Recommended Novels for your Travels: 2008
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?
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My two picks for the traveler's bookshelf are: Smile When You're Lying: Confessions of a rouge Travel Writer by Chuck Thompson, Holt Paperbacks. This is an entertaining and irreverent look at the travel industry. Rick Steves gets a good mention in this book. Everyone else mentioned generally gets a good trashing. Number two is the novel Armageddon by Leon Uris. This one I've read at least three times over the years. It's a historical fictionalized account of the immediate post war years in Germany. 1945-1948. The locations mentioned are a fictional city in southwest Germany as well as Berlin, Wiesbaden, and Frankfurt including place names and actual streets and other locations.
Sheffield Lake, Ohio USA Mon 12/22/2008
Paris- "house on the bridge"
there's a great new book that takes place in paris called "house on the bridge" that talks about daily life in paris, also bruges and mexico. highly recommended. find it at trafford publishing
laguna , ca USA Fri 12/05/2008
France/Czech Republic: Milan Kundera
I MUST recommend my favorite, and one of the best authors of all time, Milan Kundera. I believe his books are amazing and could really add more pleasure to your travels no matter where you are going -- but especially if you are going to his birthplace and current place of residence.
The first books he wrote were in Czech b/c that is where he is from. Most of his recent books have been translated from the French b/c he lives there now and has for some time. The characters in the books of his I have read are from either country ... or both.
My absolute fav. book in the whole world just so happens to be by him... The Book of Laughter and Forgetting. Super highly recommended for any travel adventure. ... Most people, however, know him for his book The Unbearable Lightness of Being.
Viva le Livre! (haha.)
Palmyra, VA USA Wed 12/03/2008
The English Patient
I definitely recommend The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje. Much of it takes place in Italy during WWII, and is a beautiful read.
Waterloo, ON Canada Mon 12/01/2008
Book for Barcelona
For Barcelona: The Shadow of the Wind...great read even if you're not going to Barcelona.
Morgantown, WV USA Tue 11/25/2008
Italy, India, and Indonesia
Maybe this one has already been mentioned but "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert is an inspiration to seek life renewal through travel.
Baltimore, MD USA Thu 11/13/2008
The Historian is a must-read
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova is fun, mysterious, romantic, and literary. It looks huge, but will go quickly once you are into it. It's a good read after your travels when you get home from Europe and want to relive the places you've been (or still want to go). The narrator and her father travel throughout Europe and their descriptions are enough to make you want to buy another plane ticket across the Atlantic. Davinci-Code-esque in that it leads you on a chase throughout Europe, but I think it's much better.
SLC/London, UT/UK USA/UK Mon 10/13/2008
recommended novels. The Etruscan by Lappin
I am reading Linda Lappin's The Etruscan now, and loving it.It's set in Tuscany and in the Etruscan areas north of Rome. Though it may sound like a historical novel of ancient times, it takes place in the 1920s, when DH Lawrence was exploring the area and writing his Etruscan Places. Lappin's description of rural Tuscany is superb, complete with superstitions and recipes, and wonderful descriptions of the countryside and Etruscan sites The heroine is a feminist photographer in trousers and the hero is a count in decline who claims to be descended from The Etruscans. There's a cultural clash between the two. It's a tale of suspense, and you learn something about Etruscan myths as well
St. Petersburg, Fla USA Wed 10/08/2008
Venice and Barcelona
I always try to read novels set in the place I'm visiting. I recommend "The Stone Virgin" by Barry Unsworth, set in Venice in three different time periods, and "The Shadow of the Wind" by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, set in Barcelona. I don't read typical "mystery" fiction, but both of these do have aspects of a mystery being pursued and resolved and they are fantastic literature as well.
Seattle, WA USA Tue 10/07/2008
France: 1) Les Miserable (Hugo). Yes, it's long, but it's great. It's OK to skip some of Hugo's lengthier digressions (e.g. the chapter on argot). 2) Suite Francaise by Nemirovsky.
IL USA Mon 09/29/2008
For those traveling to Venice, I'd pick up "City of Falling Angels" by John Berhendt. It is a non-fiction (but reads like fiction) about the author's time and the interesting cast of Venician characters that he meets in the city in the months following the fire that destroyed the Fenice Theater Opera House. A great read!
Boston, MA USA Thu 09/25/2008
recommended reading/listening- Harry Potter
I suggest any of the Harry Potter books. You can either read them or listen to the audio books. I would suggest to start off with the first book, Harry Potter & the Philosophers' Stone, & work your way to the last book!
Sunny Southern California, CA USA Mon 09/22/2008
Going to Crete? Here's a good read
If you're going to Crete, you can take a boat tour to Spinalonga island, the last leper colony in Greece. You might also enjoy "The Island" by Victoria Hislop, which revolves around life in the leper colony. Excellent read - my husband and I both enjoyed it!
Toronto, ON Canada Mon 09/08/2008
Before visiting Mauthausen, Auschwitz or any other camp, "Night" by Eli Wiesel, a survivor, is a short but powerful read.
Halifax, NS Can Sun 08/24/2008
Venice - Gritty Suspense
Take a look at the gritty underbelly of Venice.. I very much enjoy Donna Leon's novels (15 or so) centering on the somewhat suave Police Inspector, Guido Brunetti. Chilling crime, depavity, greed, revenge & murder. These novels (I've read 10 so far) always give a humorous view of the "pecking order" within the politics the police force, the region and country; as well as the way the Venetians view themselves, Countrymen from other regions, their news sources, weather, rising tides, and families. Pull out your map and follow Guido as he walks through the labyrinth of narrow streets and over the many bridges, often putting himself in danger as his investigations unfold. My favorite so far, ""Dressed for Death"".
Fullerton, CA USA Thu 08/21/2008
Russia & England
If going to Russia read "Russka" by Edward Rutherfurd. For England read his novels set in England: "London;" "Sarum;" and "The Forest."
Atlanta, 30318 USA Sun 08/03/2008
All Creatures Great and Small
I read James Herriot's All Creatures Great and Small while I was in England. It's a memoir of the author's early years as a country vet in Yorkshire. I thought it was a beautifully written story, and you can really visualize what he's describing if you read it while you're there.
Gainesville, FL USA Thu 07/17/2008
Travel to Poland
Anyone interested in travelling to Poland should pick up a copy of James Michener's novel entitled "Poland". It's a great read and brings the history of Poland to life.
Tifton, GA USA Mon 07/14/2008
Is Paris Burning?
"Is Paris Burning?" by Collins & Lapierre--not a novel but a really moving companion for a visit to Paris. How "the world's most beautiful city" was saved from distruction in WWII.
Denver, CO USA Wed 07/09/2008
Anything by Bill Bryson
Anything by Bill Bryson...his books will make you smile and laugh and that translates to any language! He is known for semi-autobiographical stories about his ramblings.
Tacoma, WA USA Fri 06/27/2008
Mann and Hesse
Thomas Mann or Herman Hesse for Switzerland. These two great authors wrote 100's of letters to each other from 1910-1955! These were great letters and they really supported each other. Hesse was very pro-peace, and choose to stay in Switzerland durin WWII. Mann lived and taught at Priceton and then moved on to Californis to live during the war as he was German, and very much on the Nazi black list. Hesse lived in the lugano area of Switzerland.
Longview, Washin USA Sun 06/15/2008
Books To Read in situ
Reading a novel where it takes place is my favorite way to travel. Better yet, loading them on an iPod and walking. Some personal highlights:
Paris: The Three Musketeers; Pere Goriot; The Counterfeiters; A Moveable Feast; Paris to the Moon; Panama (really).
London: Mrs. Dalloway
London & Paris: A Tale of Two Cities
Scotland: Kidnapped; To The Lighthouse
Dorset: any Thomas Hardy
Mexico: Stones for Ibarra
Istanbul: Stamboul Train; A Coffin for Dimitrios
Johannesburg: Cry, The Beloved Country
San Francisco, CA USA Mon 05/26/2008
If going to Rome and the Vatican, I would HIGHLY suggest "Basilica: The Splendor and the Scandal: Building St. Peter's" by R. A. Scotti. It was fantastic!
Spring Lake, MI USA Sun 05/25/2008
Novels to read before trip
If you're going to England read Jane Austen. They will help you understand the class system and appropriate behavior. Also, any of the shorter George Eliot books, Gatskill and Trollope: what fun!
Scotia, NY USA Fri 05/23/2008
A trilogy by Christian author Francine Rivers is set in Rome. The series is called The Mark of the Lion. It was difficult for me to get into at first but soon I couldn't stop reading it. It inspired me spiritually and I enjoyed the historical nature of it as well. It is actually one of my favorite books of all time.
Tulsa, OK USA Thu 05/22/2008
A Must Read for Southern Italy
If you are planning on heading south of Naples and braving the tourism wilds of Southern Italy, you should read George Gissing's "By the Ionian Sea" before you leave (or on the flight).
Calgary, AB Canada Wed 05/21/2008
Great read for Paris
Murder in the White City by Erik Larson. Although mainly about the Colombian Exposition a.k.a. Chicago World's Fair, it does reference the previous World's Fair in Paris and the introduction of the Eiffel Tower.
Denver, CO USA Sun 05/18/2008
Another great read for Italy
Can't tell the difference between Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio? Monteverdi from the Medici? Sprezzatura: 50 Ways Italian Genius Shaped the World (D'Epiro and Pinkowish) is a collection of 50 short, readable essays covering milestones of Italian culture from ancient times (the Julian calendar, double entry bookkeeping) to modern (fashion and Ferrari). Enjoyably written and a real eye-opener. The extent of Italian influence on history and culture is truly amazing.
Cleveland, OH USA Sat 05/17/2008
Agathe Christie - especially if you are traveling in the Newquay (England) area, where she spent much of her time living and writing.
Chicago, IL USA Sat 05/10/2008
A must read if you are travelling in France and Spain - The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway - My trip followed the journey of the ex-pats (not planned that way) in this novel from Pamplona and then to San Sebastian to recover from the fiesta of San Fermin...It made the experience extremely vivid and friends made along the way started to seem fit into molds of charcaters from the book (in my imagination anyway). A great time, especially for vagabonds at heart, and being in the places where the events in the book were taking place made it so real, yet at the same time an elaborate game of pretend.
New York, NY USA Thu 05/08/2008
Great Reading for paris
I always pack the latest Cara Black Aimee Leduc mystery, "Murder in the ______(insert name of Paris quartier)." My favorites todate are "Murder in the Bastille," "Murder in the Marais," and "Murder on Ile St. Louis."
A few years back, I bought Thad Carhart's "The Piano Shop on the Left Bank" - not a novel - at Shakespeare & Co. and read that while staying just blocks away for Carhart's Latin Quarter neighborhood.
Northern Wisconsin, USA Thu 05/01/2008
Headed to Italy you might enjoy Grisham's Playing For Pizza about a down on his luck football quarterback (a lot of those around)who winds up playing for an Italian team and learns about himself as well as Italy. And you may be done by the time the plane lands.
Chicago, IL USA Mon 04/28/2008
John Rain Novels by Barry Eisler
The 'John Rain' novels by Barry Eisler. Fantastic espionage yarns that are hard to put down. Best read in order, as the story develops from one book to the next.
Santa Maria, CA USA Wed 04/23/2008
Fascinating novel about ancient Rome
Roma by Steven Saylor is a fascinating work of historical fiction about Roma (Rome) from 1000 BC to 1BC. I wish I had read it before I went to Rome instead of afterwards.
Lutz, FL USA Sat 04/12/2008
Hilarious for Paris
While not for everyone, I love short stories by David Sedaris. While in Paris last Christmas my father-in-law passed us "Me Talk Pretty One Day" with various stories that will have you rolling in the aisles, especially if you are a novice French speaker.
Newcastle, UK Mon 04/07/2008
Came across a novel in the York Hostel and it was thrilling because it was set in 14th century York ---bought some of the other ones while I was there Owen Archer mysteries by Candace Robb Great to be reading about York in York!!
Park City, UT USA Wed 04/02/2008
Italy? EAT Pray Love!!
If you're traveling through Italy, *definitely* bring along EAT PRAY LOVE by Elizabeth Gilbert. Even if you only read the first third of the book, you will have enhanced your travels 10-fold. The book is the (non-overbearing and non-arduous) telling of one woman's journey to learn to experience the best in life and marry that with a spiritual peace. Her goal in Italy? Experience pleasure! Her anecdotes will not only provide for a fun read while you're on a long train ride or before going to bed, but they'll also provide fun facts, recommendations, and another person's view (non-guidebook view, that is) of some of the best aspects of Italy. In the book she lives in Rome so a lot of her focus is there, but her travels also take you to Venice, Florence, and Naples. I visited a few of the places she mentions in the book so if you need help finding them feel free to email me!
Pasadena, CA USA Fri 03/28/2008
If you're going to Paris, read A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway.
Round Rock, TX USA Sun 03/23/2008
War and Peace
I spent 1 month riding trains around Europe reading War and Peace. Greatest novel ever, perfect if you plan to spend a long time on trains or waiting for trains, and great to read about European history while traveling around the continent.
St. Louis, MO USA Fri 03/21/2008
I read Travels by Michael Crichton it is a great true story of places all over the world he has traveled. He is the author of Jurassic Park in case you don't know the name... I have read it twice, it is excellent.
NY, NY USA Thu 03/13/2008
anyone heading to krakow should read the novel, winter under water by James Hopkin. i've been to the city and this book reminded me of all its beauty and magic.
london, uk USA Sun 03/09/2008
Re: Travel books
Middle-east - perhaps in the military?! A MUST READ especially if you are a woman: 'A Thousand Spendid Suns' by Khaled Musseini FASCINATING & RIVETING!(Author of the Kite Runner)
Scottland & Greece - 'Three Junes' by Julia Glass Engrossing and entertaining.
Kenya - Africa: 'Dreams of My Fathers' by Barack Obama Fascinating story of Barack's life with some insightful passages about the history of Kenya tribes and their English take over.
Frazeysburg, OH USA Sat 03/08/2008
Some selections; for Italy The Dark Heart of Italy by Tobias Jones. Not a novel but a series of essays by a British author who lived in Italy for four years. Also the Renaissance novels of Sarah Dunant, The Birth of Venus and In the Company of the Courtesan and of course Donna Leon's books set in Venice. All of these books show a somewhat darker side to Italy.
Edward Rutherfurd's sweeping novels about the UK and Ireland. Sarum for the Stonehenge and Salisbury area; London; The Forest for the New Forest and Hampshire; he has also written books about Ireland and Russia.
Going to Egypt? Try and find a copy of Amelia Edwards A Thousand Miles Up the Nile. Written in 1877, yes 1877, it's a delightful travelogue, illustrated by woodcuts, by a woman who as well as being an author went on to hold England's first chair of Egyptology.
Sidney , BC USA Wed 03/05/2008
For kids who read 'chapter books' or adults who like a good story, I recomend The Thief Lord by Arron Johnson. It takes placein Venice. My sister read it before she came to visit me in Venice and she really enjoyed looking for the sights mentioned in the book.
Venice, Italy Mon 03/03/2008
For anyone going to Venice, read any (or all) of the Guido Brunetti series by Donna Leon.
Edina, MN USA Mon 03/03/2008
Source: Womans World Feb 25/08 Buy a book at one of 500 Paradies Shops in US Airports and when you're done return it to any location and get 50% back of the purchase price! Up to 6 months to cash in!
YYZ, Canada Sat 03/01/2008
For a great adventure book pickup Into Thin Air by John Krakauer.
Macon, GA USA Sat 03/01/2008
Books for Paris Prep
Diane Johnson is my favorite for novels set in Paris. Le Divorce is very funny. If you want a good non-fiction book to feed your fantasies of moving to Paris, C'est La Vie by Suzy Gershman is great.
Landover, MD USA Mon 02/25/2008
Paris to the Moon
If you're going to Paris, you MUST read "Paris to the Moon." It's not exactly a story, but a bunch of little tales written by a man who moved to paris with his family in the 90's. Totally hilarious but really insightful at the same time.
Anchorage, Alaska USA Sun 02/10/2008
For London, a super novel to read is "Maisie Dobbs" by Jacqueline Winspear. The time frame is 1930 between the wars. She has written several books with Maisie as her protagonist...all are a great read! Her latest Maisie is coming out in February...I can hardly wait. The first book should be made into a movie!
camano island, WA USA Wed 02/06/2008
For those going to the Provence area of France, rent the video A GOOD YEAR. You'll enjoy it.
Pearland, TX USA Mon 02/04/2008
Novel Set in Madrid
Hi while living in Madrid for a few weeks I read the novel What's the Girl Worth by Christina Fitzpatrick. I loved how dead-on all of the "Madridlinos" excentricities and tendancies were portrayed. This book captures Madrid perfectly, even down to the type of ice that seems to be the only type used in the whole city!
Ft. Lauderdale, FL USA Wed 01/30/2008
Eat, Pray, Love
Only one third of the book is set in Europe, and it really is more of a "spiritual" book more than an account of a particular location but one that does show how travel can transform you, how "meeting locals" is so interesting and enlightening.
DuPont, WA USA Mon 01/28/2008
Traveling to Paris, France
The movie I found inspiration toward traveling to Paris is called "Before Sunset" Also Rick Steve's travel book on Paris is very good. Asking people who have been to France is a great idea or talking to someone from there who could give you good pointers. (of course I went to Paris before I used any of these recommendations) the Rick Steve's book I did use and they are great!happy travels
USA Tue 01/15/2008
Great read if traveling to Paris
"Almost French" by Aussie journalist Sarah Turnbull gave me insight into all aspects of Parisian nuances and French culture in general. I wish I had read it before my trip to France.
Anchorage, AK USA Sun 01/13/2008
Traveling to the UK
"1984" by George Orwell seems appropriate.
USA Fri 01/11/2008
Traveling to Vienna
"A Nervous Splendor" by Frederick Morton provides a glimpse into the lives of the Viennese during the period 1888-1889. From the Emporer Franz Josef to Johann Strauss to the tragedy at Mayerling, Morton makes history come alive in a relaxed, narrative form. You will truly enjoy this book!
Orwigsburg, PA USA Tue 01/08/2008
Book about an Ireland / Italy Connection
I just finished "The Lost Painting" by Jonathan Harr - about a long lost Carravaggio painting called "The Taking of Christ". It ended up found in a Jesuit house in Dublin after a nearly 400 year journey from Italy. It's non-fiction, but written in a narrative style. Interesting and quick read.
Salem, OR USA Mon 01/07/2008
Two suggestions for those who like something a little different:
Fiction: Cornelia Funke's The Thief Lord. By a popular German author, written for older kids, but thoroughly enjoyable for adults. Set in Venice and its outlying islands with a wealth of description and atmosphere. About a gang of juvenile art thieves living in an abandoned movie theater who search for a mythical, magical carousel. An amazing, one-of-a-kind book.
Nonfiction: Beppe Severgnini's La Bella Figura - A Field Guide to the Italian Mind. By a well-known Italian journalist; quirky, very contemporary insight into Italian culture and social mores (his commentary on cell phone mannerisms is a hoot). A refreshing, tart antidote to "starry-eyed-American" memoirs.
Cleveland, OH USA Wed 01/02/2008
Whoops! One more Italy suggestion
Rome: The "Didius Falco" mystery series by Lindsey Davis. The very funny exploits of a hardboiled gumshoe ("Sam Spade in a ratty toga" according to one reviewer) in ancient Rome. Davis really knows her stuff - makes daily life there feel contemporary. Begins with Silver Pigs - best to read in order.
Cleveland, OH USA Wed 01/02/2008