and I spent 3 weeks in Spain last summer as guests of my former Spanish foreign exchange student and her family. Spain is amazing! To prepare myself for the trip, I read several good books about Spain. One was "The Sun Also Rises", by Ernest Hemingway, 1926, a classic; and "Spanish Lessons-Beginning a New Life in Spain" by Derek Lambert, 2000. He provides many insights into Spanish people and their very unique culture. I am always fascinated by the way historic events shape the thinking of different cultures. Spain is such a country of rapid change, since the end of Franco's dictatorship in 1975. Spain is so historic and provincial, yet extremely modern. Amazing contrasts. Reading books about people and places greatly enhances one's appreciation and understanding of cultures. I get so much mileage out of my preparation reading and studing before every trip...it makes the whole experience last so much longer.
Bend, OR USA Tue 04/18/2006
Paris Books, and Spain
If you loved Paris to the Moon, I think you will really love The Piano Shop on the Left Bank (I omitted to say, but it is by Thad Carhart, by the way). If you're not really into pianos, you might want to skip some of the extreme detail about the history of the piano, but the story of the people, the neighborhood, and the insiders' view of Paris will surely draw you in. By the way, I got both "Piano Shop" and "Paris Noir" out of my local library.
My next quest is to find some good books about Spain, hopefully some similar to the above, with insights about the country from people who have lived there.
Hyattsville, MD USA Tue 04/18/2006
Liz, I second your choices! I LOVED "Paris to the Moon"!!!Very funny, insighful observations of the cultural differences and ways of thinking which evolve over time due to historical and cultural events. Also, "A Moveable Feast" is a classic. I'll have to read your other recommendations now.
Bend, OR USA Mon 04/17/2006
Books About Paris
I enjoyed the book Paris to the Moon, by Adam Gopnik, an American writer who moved to Paris for several years with his wife and small son. I also got a good flavor of Paris from the book "The Piano Shop on the Left Bank." It focuses a lot on music and pianos, but also includes some fascinating true characters the author discovers and gets to know in Paris, as well as insights into the city and its people. Also, I really enjoyed "Paris Noir: African Americans in the City of Light," a history of the title topic. Includes a lot on the history of Montmartre and its music, and the Left Bank and its art. Finally, of course, A Moveable Feast by Hemingway. Beautiful book.
Hyattsville, MD USA Sun 04/16/2006
I just stumbled across www.bibliotravel.com, which bills itself as "a free online resource for identifying books set in distinct locales." You can find books set in, for example, Amsterdam or Tokyo. I've already made a short list of Italy-related books to check out on Amazon.
Seattle, WA USA Wed 04/12/2006
German historical fiction
What sorts of historical fiction books are you looking for? That can be a somewhat broad topic at times. For some historical fiction can venture into Romance books and for others they might want something that was written in the 19th century. As a whole there isn't much written in that particular area. (German historical fiction pre WWI) I spent years working in a book shop and that proved to be a difficult find. I did find an interesting book called "The Burgermeister's Daughter" by Steven Ozment. A kind of interesting story of a rather forthright woman who sued her father and relatives in the fourteen hundreds after being banished because she had supposedly been with two other men. The other thing is Germany as we know it now didn't exactly come together as whole until rather late.
Seattle, Wa USA Wed 04/12/2006
Does anyone have any recommendations on historical fiction books about pre-WWI Germany? I am having a hard time finding any. Thanks!
Chicago, IL USA Mon 04/10/2006
the long haul
For those travels who aren't shy of a great big book and want sumptuous details and a big slice of history: get yourself The Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George. It's divine.
Canada Fri 04/07/2006
For those travelling to Crete, Greece in general, or anywhere else for that matter, I highly suggest Mary Renault's The King Must Die, and The Bull From the Sea. The books tell the story of Theseus, but from a historical perspective rather than a mythical one. The minotaur is actually King Minos, who the hero is sold to as a slave. Researched descriptions of ancient Cretean culture. Amazing and compact!
Toronto, Ontario Canada Fri 04/07/2006
I enjoy listening to books on CDs from the library while working out. My latest one, "The Lost Painting-The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece" by Jonathan Harr, was the result of the author's reading of a small newspaper article about the discovery of a Caravaggio painting, lost for hundreds of years. His curiosity and intrique finally caused him to travel to Rome to unravel the whole story. His extensive research is the result of this fascinating account. An interesting interview with the author follows the reading of the book.
Bend, OR USA Mon 04/03/2006
"When in Rome-A Journal of Life in Vatican City" by Robert J. Hutchinson, 1998, is a funny, highly entertaining peek behind the scenes of the ultra secretive operations of the Vatican. The author, a lifelong devout Catholic, while at the same time being somehow both irreverant and respectful, shows how today's Vatican has been shaped by its sometimes wildly outrageous past. This book is a fascinating cultural study that will enhance the traveler's appreciation of the Vatican. The subject matter could have been dry and boring, but this author had me laughing out loud on numerous occasions!
Bend, OR USA Mon 04/03/2006
I can't believe no one has mentioned I, Claudius (or the sequel, Claudius the God) by Robert Graves, here. These two books sparked a fascination in all things ancient Roman for me. They are lively, sexy, dark & funny historical fiction based largely on true events of Ceasars-to-Nero as described in the historical document, Tacitus' Annals of Imperial Rome. Or you could rent the very dated and a little watered-down BBC version from the 70s (80s?).
Richmond, Va USA Fri 03/31/2006
Ross King books for Italy
Brunelleschi's Dome and Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling both so enhanced my visit to Rome and Florence-Ross King is a great writer!
USA Wed 03/29/2006
A couple of good reads
A great 'all Europe' book is "Neither Here Nor There, Travels in Europe" by Bill Bryson. You will learn about all of Europe while laughing! A good, light novel set in a London community is "London Holiday" by Richard Peck.
Centralia, IL USA Mon 03/27/2006
Lost in the Amazon
Lost in the Amazon by Stephen Kirkpatrick is a gripping non-fiction adventure read about a free-lance photographer and his crew/guides who loose their way in the jungles of South America. Recomended for jungle trekkers or armchair trekkers who can image the enchanting greens of a primary rainforst and the sweltering humidity that puddles in one's every pore.
IN USA Fri 03/24/2006
I totally agree with the last poster. I am up to the 3rd book from the series. They are very well written books including travel, history, romance, and Scottish valor! They were long books, but well worth the read!!!
Peach Bottom, PA USA Wed 03/22/2006
For all those romantics-at-heart and lovers of Scottish history, read the "Outlander" series by Diana Gabaldon. There are seven so far in the series, but the first book is the best, by far. I've learned so much about Scotland, including stuff about the Highland Clans and the Battle of Culloden. I love it!
Chicago, IL USA Mon 03/20/2006
"A Venetian Affair" by Andrea di Robilant,2003, was breathtaking and unforgettable. On the back cover, John Berendt calls it "...luminous, erotic, and utterly spellbinding." This true story goes back to the author's father who found a box of water damaged, coded, barely legible letters in the attic of his Venice childhood home. It led him to translate and decode the letters and research the origins. What he found out about the people involved through letters in other collections, along with other historical documents, allowed him to piece together an unimaginably vivid love story. After his father died, John di Robilant assumed the responsibility of putting this story down on paper. The readers are taken from Venice to Paris to London and the cast of characters involved with the young couple includes their infamous friend, Casanova. This is one of the most powerful, passionate books, well documented I've ever read. It paints an amazing picture of eighteenth-century Venice.
Bend, OR USA Sun 03/19/2006
Travel reads for the plane etc.
Three books by Bill Bryson are delightfully irreverent and on target, which is why they make you laugh. Makes good points about the local lay of the land from the native viewpoint. AMERICA - the lost continent (travels in small-town America) NOTES FROM A SMALL ISLAND (Great Britian) SUNBURNED COUNTRY (Australia) These are great plane or beach reads - funny and culturally factual. Sorta rounds out the cultural, art, palace, historic whatever facts.
San Diego, CA USA Fri 03/17/2006
Travel to England
If you are going to England, by all means read "Notes from a Small Island", a funny and loving picture of life in England written by a man who lived there and worked there for a decade.
Paul n Sara
USA Sun 03/05/2006
Angels and Demons for reading fun when going to Rome
A fun book to read if your going to Rome is Angels and Demons by Dan Brown - it was written before he wrote the DaVinci Code. There are tours based on this book and my husband and I will try one this summer.
Jackson, NJ USA Sat 03/04/2006
I enjoyed John Berendt's "City of Fallen Angels", so I was very happy to find another non-fiction memoir. Paula Weideger's "Venetian Dreaming" gives a personal, poignant account of falling in love with a place, then facing the realities of cultural and language barriers to actually live out the fantasy. So many times when I travel, I have this dream of just picking up my life and moving it somewhere else. I loved experiencing this fantasy vicariously. Seeing, tasting and feeling Venice through another person greatly enhances my appreciation. I will look at Venice with heightened senses on my upcoming visit.
Bend, OR USA Sun 02/26/2006
London, Amsterdam and David Liss
I have two recommendations for books by David Liss. For travelers to London I highly recommend his "A Conspiracy of Paper". For travelers to Amsterdam I recommend "The Coffee Trader".
These are historical fiction novels set in the late 17th and early 18th centuries that should give you a good feel for what life might have been like for many classes of people in these two great cities during a fascinating time in their histories. They also give interesting insight into the origins of modern finance and the history of the Jews in Europe.
I also recommend having maps of these two cities available while reading. I enjoyed following along with the characters as they traveled through various neighborhoods.
New York, NY USA Wed 02/22/2006
Books for the Journey
Magdalen Nabb does for Florence what Donna Leon does for Venice - gives her mysteries a sense of the people and the landscape. Her latest, "The Innocent," is wonderful!
Portland, OR USA Sat 02/18/2006
Books for England
For going to England, get all of Susan Allen Toth's books, "My Love Affair with England," "England As You Like It," and "England for All Seasons." For London, try "The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street" by Helene Hanff. I read these books before going and for those long, long stretches in between visits.
St. Paul, MN USA Wed 02/15/2006
I only found Round Ireland With a Fridge AFTER my trip to the Emerald Isle, but I loved it. It's a funny, endearing true story. I laughed a lot, and loved being able to identify cities in the book as ones my friends and I had visited.
Carmel, IN USA Sun 02/12/2006
A Year in Provence
I just read A Year in Provence and highly recommend it. There's not much of a plot, just a collection of stories about interesting characters, and amazing meals. It's very funny, and made me really want to visit Provence. A good book to read on the plane, or at the beach.
USA Thu 02/09/2006
"To the Scaffold" by Carolly Erickson is a fictionalized version of the life of Marie Antoinette. Reading it either before or after going to Versailles will make it more than just a walk through an old, extravagant palace; it will make the lives of the people who lived there and the intrigue and history of the times come alive.
Portland, OR USA Wed 02/08/2006
For Venice I reccomend the Donna Leon mystery series with Commissario Guido Brunetti. Wonderful description of Venice and her inhabitants...and fun!
Newtown, PA USA Mon 02/06/2006
What I like to do on a trip is find a local bookstore and then a book written by a local about the locals. Of course in foreign speaking countries are harder but sometimes a smaller local shop would be able to direct you.
Kenosha, WI USA Fri 01/13/2006
Romance novel set in Tuscany
I just finished "The Last Promise" by Richard Paul Evans - nice romance novel. I returned from Italy in November, and this was a nice reminder of my trip! (check out page 140 for what seems to be a nod to Rick Steves fans! Third sentence.)
Littleton, CO USA Wed 01/11/2006
A wonderful book on Sicily is "On Persephone's Island" by Mary Taylor Simeti.
Eugene, OR USA Tue 01/10/2006
Books for Travel
The Art of Travel by Alain De Botton. It's a little deep but I found it put a wonderful "spin" on why I travel. I plan on taking it with me this fall for intense, quick read.
Starbuck, MN USA Sun 01/08/2006
Books for those who plan to eat
I have a very important book to take with you to Europe - an absolutely essential guide, unless you speak fluenty the language where you are going. The book is called is called Menu Master, by Marling. It is available in French, Spanish, Italian, and German.
It is a small book,flexible and thin enough to put in your purse or the inside pocket of your jacket - something to read, and occupy some of your time on the trip over.
The first part is an extensive explanation in the native language of the items items on a typical menu, from appetizers to desserts. The last part consists of example menus. It helps to avoid the shock of finding the menus in Europe only in the local languages.
It is available in bookstores or online, at least from Amazon.
USA Tue 01/03/2006
Sailing the Wine Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter
Sailing the Wine Dark Sea: Why The Greeks Matter by Thomas Cahill is a well written book that really gives you a sense of what the Greeks were like. Enriching for any adventure in Greece.
San Bernardino, CA USA Mon 01/02/2006