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Greetings travelers and readers! Like you, I love to travel and read, and this combination struck me on Monday when it was Read Across America Day. This honorary day is celebrated in the schools, so I’m dedicating this newsletter to adult readers. Are you in a book group? I’ve been in the same book group for over two decades which has kept me reading regularly even when I’m beyond busy. We’ve read some excellent books and some clunkers but meeting monthly to talk about a book has been truly rewarding. If you’re not in a book group, I highly recommend that you join one even if you can’t read every book.
Some of my favorite books are set in places where I’ve traveled or are on my Wanderlist. Although I read widely, a favorite genre is historical fiction which lends itself to learning about interesting places. The books below have inspired me to travel and have stuck with me since I read them (some long ago). What books have done the same for you? Which ones have I missed and why? Read on for the list of eight books that have taken me mentally around the globe…
Books That Inspire Travel
ALASKA, USA: The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
I read this compelling coming of age story while in Alaska last summer (picture of the Hubbard Glacier taken by me). The author’s description of Alaska in all seasons was vivid, and although it was lovely, warm weather last July, the novel allowed me to experience a cold, dark Alaskan winter. There’s something special about reading a book about the destination you’re in while there. It adds a dimension to the reading experience that is truly special.
RUSSIA: A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
I’ve been to both Moscow and St. Petersburg with plans to return, so this book had particular meaning for me. Much of the story takes place at Moscow’s Metropol Hotel after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, and the hotel is only a two-minute walk from the Kremlin in the heart of Moscow. I was fortunate to attend to the author’s talk in Gramercy Park in New York City to hear more about what inspired him to write this unique story which I highly recommend!
ITALY: Beneath A Scarlet Sky by Mark T. Sullivan
I’m so saddened by what’s happening in Italy right now but know this too shall pass. This book is a true story about a typical Italian teenager whose family home in Milan is destroyed by Allied bombs which motivates his subsequent adventures in Italy. If you haven’t been to Italy, I’m sure it’s firmly on your Wanderlist in the next few years and many people revisit multiple times as it’s a magical, diverse country. How to spend your time is a tough choice – the mountains ranges in the north, wine country through Tuscany, iconic cities brimming with art, history, and culture, and gorgeous coastlines make prioritizing challenging.
ITALY, INDIA, BALI: Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
This non-fiction bestseller describes the author’s journey of self-discovery to Italy, India, and Bali. I read this book many years ago but best recall the section about India where the author visits an Ashram; it was the first time I had heard of this type of travel experience. Today, wellness travel is a huge trend that takes people across the globe, as outlined in my newsletter last month.
MIDWEST USA, EUROPE: Loving Frank by Nancy Horan
Frank Lloyd Wright fans will love this book which I recalled last November when I toured the Arizona Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix. Opened in 1929, Wright was the consulting architect; you can feel his influence and the rich American history in every space in the hotel. I learned about Wright when I lived in Chicagoland back in the late 1990s, and the novel takes place there and subsequently through his European travels with his scandalous lover.
AMAZON, BRAZIL: State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
A family member recently experienced glamping in the rainforest next to the Amazon river, and his pictures reminded me of this fascinating story. The main character is a pharmacologist who travels to the Amazonian jungle to find the mysterious, native Lakashi tribe whose experience on the river and in the jungle brings to life this amazing part of our natural world.
SCOTLAND: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Diana Gabaldon’s first novel in the Outlander series puts Scotland at the top of any reader’s Wanderlist. The story focuses on Second World War-era nurse Claire Randall, who travels through time to 18th century Scotland (think Jacobite era). Scotland’s majestic highlands and culture are so richly described that this novel has spurred tourism so much so that it has a name – “the Outlander effect.”
AUSTRALIA: In a Sunburned Country, Bill Bryson
This non-fiction book is an account of the author’s long trip around Australia and is an incredible story that gives the reader a detailed description of this amazing country and continent. I read this book between my two trips to Sydney and found it very accurate. The author’s comprehensive trek motivates me to return and experience more off-the-beaten-path Aussie experiences and places.
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