19 books for 19 vacations
Posted on February 3, 2016
Beach Towel, Train Ride, BOOKS!
Nineteen books paired with nineteen vacations, in no particular order, to help make reading memories as vivid as your photographs.
1) Goodbye to Berlin, Christopher Isherwood
Cozy your backside into a corner booth in a Berlin bar, order a glass of beer, and settle in for Isherwood’s semi-autobiographical stories of ordinary people living in extraordinary circumstances at the end of the Weimar Republic (Isherwood’s stories would later inspire the stage musical and film, “Cabaret”). After you read a few chapters, visit the Deutsches Historisches Museum to see objects these characters would have touched and the propaganda posters they were surrounded by.
2) Cannery Row or Tortilla Flat, John Steinbeck
California puts a plaque any where Steinbeck wrote, stepped, slept, sneezed or flirted. The good news is, he did these things in some of the most beautiful places. If you are on a road trip in California, particularly if it carries on down the Baja Sur coast, reading Steinbeck along the way, is as essential as the licorice whips and gasoline for the trip.
3) Consider the Fork: A History of How We Eat, Bee Wilson
Learn why we eat with a fork or how we used to cook 100 years ago. You will have endless tidbits of facts to share with your travel buddy. Though focused on British and Western history, you can read this book when touring through Thailand or any other country that defines itself through its food culture. It will definitely expand your appreciation for the food on your plate!
4) The Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafón
This book is dark, twisted and satisfying. You may want to have a dictionary close by to keep up with Zafón’s apt, expansive vocabulary. Read this book when you have extensive land travel days in Austraila as it will make the long haul bus rides go by like lightening. Get ready for some sh*t to get real crazy!
5) Kitchen, Banana Yoshimoto
Yoshimoto wrote this vibrant novel on food, love, and grief, during breaks and on slow days at her job waiting tables in Tokyo. Read this en route to Japan; on arrival, try eating all of the dishes mentioned.
6) Price of Salt, Patricia Highsmith
This beautiful love story was recently adapted into the movie, “Carol”. Read this book on a weekend retreat in the woods. Be sure to brew plenty of coffee and eat picnic sandwiches to accompany your reading.
7) Cafe Europe, Slavenka Drakulic
If you are an American in Eastern Europe, you might wonder how the politics of the European Union really effect the day to day lives of her disparate citizens. Croatian writer Drakulic describes the difficult transition from communism to capitalism, and its effects on her country and its neighbors. She provides powerful insight on economics, on democracy, and on the complex responsibility of citizenship.
8) The Selected Poems of Li Po or The Selected Poems of Tu Fu
Tang Dynasty poets believed that drinking wine induced the necessary state for writing poetry. Have a glass and sit down with the works of Li Po or Tu Fu – called China’s greatest poets. Read the poems before you leave, then read them again while visiting their home country. The seeming modernity of these thousand-year-old poems provides an important reminder for every traveler – a reminder of the universality of the human condition.
9) Their eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston
This heartbreaking book is also one of the most beautiful stories you will ever read. Read it before you visit your parents, to remember they too are on a journey.
10) Me talk Pretty One Day David Sedaris
This collection of person short stories are ideal for anywhere in the world at anytime. As cliche as it is to say, you will laugh out loud. Hard.
11) Marconi’s Cottage, Medbh McGuckian
You will hear poetry in the Irish dialect before you even clear customs. Marconi’s Cottage will set the tone for your Irish trip with the kind of the poems you want to read after a day of exploring the magical land. You’ll feel the Irish in your blood.
12) Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
The main character, Tita, expresses her longing and love through food and her cooking takes on the life of her emotions. Read this on a cruise ship or a food tour.
13) Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
You’ve taken a sabbatical and now you have long, free hours to read what the movies showed you. We recommend an e-reader for these volumes since the trilogy is about 1 million pages long.
14) Lost Illusions, Honoré de Balzac
Read this timeless melodrama on the plane en route to Paris.
15) Any of the Bond books, Ian Flemming
Reading about James Bond is just as delicious as watching the movies. These quick reads focus on the eating, drinking and romancing of the time as much as the espionage, and will keep you perfect company on long flights or by the Mediterranean Sea.
16) Howl, Allen Ginsberg
This read is a San Francisco staple over a cocktail anywhere in the city. Then, repeat the opening line of the poem as you walk up Columbus Avenue to Vesuvio Cafe, once frequented by Ginsberg and other fames of the Beat Generation.
17) Sputnik Sweetheart, Haruki Murakami
If you’re headed to Greece, especially to a small village where swimming is the main activity, pack this book with you. It’s a love story, with edge, intrigue and surprise.
18) Holding Still for as Long as Possible, Zoe Whittal
This coming-of-age book is Jane Austen for millennials. A queer romance set at the turn of this century whose characters struggle to emerge into adulthood. Take this with you to Toronto where the book is set.
19) Collected Poems, Langston Hughes
Langston Hughes is New York, period. The poems of this Harlem Renaissance legend are the beauty and music of this vibrant city, captured and distilled on the page. If you’ve read Whitman’s “Song of Myself,” it’s time to read Hughes “I, Too,” in which one New York son answers the other.