Traveling to Rome has been a bucket list destination of mine for as long as I can remember. My two best friends and I actually made it a reality. Two months in a city of classical architecture, literature, and decadent food paired with an endless abundance of wine. Let me tell you the nine books I couldn’t resist bringing with me.
As I sit to write this, looking out my bedroom’s wide-open windows to the terracotta buildings in my courtyard, I feel euphoric. This is also the place I hope to spend time reading, finding peace in the slowly chilling air and bright sun.
Sean’s Abroad Book Recommendations
My friend Sean brought 4 thrifted and beautifully worn books with her. I usually have no luck at the thrift store, but she was able to find some gems. I often gravitate to books or authors I have heard of, but I am inspired by her interest in books by the synopsis alone.
1. Peter Abelard by Helen Waddell
On the cover of Sean’s edition, Peter Abelard calls itself “one of the great love stories of all time”. Published in 1933, Waddell’s novel follows Peter and Heloise in 12th-century Paris. Though Waddell’s story is imaginary, the story of the two lovers is true. The book was inspired by Peter Abelard’s autobiography and the letters between himself and Heloise. It is a gutwrenching story of trying love against forces who do not wish them to be together. I am interested to learn if Sean agrees with the cover’s claim.
2. The Moon and Sixpence by W.Somerset Maugham
The Moon and Sixpence published in 1919 is another thrift find of Sean’s that is based on the life of a real person, in this case, Paul Gauguin. Maugham’s novel follows Charles Strickland as he uproots his life to pursue his dream of being a painter. This novel travels from London to Paris to finally Tahiti making it a great novel to have brought along on a trip. It is written as an episodic narrative, showing the somewhat chaotic form a big change can have on one’s life.
3. Sanctuary by William Faulkner
Though I have heard of the award-winning author William Faulkner, I have never heard of his novel Sanctuary. Set and published in 1931, Faulkner’s novel depicts the horrific rape and abduction of Temple Drake, a wealthy college student at the University of Mississippi. The novel exhibits true evil and I am curious to see how Faulkner depicts a woman enduring it. I am sure this will be a challenging read as a young woman just out of college, but I think I will be asking to borrow it after Sean is finished.
Click here for more about William Faulkner.
4. This Side of Paradise by F.Scott Fitzgerald
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise is the last of Sean’s thrifted novels. Published in 1920, it is Fitzgerald’s first novel. It follows Amory Blaine as he attends Princeton University and engages in literature and a variety of relationships with flappers. This is yet another of Fitzgerald’s novels that used his wife Zelda for influence; it is said that Fitzgerald actually rewrote this novel to base a character on her as she was a flapper herself. I have always enjoyed reading and learning about the 1920s flapper era so I know I will ask to borrow this one as well.
Click here for more about F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Cara’s Abroad Book Recommendations
My other friend, Cara, brought 2 non-fiction novels, stirring away from the fiction I have listed so far. Out of the three of us on this trip, Cara has the most scientifically driven brain and interests.
5. The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have by Mark Nepo
The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have is a transformative book on guidance and wisdom. This book contains daily meditation practices and poetic excerpts with guidance and advice based on the theme of the day. It only takes a few moments of your day and helps you get into the habit of meditation. It discusses the meaning of life, love, responsibility, and much more.
Whether read morning or night, it will leave a lasting effect. I read the excerpt for September 20th and it kept me pondering the concept of unconditional love all day. I feel that this may have been the most perfect and enriching read to have brought on our time abroad.
6. You Are the Universe: Discovering Your Cosmic Self and Why it Matters by Deepak Chopra, M.D. and Menas C. Kafatos, Ph.D.
You Are the Universe: Discovering Your Cosmic Self and Why it Matters is cohesion between science and spirituality. A book written by two largely published doctors, You Are the Universe: Discovering Your Cosmic Self and Why it Matters considers how we see the world versus how it actually is. With that knowledge in mind, it then considers how we use this knowledge to our advantage.
Though Cara has just started the New York Times Bestseller, she says it begins with quantum physics; a direction I did not think this book would take at its start. This book satisfies Cara’s excitement for scientific research and discovery along with her enjoyment of spirituality.
My Abroad Book Recommendations
Finally, here are the 3 books I have chosen to accompany me to Rome. I have started all of these novels in one way or another and wanted to allow this trip time for me to finish them.
7. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
This novel holds a dear place in my heart. Of the three books on my journey, The Song of Achilles is the one I have dedicated the most time to. I began it at the start of the summer and have returned to it over the last few months. It is not a necessarily hard book to get through, but there are many names to keep track of. As a lover of Greek mythology, I was ready for the challenge and loved every minute of it. As I am reading, I already know many of the characters and storylines.
Sadly, due to my studies of Latin as well as Greek and Roman history, I have been preparing myself for the ending of this novel. Miller’s story pulls at my heartstrings and alters a tale I have loved dearly into a story I love even more. It follows the relationship between Achilles and his friend and lover, Patroclus. Even though many readers of this novel are aware of its ending, it is addicting to consume and I can only prepare tissues as I near the end.
Click here for more about Madeline Miller.
8. Normal People by Sally Rooney
Sally Rooney’s novel Normal People has touched people all over the world. I tried my best not to watch the Hulu show before I read the book, but I gave into the temptation and was gutted from the inside out. I am not prepared to read as Connell and Marianne’s relationship unfolds on the page. It is aggressively emotional and relatable from the perspective of a woman fresh out of college.
It stresses the work needed to put into relationships and how in one-moment friendship can turn into much more. I have been itching to read this novel and compare it to the brilliant tv show. I am not sure when I’ll be ready to be emotionally drained again but I look forward to when I can start reading.
Click here for more about Normal People.
9. Diana: Her True Story — In Her Own Words by Andrew Morton
Perhaps a very fitting novel for this current time, Diana: Her True Story — In Her Own Words, has been on my reading list for quite a while. I have been deeply obsessed with the royal family and their dynamic since I was a child. Though I have kept myself very educated about Princess Di, when I learned she had her own story published I was not only proud of this incredible woman, but also eager to read the intricacies of her life before, after, and with Charles. If a member of the royal family publishes anything, I am there to read it, especially if they were cast out… Meghan Markle! I am waiting for your book.
I am excited for the journey these books will take my friends and I on as we live and flourish in Rome. I’m craving bookish moments as I read and drink an espresso at a cafe. Look out for more articles once I begin the books I brought!
Click here for more about Princess Diana!