A friend recently shared an Anthony Bourdain interview with me that I just loved – and the timing couldn’t have been better.
In the interview, Bourdain is quoted as saying,
I like to read fiction set in the location I’m going to. Fiction is in many ways more useful than a guidebook, because it gives you those little details, a sense of the way a place smells, an emotional sense of the place. … It’s good to feel romantic about a destination before you arrive.
I leave for Iceland tomorrow, and I’m looking forward to the downtime that comes with traveling. Those moments spent waiting are perfect for a little light reading, so I pulled together some of the destination-inspired books that I’m most excited to read during part one of my trip.
In order of arrival…
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
This is cheating just a little bit, because I read Burial Rites a few weeks ago. I wanted to include it here though because Kent’s raw and honest portrayal of Icelandic life in the 1800’s is surprisingly beautiful, and the mysterious plot made for an engaging read: it’s the story of a woman charged with murder. I can’t wait to see the landscapes and scenery that Kent describes.
To Sir, With Love by E. R. Braithwaite
This book is the story of bigotry, ignorance, and hope, set in a dingy classroom in East End. It’s one of the more famous novels set in London, although it’s quite the change of pace from say, Bridget Jones’ Diary. I’m looking forward to curling up with this on the plane over from Iceland.
Paris Was Ours, a collection by Penelope Rowlands
Paris Was Ours is a collection of short stories from thirty-two famous writers about how they fell in love with the city of Paris. Their stories combined make for a fittingly beautiful ode to one of the most romanticized cities in the world, and it’s easy to simply pick up a story or two while waiting for the train.
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
When I think of the true spirit of rough-and-tumble traveling, I think of Hemingway. This book seems especially fitting, as I’ll be moving from Paris to Seville as the main characters do. That might be where the similarities end though, as Hemingway writes about the otherworldy life of the Parisian elite in the 1920’s before carrying his characters to the wild and spirited bullfighing rings of Spain.
The Caliph’s House by Tahir Shah
This novel has been on my list for a while, but this trip is the perfect catalyst to start reading. By the same author as Under the Tuscan Sun, this novel is about the story of a family that leaves dreary London for the brighter skies (…and walls, and life) of Morocco. They discover that the cultures are even more different than they ever could have imagined.
If you have any additional suggestions, I’d love to hear them – feel free to leave them in the comments!