Recommended Novels for your Travels: 2010
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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Sinclair Lewis's Dodsworth
Sinclair Lewis's Dodsworth is a great piece of literature. It also explains the European mindset very well, in particular the differences between them and Americans in their outlook on life. Picked it up during some causal browsing but was very happy with the insight it gave me before my trip to Europe.
Seattle, Wa USA Sun 12/19/2010
Novels and books on the Mediterranean and Turkey
For a good overview of different Mediterranean cultures, try Paul Theroux's " The Pillars of Hercules". And for lovers of Anatolia, try these out – you won't go wrong!: For a romantic fiction novel set in Istanbul, read the "Museum of Innocence" by Orhan Pamuk. Try to read "Bliss" by Zülfü Livaneli (the movie is also excellent) for a Turkish fiction on different social values. And my favourite "Bird Without Wings" by Louis De Bernieres is a good fictional book to read that is set in the early days of the 20th century emerging Turkish republic. For non-fiction on Turkey, Rick Steeves "Istanbul" is a good reference to get past the Byzantine gates and through the "back door" of this ancient city. Rick's "people first" approach to writing travel books – from references on playing backgammon with the locals to eating rice pudding every day to his descriptions of the Turkish culture in "Travel as a Political Act" all help to shed light on the real Turkish experiences that are far past the Kodak moments. To the real jewels of Turkey. Way past any old myths hung over from Billy Hayes and his "The Midnight Express" book (warning: don't even bother seeing this trashy, inaccurate old film or read the book again. ) The Lonely Planet's "Turkey" is still the overall gold standard reference on Turkey, especially once you are truly off the beaten path.
London, ON Canada Mon 12/13/2010
Pili pili bruges
After a needing a slight break from the delicious mussels, Belgian beers and waffles, myself and my child were looking for a" pasta break". Our hotel recommended we try Pili Pili, a so called Italian "twist" bistro. We reserved a table and came right on time, but the couple in front of us, without a reservation, were given a nice table by the window, while we were ushered into the back with a pitiful table for two lookingright into the kitchen. When we asked to move to one of 4 or 5 empty table in the main area of the restaurant (the majority of which remained empty during our stay) , we were told they were already reserved. Already slighted by the sheer lack of effort or interest in trying to make things better, I asked for a coke and was given a flattish glass of lukewarm coke with one ice cube in it. When I asked for more ice cubes, the beyond miserable bartender dissapeared into the kitchen and returned with two cubes in her hand which she petulantly [INVALID]ped into my glass. Only four of the pastas were "available" in child portions (not sure why you can't prepare any pasta dish in child portions as long as it is not baked) so we ordered an adult size pesto pasta for my child and a child size spicy vegetarian pasta for myself. The pesto pasta came as a mound of spagetti, dotted with specs of tasteless green stuff. The cheese on the side was some kind of mild cheese but clearly not parmesian and not fresh. My vegetarian pasta was also a plate of spagetti with some tomato glop which I could not identify. We left with plates two thirds full and an extremely dissapointing experience. If there was only one thing wrong, we would have happily mentioned it to our server. But there were so many things wrong with this place that it was simply not worth saying anything. They are beyond repair. The bartender alone did not break a smile and after the "ice" episode, huffed every time she walked by our table. I would never, ever recommend this restaurant even if you were desperate for a pasta alternative to the traditional food in the area.
kansas, USA Fri 12/03/2010
Books set in France
On a recent trip to southern France, I re-read Labyrinth by Kate Mosse. The story is set in and around the Cathar country and Carcassonne. I enjoyed seeing some of the sites mentioned in the book.
Another book by Mosse, Sepulchre, uses Rennes les Bain and Rennes le Chateau as settings. Rennes le Chateau has also been used in The Templar Legacy by Steve Berry and in the Da Vinci Code.
If you enjoy romance novels, Light of the Moon (can't remember the author) tells of a French rancher, his daughter and a young woman from the United States. The Camargue is the setting for the story.
In addition, Carol Drinkwater has written a series of books about her life on an olive farm in Provence. She was an actress on the Public Television series, All Creatures Great and Small.
Decorah, Iowa USA Sun 11/21/2010
Hamburg, North Germany
For North Germany, the state and city of Hamburg. The detective novel "Brother Grimm" by Craig Russell. The Scottish writer Craig Russell speaks German fluently, but writes in English. It is obvious that Russell knows Hamburg and North Germany very well. The book is a good introduction to this international city, one of the biggest harbours in the world, and maybe the greenest metropolitan city in Europe.
There is only one fault - Russell calls unmarried women "Fräulein" (Fraeulein)!
Never do that, because today to call an unmarried woman "Fräulein" is an insult!!!
Every woman latest from the age of 18 (being of age) is called Frau.
Hamburg, Hambur Germany Tue 11/16/2010
Read "Girl with a Dragon Tattoo" for Sweden. It is not for the sensitive, but has lots of Swedish settings, food, weather, attitudes and a very strong and unusual female lead character.
Austin, Texas USA Fri 10/22/2010
Book to read while traveling
The Book Thief. Narrated by death, takes place in Nazi Germany. Meant for young adults, but you won't be disappointed.
the Island, Canada Wed 10/06/2010
Fiction for Barcelona
I read Carlos Ruiz Zafon's books "The Shadow of the Wind" and "The Angel's Game" which are set in Barcelona before traveling there September 21. Visiting the places where the story took place brought the stories to life for me. Zafon's website even has a walking tour based on the novels. So much fun!
Fallbrook, CA USA Wed 10/06/2010
I just finished reading The Invisible Bridge. It is an incredible Holocaust story that is set in Paris and Budapest. I absolutely loved this book and it was the perfect story to really enrich my recent trip to Budapest. The places were so familiar to me as I read. I recommend getting it on Kindle, however, to keep your packing light. Kindle is FABULOUS for travel.
GA USA Sun 09/26/2010
Keep it Light
I prefer to steer clear of "travel" books when I'm on the road. They make better pre-travel reading to inspire, excite and inform. Imagine tackling Ulysses on a trip to Dublin. You'll still be there 3 years later trying to finish the thing so you can do the Bloomsday tour. On the road I stick to easy to read books that entertain without clogging my brain with heavy thoughts. Melanie La'Brooy writes very funny rom-coms. On my next trip I'm taking some Jasper Fforde (literary comedy)and a book of short stories. I've previously read Jane Austen on my travels because I finished all the books I'd taken and I bought the JA at an English language bookshop. It turned out to be ideal.
Sydney, NSW Australia Thu 09/16/2010
On the Road. It's a classic and the ultimate 'energy drink'
USA Fri 09/10/2010
Iain Pears' art history mysteries surrounding a special Italian Art Theft Squad. They are light weight and combine Italians, well known and not so well known Italian locations, art, mystery and humor. What could be better?
Encinitas, CA USA Mon 09/06/2010
I just read "Living in a Foreign Language" by Michael Tucker (actor from LA Law) and it tells of his experience buying a home in Italy. Also "Monster of Florence" by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi who both ended up being investigated for the murders that took place around Florence Italy. I found it interesting as it was happening when I was there and remember see it in the papers/TV. It is interesting side of what happens in the hills after dark
Philadelphia, NJ USA Mon 08/30/2010
Book / Crossing Borders
Cultural misunderstandings, crazy and dangerous situations, inter-cultural friendships, love and disappointment and the excitement of exploring. "Crossing Borders" tells the story of living and becoming an adult in a foreign country away from friends and family. This narrative is not a simple travel log of pondering curiosities, it unites the weirdest, most interesting and funniest experiences from twelve years living abroad.
The story starts out with the author's experiences of his first adventure in the heart of Europe-in German speaking Austria. Dreams of going to study at the Viennese Academy of Music go up in smoke when the protagonist fails the entrance exam.
The protagonist not only ends up living in a mountain village in the Alps, but also discovers traits and virtues in his new Austrian friends that he never thought possible.
From almost getting shot in Cairo, having his bride kidnapped on their wedding day, to getting blackmailed by a Moroccan snake charmer, each chapter takes the reader on an extraordinary cultural trip, a book for anyone who likes to travel, whether in their mind or reality.
Available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble / ISBN 9781602643734
Vienna, Vienna Austria Mon 07/26/2010
First see the movie Julie and Julia before you leave, then read My Life in France, by Julia Child. Gives you an idea of what France was like in 1948 - 1954 the bonus you will know what to order when dineing in France.
Penryn, CA USA Wed 06/30/2010
I am reading; Mark Twain,The Innocents Abroad. That man got around but we see more today.Old B movies 20million miles from earth,walked around Collasium there,s where the monster got it and the Roman Zoo.love old movies.lived meany years in Naples Italy Navy Brat.We would watch a movie filmed on location then find it.My mind was full of adventure of sights I saw the Film Stars pass I was there and more they were my play grounds,Bunkers,Cuma Caves,Battilfields Cassino,Jasson an the Argonotts,Spartacus,Cleopatra Isciha-Possulli,It Started in Naples-Caprie the list and memorries go,s on The Human Factor 1974 the millitary bases where I lived and played,later as an adult.Like Ricks shows they make me home sick for Europe Dad took me alot of plases and I did too,in my Fiat-unocs.Spoiled at a young age itche-feet.Now I,m like most Tourist money time dont live there long term have to live a life-time in to weeks.
William A. Stewart
Jacksonville, FL. USA Mon 06/28/2010
The Geography of Bliss
You will love "The Geography of Bliss" by Eric Weiner. Subtititled "One Grump's Search for the Happiest Place in the World", it will leave you laughing out loud and rushing to book your next vacation to Iceland, Switzerland, or Moldova. (You'll have to read the book to find out why you should visit those places!)
Toronto, Ont. Canada Fri 06/25/2010
Reading for Travellers
There is a new mystery novel out that might be of interest to someone travelling to the Netherlands. It's "The Tulip Virus" by Danielle Hermans. It alternates between modern times and the 1600s concerning the tulip bulb bubble. Very readable.
Hellertown, PA USA Sat 06/19/2010
Book to read before Paris
Before Paris, read "A Moveable Feast" by Ernest Hemingway. When you arrive you can trek to all the spots he visited; even have a drink in Harry's Bar.
Fallbrook, CA USA Tue 06/15/2010
"Innocents Abroad" by Mark Twain
Wimberley, Texas USA Sun 06/13/2010
Literature for Travel
Recommend The Sahara Unveiled if going to Northern Africa/Morocco/the Sahara. Incredibly fascinating and very worthwhile reading. If going to Greece, do not miss reading Henry Miller's "The Colossus of Maroussi". Also for Greece "Sailing the Wine Dark Sea" by Thomas Cahill.
USA Thu 06/10/2010
books to take with you
Anything by Patrick Leigh Fermor, the best travel writer ever.
Walnut Creek, CA USA Fri 06/04/2010
What NOT to read
I try to stay away from action novels/murder mysteries while traveling. Remind me too much of home! (don't need "ripped from the headlines" froth while I am trying to relax)
I also dislike them for the precise reason I like them when home - I don't like getting pulled so deeply into the story that I can't set it down.
What I DO like are "thinky" books like the traditional classics - books that slow me down, make me muse, can be read in small bites and are enjoyable that way.
These can range from Ezra Pounds poetry (or any good Penguin book dedicated to a single poet, with a nice intro and good footnotes), to a Shakespeare play or too (articles and footnotes please!), to a fun read like the 3 Musketeers....
Downer or edge-of-my-seat books - please, no!
Burbank, CA USA Tue 06/01/2010
non-fiction, Brunelleschi's Dome by Ross King is a fast, interesting read. Then be sure to climb the dome when you visit Florence.
Phoenix, AZ USA Wed 05/26/2010
Books for Trips
"The Histories" by Herodotus was a great read when I was traveling around Greece and Turkey.
I recommend "Wind, Sand and Stars" by Antoine Saint-Exuperay for anyone going to North Africa.
Houston, TX USA Thu 04/29/2010
Cultural and Historical Books for Travel
Beneath The Lions Gaze by Maaza Mengiste A vivid account of the Ethiopian revolution in the seventies and its consequences.
Bright Dark Madonna by Elizabeth Cunningham Mary of Magdala brought to life in a funny and rebellious manner.
The Twentieth Wife Indu Sundaresan The complex royal court politics and romance of the near past in India.
Hand of Isis by Jo Graham Ancient Egypt through the back door.
The Arms Maker of Berlin by Dan Fesperman Solving mysteries of recent German history illustrating the toll this history has taken on the German people.
Eve: A Novel of the First Woman Elissa Elliot Near the intersection of the Tigris and Euphrates the first woman of the Bible tells her story of heartbreak and survival.
Drawing in the Dust by Zoe Klein Opening Pandoras panty drawer while digging down into history.
Hot House Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire by Margot Berwin Wisdom, sex, and smart plants on a journey into the Yucatan Peninsula.
Picking Bones From Ash by Marie Mutsuki Mockett Seeing Japanese culture from the inside and outside.
Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin Third World challenges met with inspiring humor and wisdom.
Born Under a Million Shadows by Andrea Busfield A boy takes us through the heartbreaks and joys of contemporary Afghanistan.
21 by Roslund and Hellstrom Human Trafficking and the dark underbelly of Swedish society.
The Lazarus Covenant by John Fenzell A U S special forces commander takes us through the cultural minefields of the Balkans.
Travel as a Political Act by Rick Steves
Different ways to see and think while you travel.
USA Sun 03/28/2010
I'd like to recommend this book by an Australian journalist who moved to Italy to be with his Italian girlfriend. Its funny and illuminates the realistic challenges of living in Italy rather than simply being a tourist. Head Over Heels: Seduced by Southern Italy (2009) by Chris Harrison
Cristina Della Rosa
Juneau, AK USA Fri 03/19/2010
Rome and Environs
Last spring I made my first trip to the eternal city and apart from my well-worn copy of Rick's guide book I also brought a copy of Filippo Coarelli's "Rome and Environs: An Archaeological Guide to Ancient Rome". As a student of Archaeology I found it immensely helpful, furthermore, casual travelers should also find it helpful as it provides detailed maps and walks of the major and obscure sites in Rome and the surrounding area. The Ostia section is particularly good.
Calgary, AB Canada Sat 03/13/2010
I can highly recommend Tana French's mysteries. She only has two out thus far and they're fun. They take place in Dublin.
Charleston, SC USA Tue 03/09/2010
May I recommend the little book,"Dreaming of Sicily" by Betsy Hoffman. This is a humorus book of the travel experiences to the beautiful island of "Sicilia". Fully illustrated by me. Betsy and I are both second generations Sicilians.
Kathleen Citrolo Gwinnett
Burlington, NC USA Fri 03/05/2010
Before my first trip to N. Ireland, I enjoyed the Mobile Mystery series by Ian Sansom. Now I read the books to remember the wonderful people and sights.
San Antonio, TX USA Sat 02/13/2010
I really enjoyed Vanina Marsot's Foreign Tongue, a contemporary novel set in Paris. Lots of information about the cultural and linguistic difference between French and English. Takes place mostly in the 11th district.
Santa Monica, CA USA Tue 02/09/2010