Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Reading for travelers

When I toured Europe twice during the past decade, I made it a point to take along books that related in some way to the countries I visited. While in Ireland, for example, I read Joseph O'Connor's novel Star of the Sea, which gives a perspective on the Irish potato famine, the signs of which one can still find in Ireland more than a century later.

Nancy Pearl doesn't mention that particular book in Book Lust to Go (2010), but she recommends hundreds of others for both actual and armchair travelers to Ireland and elsewhere. As in the other volumes in her "Book Lust" series, the idea is very simple. Pearl, a former Seattle librarian, suggests books in various categories. She gives the impression of having read almost everything, and her recommendations are varied and exhaustive. She offers something for everyone's taste -- romantic novels, mysteries, histories, sports books, travel books, comics, poetry and so forth.

I was pleased to note that so many of the books Pearl recommends I have already read and enjoyed. Among them: Loving Graham Greene (Algeria), The Coffee Trader (Amsterdam), England for All Seasons (England), Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show (Ireland), Dark Star Safari (Africa) and River of Doubt (the Amazon). If she,  too, liked these books, then I am more inclined to accept her suggestions for other books. As I read Book Lust to Go, I made a list of books to watch for. Here are a few of those on my list:

The Thousand-Mile War by Brian Garfield. I've read a number of Garfield novels -- he is the author of Death Wish -- but not this history of World War II in the Aleutians.

The Last Night at the Ritz by Elizabeth Savage. Pearl calls this book, set partially in Boston, one of her top five all-time novels. That's  good enough for me.

Finding George Orwell in Burma by Emma Larkin. Larkin stops at various places Orwell visited while he was in Burma and relates his time there with books like Animal Farm and 1984.

Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw by Will Ferguson. This book of essays about Canada are written in the style of Bill Bryson, Pearl says.

Confessing a Murder by Nicholas Drayson. I really liked Drayson's A Guide to the Birds of East Africa, and his novel set in Oceania sounds pretty good, too.

When Wanderers Cease to Roam: A Traveler's Journal of Staying Put by Vivian Swift. A travel book about not  traveling? This sounds just odd enough to be interesting.

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