Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Where do your books take you?

Any parent will tell you that life pre-kids is very different than life post-kids.  "Different" doesn't mean better or worse--just different!  You have to give some parts of your carefree lifestyle up, but you get an awesome bundle of awesome in their place.  WIN.

One of the things that the husband and I gave up after Small Fry's arrival was our frequent travel.  We traveled a LOT in the 6 years of our relationship before the little dude was born.  We still travel now, but child-related travel (wholesome family fun in the Outer Banks) is way different than pre-child travel (let's go to Vegas and see how quickly I can double-fist margaritas).
Not really kidding about those margaritas.
Anyway, now that we travel less in person, I find myself wanting to travel more in the literary sense.  I love reading books that either take me back to the beautiful places we've been, or transport me to new destinations that I haven't yet had the chance to explore.  I guess that's part of why I'm so into Giraffe Day's Around The World in 12 Books challenge this year.

With that in mind, here are a few books that have helped me travel to both once-visited and new-to-me destinations:


The Borgia Bride and I, Mona Lisa by Jeanne Kalogridis
The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons by Dan Brown
Juliet by Anne Fortier

Italian cities are some of my favorites to visit in novels.  I've been to Florence, Rome, and Naples, and these particular books cover those cities very well.  The authors get VERY detailed about places, people, and atmosphere, and it really transports you right along with the characters.  Plus, how fun to go to Italy and try to retrace Langdon's steps?

The Netherlands

A Heart of Stone by Renate Dorrestein

I already talked your ear off about Park's novel and how beautifully he portrays Amsterdam, but Dorrestein is a Dutch author who sets most of her books in that country as well.  A Heart of Stone is not a lighthearted read by any measure, but I enjoyed that it was set in the Netherlands and told from a native's perspective.

Coastal North Carolina

Basically all Nicholas Sparks books ever

I read a lot of Sparks novels before we visited the OBX last summer, and once we got there, I realized why he likes to use the beaches of North Carolina in his books.  They're beautiful, peaceful, and relaxed...very conducive to romance.  I am not the biggest Sparks fan in general, but I do love his settings.

Nantucket, Massachusetts

Basically all Elin Hilderbrand books ever

I've never been to Nantucket, but Hilderbrand's romances are usually set there, and they make me desperate for a beach vacation.

The UK/Ireland

Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson
Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
The Lace Makers of Glenmara by Heather Barbieri
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

I have never been to the UK or Ireland, but I am DYING TO GO.  (I know I have some UK readers, who wants to put up this ginger for a week or two?)  There are so many good books that highlight the flavor of these countries--this list is but a few.  You can also read pretty much any Sophie Kinsella or Jane Green novel to get a London fix.


Moloka'i by Alan Brennert

This book highlights some of the more devastating parts of Hawaii's past, but the islands themselves are painted so gorgeously by Brennert.  I want to go to there.


The Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson

Nothing could ever make me more interested in Stockholm as a vacation destination than The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo series.  I was researching flights by the end of the trilogy.  Larsson wins for making it sound awesome to eat open-faced sandwiches in the cold.


A Change in Altitude by Anita Shreve
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

None of these books illustrate Africa in the most positive of lights, but as a lover of travel, they leave me feeling intrigued about what a trip to the continent might be like.

Mount Everest

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

Krakauer does not make climbing Everest sound fun.  At all.  (See: parts of book where 8 people die trying to climb it.)  But I'd be lying if I said it didn't make me wonder what it would be like to scale the darn thing.  Maybe just to base camp?


Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (or any classic Russian lit, really)
Stalin's Children by Owen Matthews

I know this is a tad crazy, because neither of these books make Russia seem like the most inviting place in the world.  Plus, Russia is actually not a very safe place for American travel these days, but books set in that country make me insanely interested in checking it out.  Maybe one day.

Around the Globe!

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
A Cook's Tour by Anthony Bourdain
Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Can't argue with a novel that basically takes you around the globe!  And two of these are nonfiction books, making the travel experiences even more vivid for the reader.  (Bonus: Bourdain's book will make you want to Eat All The Things.)

There are also a few favorite destinations that I haven't read books for yet.  Have you read any books set in these locations?  I'm dying to find some!:

Spain (specifically Barcelona)
Greece (either Athens or the islands, Mykonos and such)

Do you like to "travel" when you read?  What are some of your favorite literary settings?


  1. Oh I LOVE travel reading! I've read a bunch of the historical fictions on Renaissance Italy and I love it. I like mentally traveling to China too, so I dig Amy Tan and Lisa See. England, Scotland, and Ireland are always fun and easy to find reads on. The only thing I've read set in Spain I believe is the Sun Also Rises, but Hemingway and I don't get along well. Middlesex is set in Greece for the beginning, but it's sad and war-torn. This post rocks.

  2. I definitely want to check out more Lisa See and Amy Tan...I read Snow Flower a loooong time ago and don't remember much of it at this point. I'd be into some books about Japan as well.
    I've never read Hemingway...hmmmmm...perhaps if the book is set in Spain, he will be more gentle on me. Ha.

  3. Stalin's Children looks so good! I am going to have to add it to my TBR list.

    'The Queen's Vow' is set in Spain, it's historical fiction if you like that genre. Another Hemingway set in Spain is 'For Whom the Bell Tolls'. It's been a while since I read it but I remember enjoying it.

  4. I love the idea of reading across the globe but only when I have been there. Having a child definitely changes things, nothing like a vacation for the kids, lol

    I am from Bermuda, will have to recommend one for you, I have a great kids one but not adult.

  5. For Greece, the only thing that comes to mind is Kenyon's books. Very hot Greek duded, as well. :)
    Those drinks look great, by the way.

  6. lots of great tips :-)
    happy reading

  7. @Denise, thank you for the Spain recs!

    @Marce, I would be very interested in any Bermuda books you can think of. I love Bermuda but have yet to find any novels that take place there, interestingly enough.

    @Kah, I will have to check those out ;-) And the drinks were fanastic. lol.

  8. YES! ENGLAND! I do like a good book set in England/UK. Hopefully I'll be able to go there this summer! Until then, I'll be reading my Kate Morton novels.

    I really like to read about Asia too so I like Amy Tan. I've read Lisa See's novels too but I haven't been able to get myself into Shanghai Girls for some reason... For novels set in Japan, I like to read Murakami and Ishiguro (his earlier works were set in Japan).

  9. I love, love to travel in my books! I read a lot of books set in middle eastern countries (although, like Russia, I don't see myself traveling there for safety reason). John Berendt's books made me want to travel to first Savannah and then Venice; Karen White and Pat Conroy always make me want to travel to the south, and Tatjana Soli made me want to travel to Vietnam.

    Books are such a wonderful way to expand our world view, aren't they? Especially when our travels don't stretch as far as they used to.

  10. Although I like books about many different locations, I get the biggest kick out of reading books about Michigan, where I live. I also like books about San Diebo, California a lot because I lived there for 20 years.

  11. I love all the many places my books have taken me! I most recently stayed close to home, spending time in L.A. and up along the coast. I like the familiarity of reading books set in my backyard. Still, I am quite partial to traveling to places I've never been and am looking forward to doing more of that soon. England and Russia have my current attention.

  12. Great way to travel the world ~ and cheaper than actually doing so! I've been staying close to home with books involving Michigan (for work and blogging), but I've also been on a kick with plenty of books set in India or about Indian people. :)

    Barcelona is much better to visit in literature than it is in person. I've got some nasty horror stories that you don't want to hear, from when I visited there. Let's just say that a robbery and near-carjacking are bad enough, but being dehumanized by the police is nothing anyone should go through.

  13. @Alice, Oooh I have some Kate Morton books that I haven't gotten to yet...sounds like good choices for the UK! And I should try Murakami again for Japan (wasn't a fan of 1Q84).

    @Lisa, I forgot about Berendt's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil--definitely made me want to go to Savannah.

  14. @techeditor and Literary Feline, that's a good point too--I love reading books that take place around where I grew up (especially Wally Lamb's novels in eastern CT). It's fun to recognize details in the novel from your own life.

    @Moonlit Librarian--ugh, that sounds awful!! My husband and I were there for 3 days as part of a trip to Europe in 2009, and we absolutely LOVED it. No run ins with robbers or shady police though. :-/

  15. If you want to read books set in coastal NC/SC that are better in terms of writing, please try Pat Conroy. He is my hero of Gullah writers.

  16. Thanks Julie, I am always looking for an alternative to Sparks...haha.


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