AAA projects that 46.3 million people will travel at least 50 miles from home during the Thanksgiving weekend, the highest travel rate since 2007. I’ll be traveling just slightly more miles than that, and I’m loading up my Kindle Paperwhite with good reading to take along on the journey. I’m always keeping lists of things I’d like to read, and today I share these recommendations with you – whether you need something to keep your company while in transit, or to enjoy while others are watching football.
Paris Was Ours
Paris is “the world capital of memory and desire,” concludes one of the writers in this intimate and insightful collection of memoirs of the city. Living in Paris changed these writers forever.
In thirty-two personal essays—more than half of which are here published for the first time—the writers describe how they were seduced by Paris and then began to see things differently. They came to write, to cook, to find love, to study, to raise children, to escape, or to live the way it’s done in French movies; they came from the United States, Canada, and England; from Iran, Iraq, and Cuba; and—a few—from other parts of France. And they stayed, not as tourists, but for a long time; some are still living there. They were outsiders who became insiders, who here share their observations and revelations.
Like many of the writers of these essays, I fell in love with Paris on my first visit. Unlike them, however, I didn’t return to live there in what, for many, was pretty destitute living arrangements. There was a little too much starving artist in the essays, but if you can look past those similarities through to the love for the city, you’ll be as enamored with these essays and I was. It’s been awhile since I’ve been back – no, rushing for a connection at De Gaulle doesn’t count, even if I pick up a box of macarons – and reading these essays reminded me that it’s time to go back. I’m putting a return visit on my to-do list for 2015.
DK Top 10 Athens
Rely on dozens of Top 10 lists for all budgets, from the Top 10 Greek dishes and archaeological sites to the Top 10 city strolls and itineraries, shops, and hotels. There’s even a list of the Top 10 things to avoid. Plus, DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Top 10 Athens includes a pull-out map with public transportation information, useful phone numbers, and 60 great ideas on how to spend your days.
This guidebook series has become my go-to pocket guide when discovering a new destination. I love the list form as a way of curating the things that I want to do and see, and use DK’s lists to create my own. The lists for Athens included ancient sites, museums, shopping, and lots more, and was a big timesaver when I needed to figure out what reasonable to see in the time I had. Lots of great photos and maps, too. I’ve used these guides for other destinations (Bangkok, Toronto, Barcelona are currently on my bookshelf) and will do so again. I buy this is a hard copy as it’s easy to tuck into a purse, backpack, or pocket.
Tourism, fast becoming the largest global business, employs one out of twelve persons and produces $6.5 trillion of the world’s economy. In a groundbreaking book, Elizabeth Becker uncovers how what was once a hobby has become a colossal enterprise with profound impact on countries, the environment, and cultural heritage.
Becker reveals travel as product. Seeing the tourism industry from the inside out, through her eyes and ears, we experience a dizzying range of travel options though very few quiet getaways. Her investigation is a first examination of one of the largest and potentially most destructive enterprises in the world.
If you think about travel as light-hearted vacation time, this book will have you thinking about it some more. The author tackles some of the problems in the world’s most beloved and popular destinations (the rainforests of Costa Rica, Venice, Angkor Wat, the Caribbean Islands, etc.) and examines whether tourism is making the problems better or worse. If you’re looking for easy fix answers, you won’t find it here, but the book will give you plenty to think about when you examine your travel choices. Ms. Decker isn’t telling us to stay home – quite the contrary – just to be aware of the many (and there are many) sides to the tourism discussion. There’s lots of food for thought here.
Travel as a Political Act
Travel connects people with people. It helps us fit more comfortably and compatibly into a shrinking world, and it inspires creative new solutions to persistent problems facing our nation. We can’t understand our world without experiencing it. Rick Steves Travel as a Political Act helps us take that first step.
There’s more to travel than good-value hotels, great art, and tasty cuisine. Americans who “travel as a political act” can have the time of their lives and come home smarter—with a better understanding of the interconnectedness of today’s world and just how our nation fits in.
I read this book shortly before Overbooked, and the combination of the two really got me examining my vacation choices. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with heading to a luxury resort on a beautiful island for a relaxing week of sun and good food. BUT, I have started thinking more about the impact of travel and tourism on our global economy. I’m still mulling over what this mean to me, and how and if I’ll make any changes in my travel habits, but it got me thinking about a lot of issues, and that’s a good thing.
Theo Decker, a 13-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don’t know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his longing for his mother, he clings to the one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.
I picked up this book because I felt I had to. It’s a Pulitzer Prize winner, everyone was reading and talking about it, and I felt a little odd man out having not read it. I succumbed to peer pressure and picked it up. To say that I hated it would be a little too strong. There was beautiful writing, and a plot full of twists and turns, but the characters didn’t engage me in a way that made me care whether they lived, died, or made it to the next chapter. I’m alone in the wilderness with this, though, so am including it on the list as apparently I’m the only one who things that way. Your mileage may vary.
Sapphires and Garlic: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise
Ruth Reichl, world-renowned food critic and former editor in chief of Gourmet magazine, knows a thing or two about food. She also knows that as the most important food critic in the country, you need to be anonymous when reviewing some of the most high-profile establishments in the biggest restaurant town in the world—a charge she took very seriously, taking on the guise of a series of eccentric personalities. In Garlic and Sapphires, Reichl reveals the comic absurdity, artifice, and excellence to be found in the sumptuously appointed stages of the epicurean world and gives us—along with some of her favorite recipes and reviews—her remarkable reflections on how one’s outer appearance can influence one’s inner character, expectations, and appetites, not to mention the quality of service one receives.
While I do the occasional restaurant reviews (and I plan to do more of them), my approach is from the everyday point of view – the average person who goes out for a meal. That means splurges for special occasions, but also plenty of neighborhood cafes, takeout spots, and ordinary kinds of places frequented by ordinary kinds of people. I don’t rhapsodize poetic about flavors the way this author does, nor do I have the deep pockets of the New York Times, but I’d like to think they I have the same end in mind and she did – helping you decide if a restaurant deserves your hard earned money. I’d loved this book, even when it got a little too food-snob-pretentious. It’s worth savoring.
The acclaimed, award-winning author of the national bestseller The Financial Lives of the Poets returns with his funniest, most romantic, and most purely enjoyable novel yet: the story of an almost-love affair that begins on the Italian coast in 1962 . . . and is rekindled in Hollywood fifty years later.
This book would be easy to dismiss as chick-lit, but it is so much more. Moving forward and back in time, and back and forth between Italy and Hollywood, the plot was sufficiently interesting and blended a little fact with its fiction. I cared about the characters, what they did, what happened to them, how they changed. This one kept me up reading into the wee hours to see how things would turn out.
DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links. What that means is this: If you click on the titles of any of these books, you will be taken to an Amazon page where you can buy the book (hardback, paperback, Kindle, whatever). If you do that, I get a small commission for your purchase (and I’m talking a couple dimes here, not a get rick amount), but you pay the same price. I include these links for products I enjoyed and think you will to, and as a way of helping to fund this blog and the travels involved with it. I appreciate your support in clicking through the links for all your Amazon purchases.