Ten Oldies and Ten New Books to Make You Travel

by pen4hire /
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Jan 19, 2010 / 0 comments

In the first year, I shared with readers some of my favorite books.  Some were old chestnuts that had been on my shelf for a long time. Others were brand new books that publishers sent to me for reviews. Keep in mind that at A Traveler’s Library, books get to the top of the pile by luring us to travel. They tell us, in fact or fiction about faraway places or even nearby places that sound so good, we have to go there. The authors, in any case, would shudder at the thought of being categorized as travel literature, but if they make us want to travel, they make our lists.

It is hard to choose favorites, but I took a stab at it and came up with ten of my favorite oldies and ten brand new books that I loved. They are presented in the order in which they appeared on my blog, rather than order of preference. Goodness, I had a hard enough time picking ten; you don’t expect me to tell you which one is BEST do you?


Loot by Sharon Waxman lures us to explore antiquities in situ and also the principles and practices of museums. This is not an ancient book, but not brand new either. Interesting and thought provoking.

Tales of the Alhambra, by Washington Irving creates a wonderful picture of the Alhambra that I found when I visited Granada, holds up well.

Corelli’s Mandolin, by Louis de Bernières, portrays a Greek island during war time. When we visit in peace time, we will understand the people better for having read Corelli’s Mandolin.

History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides. When my husband and I were driving around the Peloponnese, it was a thrill to page through Thucydides and read of a battle that took place where we were standing.

Travels with Charley, by John Steinbeck. I loved this book so much that I went on a Steinbeck binge and discovered the great American novelist all over again. And what a book to make you want to hit the road.

Mani by Patrick Leigh Fermor. Best travel writer ever. Hands down.  If you have never read Fermor, pick up any of his books, but Mani is one of the best.

Italy Out of Hand by Barbara Hodgson. This is not a terribly old book, but a little hard to find. Classy and hilariously funny, and captures the heart and quirks of Italy.

The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston.  This real life murder mystery breaks one of my rules—making you want to go there.  It may make you want to stay away from Florence, which would be unfortunate. If you love Florence, it will deepen your understanding of the people.

Pascali’s Island by Barry Unsworth. Greece again. What can I say? It’s my favorite destination, so I have lots of books. But Unsworth was new to me and I was delighted when a reader recommended it. What a wonderful and thought-provoking book.

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. I loved this book so much when I read it that it was a shock to find people who absolutely could not stand it.  Guess it is one of those love it or hate it books. I loved the way it introduced me to a segment of Japanese society that I did not know anything about.



The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. This book about Dominican Republicans that is set in both DR and the United States proves to be a mind bending exercise in language. Somewhere on the net I discovered a glossary compiled by a grad student that translated the Spanish, the slang, the computer gamers’ lingo and whatever else tricky Diaz sends your way. Hint: don’t skip the footnotes—some of the best stuff is there. However, don’t expect this book to make you want to go to the Dominican Republic.

Miraculous Air by C. M. Mayo. She now lives in Mexico and in this book writes about explorations in Baja California, some with her sister. The language is poetic, the adventures and people well described.

The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz.  I laughed and learned about life in Paris on every page, and at the end of every chapter drooled over a recipe from this master dessert chef. Oh, the chocolate! Ah, Paree! The practical information will help anyone going to Paris for the first time, the recipes will keep a cook happy, and you’ll smile at the misadaventures.

East of the Sun by Julia Gregson. This historical romance follows women from England to sail off to India in the twenties in search of husbands. Three very different women capture our attention as we follow them through India under the British Empire. Good read for India travelers.

An Irreverent Curiosity by David Farley. Combination history, religion, travelogue and humorous look at a hippie-ish community in an ancient Italian town. A book that is a great companion and certainly stirs the need to travel to Italy.

American Fugue by Alexis Stamatis. An American road trip with a difference. This one is written by a Greek, only recently translated into English, and it combines a thriller with the cogent descriptions of the American scene, as seen by an outsider.

Strange Maps: An Atlas of Cartographic Curiosities by Frank Jacobs. Any traveler loves maps. And any map lover will love this book.  Jacobs has found the most bizarre, the most artistic and the most puzzling maps from many time periods. You have to see it to believe it.

Moveable Feast, the restored edition, by Ernest Hemingway. Even if you have read the original Moveable Feast, you should take a look at the restored edition. Much material of interest to historians, writers and Hemingway fans adds great value to this book which stirs our desires to travel to Paris and sit at an outdoor café as we pen the great American novel.

Mistress to the Sun by Sandra Gulland. An historical novel set in the time when Louis, the Sun King was building Versailles into its present grandeur. The squalor of the royal homes may surprise you, but getting a view of that period surely enhances one’s enjoyment of traveling to Paris today.

The Calligrapher’s Daughter by Eugenia Kim. I found this lovely novel of a family that lived in Korea during the Japanese occupation and then the American war, to be slow going, partly because you want to enjoy the language. But also because the writer paces the novel to the formal movements of the old Korean culture that is slowly being stripped away. Just won the Border’s Original Voices Best Fiction award. Indispensable for anyone going to Korea.




Vera Marie Badertscher is a freelance writer (http://pen4hire.com) who blogs about her favorite things—books and travel at A Traveler’s Library.  She is the Traveler's Library Editor for Wandering Educators.