At the start of the New Year, I vowed to read one book a week, and I’m proud to say I’m accomplishing that goal. I even started a book club to keep me focused (I mean, you can’t recommend books if you don’t read them, right?).
Thanks to my grandmother, I’ve always been addicted to reading (Sadly, not everyone is: 28% of people haven’t read a book in the last year!!). I feel like I might be the only person who read the unabridged version of Les Miserables when he was thirteen! After years of sporadic reading, digesting so many books this year has nourished my long book-starved soul.
And, with the summer travel season in full swing, I wanted to share my recent favorite reads. A good book makes long flights go by quicker.
A Year in Provence, by Peter Mayle
I’d heard of this book before but never bothered to pick it up until multiple readers recommended it to me. I’m glad I finally read it — it was incredible. An autobiographical novel following the author Peter Mayle’s year living in Provence, it details the struggles and joys of adapting to a new culture. I loved the interesting characters he meets and his description of the slow pace of life in France (which was a clear departure from his previous life in England). As a Francophile, this book makes me want to move to France even more. Wonderfully and wistfully written, I can understand why it continues to be such a classic.
The Art of Travel, by Alain De Botton
Another reader recommendation, this book looks at the why of travel. What compels us to see the world? From the anticipation of a trip, the act of getting there, being there, and the return, Alain De Botton discusses it all. Though dry in parts, this is one of the best written and most thoughtful travel books I’ve read in a really long time. The author’s use of language and imagery is incredibly sophisticated, and his discussions of beauty, travel, and the mundane are equally thought-provoking. I highly, highly recommend reading this book.
Eating Viet Nam: Dispatches from a Blue Plastic Table, by Graham Holliday
While I don’t love Vietnam (I didn’t have a good experience there), I do love Vietnamese food… a lot! This is an awesome book about the history and culture behind the country’s street cuisine. Author Graham Holliday has lived in Vietnam a long time, and he sure knows his food. In this engrossing and hunger-inducing book, you’ll wander with him through the backstreets of Vietnam, learning about the street food you see all over the country and, in doing so, begin to understand the country and its people through their first love.
Visit Sunny Chernobyl, by Andrew Blackwell
What’s it like to visit the most polluted places on the planet? Inspired by a trip to Kanpur, India (considered one of the most polluted towns in the country), Andrew Blackwell set off to visit oil towns, coal mines, the Pacific garbage patch, and, of course, Chernobyl. In many ways, I found this to be the anti-travel book. It didn’t inspire me to go anywhere, but it did pique my intellectual curiosity about the places that remain hidden from everyday view. Blackwell’s conversational writing style, self-deprecating jokes, and sarcasm make this book an easy and fun read.
Travels with Charley in Search of America, by John Steinbeck
John Steinbeck’s famous travel book… that he most likely made up! Now commonly believed that Steinbeck fictionalized most of the adventures in his book, the writing is so enjoyable that it’s still a worthwhile read. Set in 1960, it tells of Steinbeck’s travels across the US with his dog Charley as they meet colorful, folksy characters along the way. This book is about that cool road trip we all want to take and the people we wish to meet. It’s such a fun read that you easily overlook the fact that many of the stories are embellished.
The Kindness of Strangers, by Mike McIntyre
Mike McIntyre set off to travel across America with nothing except the clothes on his back. His goal? To get from San Francisco to Cape Fear with no money, relying solely on the kindness of strangers. Along the way he encountered all kinds of people who shattered the cynical journalist inside him. Having hitchhiked in many countries and been in situations where I needed help from strangers, I found this book (re-released last year on its 20th anniversary) a nice reminder that people the world over are generally good, kind souls.
And, in case you want some non-travel books, these were good too:
- Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. — This biography of John D. Rockefeller by Ron Chernow is long and dense, but it gives you a wonderful insight into the richest man to ever live and how Standard Oil and his subsequent philanthropy changed the world.
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People — A classic book by Stephen Covey on how to organize your time and priorities to lead a better, more thoughtful life. I can’t recommend this book enough.
- Empire of Cotton: A Global History — Sven Beckert’s interesting and detailed look at the history of cotton and how it shaped the world.
So there you have it! Nine books to keep you well-read and inspired this summer! I’ll do a post like this every so often, as I think books are wonderful source of wanderlust (and personal growth).
If you are looking for other books to read, join the free community book club. Once a month, you’ll receive a list of five books that other community members and I have read and enjoyed. So, if you want reading suggestions, just sign up below. Once a month you’ll get a list of suggested books based on what I read and loved that month.
P.S. – If you have any book suggestions, leave them in the comments. I always need more to read.
P.P.S. – Skip John Waters’s Carsick. It’s a very dull read.