Book It: The Best Reads to Inspire Travel

Get inspired to travel with a great book!
Guide:  (F) = Fiction, (NF) = Non-fiction, (BR) = Beach Read

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Australia

Down Under (Bill Bryson, 2000).  Join best-selling travel author Bryson in his humorous jaunt around Australia, talking to locals, and exploring the country’s history and wildlife.  NF, BR
 

Austria

Beethoven (Lewis Lockwood, 2005).  Beethoven’s interesting life in Vienna is explored by noted musicologist Lockwood.  NF

A Death in Vienna (Daniel Silva, 2004). A bombing in Vienna leads to a shocking series of discoveries dating back to World War II in this fast-paced thriller.  F, BR
 

Belize

The Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw: One Woman’s Fight to Save the World’s Most Beautiful Bird (Bruce Babcott, 2008) Babcott tells the story of one woman’s quest to save endangered animals in Belize.  NF, BR
 

Costa Rica

Monkeys are Made of Chocolate (Jack Ewing and Daniel Quinn, 2005).  Naturalist and author shares his heartwarming stories about decades of life in Costa Rica.  NF, BR
 

Czech Republic

Twelve Little Cakes (Dominika Dery, 2004). Memoir of a childhood in Prague near the end of Communism. A modern Czech classic of life in the eastern bloc. NF

Good Soldier Švejk (JaroslavHašek, 1923). A classic dark comedy of a soldier and his life in the Austro-Hungarian army.  F, BR
 
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England

The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follet, 1989). An easy read about the trials and tribulations of building a cathedral in Medieval England.  F, BR

Notes from a Small Island (Bill Bryson, 1995). A humorous and fun travel book on Great Britain by noted tripster Bill Bryson.  NF, BR
 

France

Madame Bovary (Gustave Flaubert, 1886). Emma Bovary’s yearning for luxury and passion ultimately leads to her demise in this literary classic.  F, BR

A Moveable Feast (Ernest Hemingway, 1964). Memoir of Hemingway’s time palling around, drinking, and writing in 1920s Paris.  NF, BR

A Year in Provence and Toujours Provence (Peter Mayle, 1989/1991). Mayle’s memoirs include humorous anecdotes about adjusting to life in a remote area of the Lubéron in Southern France. Great for foodies.  NF, BR
 

Germany

The Good German (Joseph Kanon, 2005).  Intrigue and suspense in post-WW2 Berlin. Later a semi-decent movie with George Clooney.  F, BR

The Book Thief (Marcus Zusak, 2007). Narrated by death, the story of a German girl stealing books in WW2 and sharing the stories with friends is heartbreaking and beautiful.  F, BR

Night (Elie Wiesel, 1956). Elie Wiesel’s story of the horrors of Nazi German concentration camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald.  F/NF
 
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Greece

The Spartans (Paul Anthony Cartledge, 2002). This history chronicles the rise and fall of the Spartan warriors. You remember 300 right?  NF

The Summer of My Greek Taverna (Tom Stone, 2002). An American expat recounts his experiences in Greece while running a bar on the island of Patmos.  NF, BR

Deeper Shade of Blue (Paul Johnston, 2002). Detective Alex Mavros leaves Athens for the island of Trigono to find a missing woman.  F, BR
 

Holland

The Diary of a Young Girl (Anne Frank, 1947). Frank’s diary, published after her death at Auschwitz. Follow her trials and tribulations of hiding in Amsterdam.  NF

My ‘Dam Life (Sean Condon, 2003). Witty, funny look at moving to Amsterdam to start a new job with a half-Dutch wife.  NF
 

Ireland

How the Irish Saved Civilization (Thomas Cahill, 1995). A look at Ireland’s historic role in saving Western learning in the Dark Ages.  NF

Dubliners (James Joyce, 1914). Joyce’s snapshot of a cross-section of people living and working in Dublin. Ironically, Joyce wrote this classic in Trieste, Italy.  F
 

Italy

Death in Venice (Thomas Mann, 1912). You can guess the ending. But this is the ultimate obsession story, set in Venice.  F, BR

Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling (Ross King, 2002). Who knew that Michelangelo was reluctant to spend the better part of five years painting the ceiling of Sistine Chapel in Rome?  NF 

The House of the Medici (Christopher Hibbert, 1974). The interesting, oft seedy, history of Florence’s first family, the Medicis. Cosimo, Lorenzo—the whole gang.  NF

Pompeii (Robert Harris, 2003). Historical novel about the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius and the demise of Pompeii.  F, BR
 
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New Zealand

Straying from the Flock (Alexander Elder, 2005). Documenting his travels to New Zealand, Elder allows the reader in on his intimate stories and experiences. nf
 

Poland

The Pianist: The Extraordinary True Story of One Man’s Survival in Warsaw, 1939–1945 (Władysław Szpilman, 2002). You’ve seen the movie with Adrian Brody. Now, read the book about Jewish life in the horrors of the Warsaw ghetto.  NF
 

Spain

For Whom the Bell Tolls (Ernest Hemingway, 1940). Hemingway’s take on the Spanish Civil War and American Robert Jordan’s mission to destroy a bridge.  F, BR

Discovering Spain: An Uncommon Guide (Penelope Casas, 1992). Casas is the undisputed expert in Spanish cuisine. Join her in this opinionated, full-ranging guide of Spain and everything Spanish.  NF

Don Quixote (Miguel Cervantes, 1805). The exploits of wannabe knight Don Quixote and his faithful sidekick, Sancho Panza. Did you really just do the SparkNotes for this book?  F, BR

The Pillars of Hercules (Paul Theroux, 1995). Noted travel writer Theroux tours the Mediterranean basin with insightful, humorous stories. A travel writer’s writer.  NF, BR
 

Switzerland

Hotel du Lac (Anita Brookner, 1984).  A romance novelist turns up in a Swiss hotel and does some serious soul-searching during an extended stay.  F, BR
 

Thailand

Mai Pen Rai Means Never Mind (Carol Hollinger, 1965). A funny, interesting account of adjusting to life in Thailand.  NF, BR

The Beach (Alex Garland, 1996). Some backpackers find an idyllic island paradise off the coast of Thailand and have a Lord of the Flies moment. Maybe you’ve seen the movie starting Leonardo.  F, BR