Can reading be an addiction? If so, I’m addicted to reading. For multiple years in a row I’ve completed reading challenges of over 50 books a year. Back in 2013 and again now in 2016, I’ve been doing a travel-themed reading challenge called Around the World in 80 Books. As I read books set in different countries around the world, I get to be immersed in a new world and a new culture.
So this summer, whether you are hitting the open road for adventures of your own or looking to live vicariously through someone else’s, check out these reads!
Fieldwork by Mischa Berlinski- Northern Thailand
This lush book by Mischa Berlinski will have you booking a ticket to Thailand today. Set in the northern mountain country of Thailand, Fieldwork is the story of 2 American expats, the mysterious death of a cultural anthropologist, and a remote hill tribe of people. Berlinski beautifully weaves together the storylines, which thrusts Thailand to center stage. Romance & mystery, culture & drama, and great writing will whisk away with this read.
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter – Almafi Coast, Italy
I read this a book a few years ago, and while I couldn’t remember the plot, I could remember that it made me want to visit the Almfai Coast in Italy. A rocky love story set on the cliffside cities of Italy’s famed coast, this book could not have a better setting. Opening in a 1960’s Italian sleepy sea village, jumping to the cutthroat modern-day Hollywood, through movie pitches and unfinished novels, we meet the lovable Pasquale, an Italian hotel owner whose greatest dream is to host American celebrities. American actress seeking refuge from filming in Rome, Dee Moray, shows up on the right shoreline, and checks into Pasquale’s “Hotel Adequate View” because she’s dying. As the years pass, and the story unfolds from many sources, we begin to understand the full story of what happened that fateful weekend at Pasquale’s inn. Lives were forever altered, and destinies changed. Oh, and Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton play a significant role as well. What’s not to love?!
In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson – Australia
I read this book right before I went to Australia for the first time last year. And I’m so glad I did. Bryson’s comedic & quirky look at this unique country really captures Australia’s heart & soul. Bryson travels throughout much of the island country, and comments on the oddities of each section. His outsider’s outlook, an American having lived in the UK, was wildly entertaining. If you didn’t want to head down under before, you will after this book.
The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey- Scotland
This book I loved solely because of the description of Scotland. The plot is average, but the Orkney’s of northern Scotland sound simply captivating. The titular character, Gemma Hardy, knows loss. In her 10 young years, she’s become an orphan and now lives within a strict boarding school. But instead of withdrawing from the world around her, Gemma looks for friendship, connection and belonging wherever she goes. From boarding school to employment and beyond, Gemma is a girl searching. Employment takes Gemma to the isolated Orkney’s, where she must begin again connecting to the world around her. Howling winds, snow falls, cold ocean waves, and abandoned caves was all I kept picturing while reading this book. Sign me up for Scotland.
Through Painted Deserts by Donald Miller – United States
Ready for a road trip this summer? Join Donald Miller as he travels across America in a journey of self-discovery. Similar to Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, the plot is not what keeps you turning pages. It’s the travel. It’s the movement. It’s the discovery. Donald Miller is a great writer of our generation, tackling hard topics like faith & spirituality. I loved reading him wrestle through these big things like hiking through the Grand Canyon. Throw this book in your bag when you hit the open road.
Girl at War by Sara Nović – Croatia
I can honestly say I’ve never really given Croatia much of a thought when making travel plans. But this book put me right in the center of former Yugoslavia through the eyes of Anna, the young narrator. Girl at War by Sara Nović is told with alternating storylines, jumping around in Anna’s timeline, but each section tells the story of the conflict around Anna and within Anna. From her early memories of the Adriatic coastline, to the arrival of military troops in the capital of Zagreb, through unspeakable acts of violence and horror and onto America where Anna relocated, the story moves quickly. It’s a short book, packed with a powerful story. Pick it up and dive into the ancient beauty of Croatia.
The Katya Hijazi series by Zoë Ferraris – Saudi Arabia
Truth – Saudi Arabia fascinates me. Maybe because it’s still such a mystery. Which is also why I’m loving the Katya Hijazi series by Zoë Ferraris. These books gives so much insight into the lives of women in Saudi Arabia, and Islam in general. The characters of Nayir and Katya are interesting and well developed. I very much enjoyed their story lines, weaving in and out of one another’s lives. Each book features a murder mystery and criminal investigation set against the religious extremism and the harsh desert of Saudi Arabia is the perfect combination for a cannot-put-this-down read. The second book, City of Veils, picks up roughly a year after Finding Nouf, the first in the series. Nayir Sharqi & Katya Hijazi have distanced, after what appeared to be the beginnings of a relationship. Nayir Sharqi is a devout Muslim man, and a scholar of the Qur’an. Katya Hijazi is a modern woman who continues to work in the medical examiner’s office, and is forced to lie about being married to keep her job. A new case, the tortured body of a young Saudi woman tortured washes up on the beach, intrigues Katya as she attempts to look past the burqa at who this woman really was and what caused her death. This story also has an element of an outsider looking in as well, with the storyline of an American woman searching for her missing American husband who may or may not have connections with the washed up woman. I haven’t finished the third book yet, but in case you can’t tell…I will.
Where’d You Go Bernadette? by Maria Stemple – Pacific Northwest & Antartica
What can I say about Where’d You Go, Bernadette? It’s laugh out loud funny, sentimental, and mysterious all at once. When acclaimed, yet reclusive, architect, Bernadette Fox goes missing, her teenage daughter, Bee, takes the investigation upon herself. Using her mother’s correspondence, Bee pieces together her mother & father’s secrets that may have led to Bernadette’s disappearance. This witty read is a page-turner you won’t put down! I loved this book! Written entirely through “correspondence” [emails, faxes, letters, transcripts, voicemails, texts, etc…] this book has the most unique voice. From rainy Seattle to frigid Antarctica, Where’d You Go, Bernadette? is non-stop fun! Traveling this year? This book will keep you going through plane rides, layovers & road trips.
Do you have a favorite book that inspires you to travel? What is it? Let me know in the comments below!
Happy reading & happy travels!