Best Book + Destination Combo

books

#1

What is your favorite book you have read in conjunction with going to a place? That is, you read it in prep or you read it while there?

For instance, I read Youth Without Youth by Mircea Eliade before going to Romania, and I will say that due to one particularly amazing monologue, I enjoyed every single combination of sparkling mineral water and espresso that I had during the trip 100x times more than I would have otherwise.

Historical surveys are easy to recommend, of course. I read A Short History of Cambodia before and during my time in that country in 2012. The history of that country is so physically apparent–it’s easy to imagine the Angkar ruins as a bustling city of 1 million people when London was a town of 1,000; you can hardly go a block in Phnom Penh without encountering some trace of either the Khmer Rouge or, more strangely to my American eye, a public worship of the Sihanouk royal family, who played such an unwitting part in bringing Pol Pot to power.

Anyway, I’d love to collect recommendations of literature that prepares you for specific trips.


#4

I read Shantaram while traveling through India. It gave the story so much more color. I even visited Leopold Cafe where some of the plot takes place. Highly recommend.


#5

Perhaps a little too “semester abroad,” but reading A Moveable Feast in Paris was so satisfying. I also highly recommend The Flaneur by Edmund White.

I’ve also been spending a lot more time in Florida recently and developed a long list including Florida by Lauren Groff, The Swamp, and
Gladesmen: Gator Hunters, Moonshiners, and Skiffers.
It can sometimes be hard to find magic in much maligned places like Florida, but I find having a book to provide context for your visit can really change the way you view a place!


#6

Great suggestions! This makes me recall Swamplandia! by Karen Russell, which I never read but sounds like the perfect read before a fanboat ride.


#7

Yup! That (and anything by Carl Hiassen) is actually the first book I suggest when people are looking to see a different side of the state!


#8

People chuckled when I said I wanted to read it before I went—mostly because of the musical—but James Michener’s Tales of the South Pacific readied me more for island life than anything else I read. And it was very cool to go to the island in Vanuatu where he had actually been stationed.


#9

Huge second to this combo! I read Shantaram years before I finally got to India but it’s still one of my favorite epic adventure stories and was top of my mind when I visited eventually.

During my India trip I read A Fine Balance, which is one of the most moving historical fiction novels I’ve ever encountered. And reading it while there gave me a deeper level of understanding of the country’s recent history and social structures. Amazing amazing book.


#10

I haven’t been to India, but I have to say I would reread Midnight’s Children before going, and I’ve already read it twice!


#11

@lukert33 this is such an awesome thread, thanks for starting it! I think the Atlas Trips team makes recommended reading lists for trip goers, right? Maybe it’s something they can even publish on the trips page, or better yet, pull into the shop! (cc @tyler)

Another one to add: history buffs should read Lawrence in Arabia when traveling in Jordan and Egypt.


#12

What a great question! I’m currently reading All Quiet on the Western Front in advance of a trip over Thanksgiving to Flanders and specifically Ypres. And plus one on A Moveable Feast and Paris.

Also, while this book is not for everyone—some might find the author’s affection for alcohol unsettling—The Wet and the Dry: A Drinker’s Journey by Lawrence Osborne has must-read chapters on finding a drink in Beirut and Muscat.


#13

I love the idea of choosing to travel to a place for the sole reason of reading a certain book while there.


#14

Read Here Is New York by E.B. White before or during your visit to the city. I’ve been here for 13 years and I still reread this short treatise to gain perspective and help me understand how to deal with the constant change of the city.


Books about New York City
#15

If you are looking for something to listen to during your travels, I could not more heartily recommend Dan Carlin’s podcast series on WWI. The “Blueprint for Armageddon” episodes.


#16

It’s so good.


#17

A couple of years ago I was living and doing fieldwork in the Sierra de Guadarrama a couple of hours outside of Madrid and picked up the classic book “For whom the bell tolls” by Ernest Hemmingway. Working in those mountains and pine forests during the time of reading the novel was uncanny because I became familiar with many of the locations described in the book.

A lot of these places are now so peaceful and tranquil that if it wasn’t for the bullet casings and fragments of mortars/ grenades I would find in streams or the old bunkers I would come across I wouldn’t have expected them to be battlefields.


#18

Heaven and Hell by Jón Kalman Stefánsson when traveling in Iceland. The writing is absolutely stunning ( it’s been years since I’ve been inspired to underline sentences in a book I’m reading) and the story heart wrenching. On the lighter side The Indian by Jón Gnarr, famous Icelandic comedian and one-time mayor of Reykjavík. It is his memoir about growing up and being a bit “other” in a time before people understood his issues. Both books are great insight into Icelandic psyche


#19

Great suggestion. Both time I’ve read it, The Sun Also Rises has made me want to go fishing in the Spanish Pyrenees.


#20

No problem :slight_smile: , yeah Hemmingway has a way with words which makes you just want to go out and experience the wild


#21

Burmese Days, George Orwell. Awesome book!


#22

Love to see Orwell getting some love for his non-dystopian gems!