Time to confess – I never had to read The Great Gatsby for school. I don’t know how I missed it! But I went back recently and caught up, and I was… surprised. It’s not that I think it’s under hyped, exactly, but it is under sold. We have infidelity! We have false identities! We have MANSLAUGHTER! I mean, things get wild. Especially for a book set on Long Island.
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I was not prepared for this. I know there are about a hundred thousand old sport jokes, but I was not ready for how incessantly he says it. I think someone else picks it up at one point. Where does this expression come from? Are you just really bad with names? I swear, what is your game here? No one else says this.
Maybe Just a Little
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It shows. Just a tiny bit. Just a little. Just a touch, like, in the way that every single thing you do is built around the one thing you wanted when you were young. It’s not a leather jacket and earring, but the pink suit was a pretty strong look. Who is this man, and why? Lots of things are explained about Gatsby, but that suit is not one of them.
He Did Watch People Die
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I mean, it’s all symbolism and deeply brilliant or whatever, but that sign was pretty random. I admit I don’t really know Queens very well, so maybe it’s just like that, but he may as well have been the then parish eyes. “Pwease help me, Tom! uwu’ – gets run over by Daisy. Too soon? Nah, no one was a very good person in that book, so see the above.
Not Awkward at All
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Nick puts up with a lot. Sam literally bails to get a room with his mistress and Nick is just sitting in the living room, probably smoking or holding a bunch of balloons or something. Who would hang around under those circumstances? Leave a note and go walk around the park or something. Just because nobody else has any boundaries doesn’t mean you can’t. Get it together.
And He’s Still Allowed to Have Very Nice Things
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Heaven’s sake, Gatsby, learn one single lesson, I beg of you. Daisy’s a flake and ALWAYS has been. Her husband sucks. She’s was never going to run away with you, and money wont change that. She sucks, man! I know she’s just an elaborate metaphor for the falseness and toxicity of extreme, thoughtless opulence, but use some critical thinking skills! Sigh.
It’s getting hotter… and so is our burning desire to run off to some beach and leave our real lives behind! Okay—realistically, most of us have some financial and scheduling limitations when it comes to our plans. But that’s no excuse for missing out on a great book. (Spoiler alert: there actually is no good excuse.) So whether your escape is already on the calendar or purely hypothetical, it’s time to pick a vacation destination. More importantly, it’s time to pick the perfect book for your travels.
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No matter how fantastic, we love when some elements of the books we read are grounded in reality (though, of course, they still need to be fantastically good). It’s why people actually go to Harry Potter World, even though there’s nothing there for them but B.O. and overpriced Cornish Pasties—trust me on that last one. I still recall going to Blackfriars Bridge after finishing Cassandra Clare‘s The Infernal Devicestrilogy and feeling myself overwhelmed with a specific, nerdy glee. It’s all real! I thought to myself. Well, except for the whole Shadowhunters and evil clockwork creatures part. But that last one probably wouldn’t make for a very good vacation.
So, without further ado, here are some incredible reads set in popular travel destinations around the world! Whether you’re going away or you wish you were, these books are sure to take you on the perfect journey.
Bill Bryson‘s hilarious Americana travelogue opens: “I come from Des Moines. Somebody had to.” After the death of his road-trip-loving father and decades spent living abroad in England, Bryson returns to his former home in search of the perfect American small town that may have just been childhood idealism all along. Readers will be transfixed by the hypnotic pull of the highway AND the frequently baffling people Bryson comes across as he hits every single continental state. Deliriously witty and frequently profound, Bryson leaps from calling out people in Mark Twain’s hometown for never actually reading Mark Twain to dropping truths like this one:
I mused for a few moments on the question of which was worse, to lead a life so boring that you are easily enchanted or a life so full of stimulus that you are easily bored. But then it occurred to me that musing is a pointless waste of anyone’s time, and instead I went off to see if I could find a Baby Ruth candy bar, a far more profitable exercise.
We know, we know! Why didn’t we recommend The Great Gatsby, right? Well, because it’s likely you’ve already read it or seen the movie. F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s less frequently read The Beautiful and the Damnedcaptures a marriage falling prey to alcohol and greed, a darkly atmospheric depiction of a city that never sleeps… but might sleep around. Since nightlife and ruinous ambition appear to be the core motifs of NYC, this is the perfect book to throw in your suitcase. Besides, ‘the beautiful and the damned’ is an excellent caption for you stumbling out of some club with someone who is doomed not to live up to your expectations. Listen, the 1920s are almost upon us, so if you were looking for the right time to drink too much and be confused about your love life… your time is coming.
Let’s get one thing straight—this book isn’t. If you want to go be gay and edgy in Europe (which I generally do), read this book before settling down for a relaxing disco nap to wake up at midnight to head to the club. One of the earliest books to feature lesbian characters, this intense gothic novel is hopefully just as melodramatic as your going out eye-shadow. The groundbreaking novel features characters outside the gender binary well before the time when this was commonplace—since it’s still not commonplace, emphasis on the well before. If you’re interested in the dark and seedy (as I generally also am) read this one before your Parisian fling, your intoxicated misadventures in a repurposed Berlin warehouse, your late-night wandering through Vienna’s former red-light district. Looking for grungy debauchery in interwar Europe? Right here.
Listen, you COULD watch the HBO adaptation… but that’s not gonna fit in your suitcase, and you’ve got a long plane ride ahead of you. This modern masterpiece is a rich story of two friends, Elena and Lila, growing up in a poor yet colorful neighborhood. The bildungsroman depicts the ways in which their fates diverge and how their lives parallel the turmoil of their country. A deeply immersive series, The Neapolitan Quartet addresses the transformation of both the girls and the country they live in with nuance and style. This heady dose cultural context will only improve your Italy trip, and it’s guaranteed to offset the displeasure of airplane food.
It would be kind of an understatement to call this novel sensual… so we’ll go out on a limb and call it full-on sexual. Full-on actually IS a more accurate description, given that there’s sex on horseback and, uh, a meal prepared with a ‘special’ ingredient. But this isn’t some pornographic romp across Mexico (even if that may be what your Spring Break is destined to become). Believe it or not, this international bestseller (and inspiration for a feature film) is an expansive tale of family life and forbidden love that chronicles the unlikely history of an all-female family in turn-of-the-century Mexico. Each chapter opens with a unique recipe to give the story a sense of place within one family’s legacy… a legacy defined frequently by bad luck and surprising turns of fate.
A book about a twenty-something living under questionable conditions, doing odd jobs, and not so much going broke as charging headlong into it? Relatable. If you’re on the younger side, chances are that even if you are traveling, you aren’t on your way to five-star accommodations. You might’ve worked some double shifts and second jobs to get on that plane, or maybe you’re hustling under the table to afford an extension on that trip. George Orwell feels you: he describes an eighteen-hour workday at a Parisian restaurant and sleeping on a bench to avoid paying rent (something that we do hope will not feature in your vacation). But it’s always a relief to recall that many among the literary greats got their start down in the gutter—especially if that’s where you are right now.
Eddy L. Harris, a black American travel writer, goes on a stunning search for his identity as he backpacks across the continent his ancestors called home. Or, not exactly his identity. He explains:
Because my skin is black you will say I traveled Africa to find the roots of my race. I did not—unless that race is the human race, for except in the color of my skin, I am not African. If I didn’t know it then, I know it now. I am a product of the culture that raised me. And yet Africa was suddenly like a magnet drawing me close, important in ways that I cannot explain, rising in my subconscious and inviting me.
This is not another voyeuristic analysis of a white author whose intent is to lambast the reader with relentless depictions of poverty. There are depictions of poverty, but as stricken as Harris is by the corruption and violence he encounters, he remains always enthralled by the beauty of the continent.
After his sister’s suicide, Andrew X. Pham bikes across Vietnam in search of the family he’s lost and the homeland he left behind. The memoir juxtaposes his travels with the war-torn memories of his childhood, his illegal journey in an open boat and the insincere conversion to Christianity in his new American home. This is more than a journey, although it’s certainly that as well—it’s an attempt to process a difficult past. The conflict between his new land and his native land, embodied in memories of the war, strikingly mirrors the conflict of his dual identity. Catfish and Mandalaoffers a unique look into Vietnam’s language, culture, geography, and history that’s both enormously meaningful and small enough to cram in that suitcase!
What’s the best thing to do at the beach? Swim? Tan? Wrong—it’s obviously to get into unsupervised teen shenanigans. Wealthy brothers Benji and Reggie Cooper are out of prep school for the summer and at their parents’ beach house… which is pretty much the only role their parents will play in their summer of love, hate, and bad new Coca Cola flavors. At school, Benji made the mistake of revealing his passion for horror movies and Dungeons & Dragons. But, if he can master all the right handshakes, he could spend summer as the coolest kid in the Hamptons. Colson Whitehead‘s Sag Harboris a bildungsroman for the African-American elite, for the “black boys with beach houses.” Plus, it’s loaded with 80s nostalgia.
Being an accomplished novelist traveling the world sounds like anyone’s dream—but Arthur Less didn’t dream it would happen like this. On the eve of his ex-boyfriend’s wedding, Less has a mid-life (okay, probably three-quarter-life) crisis. The response to his writing has been tepid. He is, he believes, “the first homosexual ever to grow old… that is, at least, how he feels at times like these.” And he is. Growing old, that is. Approaching his fiftieth birthday and the precipice of literary obscurity, Less accepts an invitation to an insignificant literary award ceremony that will take him around the world and deeper into the lyrical reflection of his own self-improvement. Let it be known that I read this novel on an airplane to another continent, and I can promise a rewarding experience. Warm-hearted and deeply human, this story is bursting with life and an obvious love of language. To quote the author, “just for the record: happiness is not bullshit.”
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Books can change the way you think about things; the right strand of words can strike something up inside of you. It’s not unlikely to feel uneasy, dizzy, overwhelmed, inspired, or full after reading the right essay, poem, story, or novel. (Words are, like, insanely cool.)
So, it’s no wonder so many musicians have drawn inspiration from within the pages of the books they read!
Stand up and jam out to these nine incredibly songs inspired by pieces of literature!
Although not their first foray into slipping literary references into their songs, The Cure held nothing back when they wrote this song based on the Penelope Farmer novel of the same name.
Charlotte sometimes crying for herself
Charlotte sometimes dreams a wall around herself
But it’s always with love
With so much love it looks like
Of Charlotte sometimes
So far away
Glass sealed and pretty
Bowie never ceased to draw inspiration from his favorite literary works (Diamond Dogs was influenced heavily by George Orwell’s 1984) and for a large part of his Ziggy Stardust phase he drew from Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange.
Hey man, Henry, don’t be unkind, go away
Hey man, I can’t take you this time, no way
Hey man, droogie don’t crash here
There’s only room for one and here she comes
Here she comes
Dylan has based much of his works off of F. Scott Fitzgerald and various poets, along with basing much of the lyricism on his Blood on the Tracks albums off of popular short stories by Anton Chekhov.
I lived with them on Montague Street
In a basement down the stairs
There was music in the cafes at night
And revolution in the air
Then he started into dealing with slaves
And something inside of him died
She had to sell everything she owned
And froze up inside
Listening to The Dandy Warhols is always a good time, and this 2016 song about the infamous J.D. Salinger novel of the same name is no exception!
Stop look around keep your head down and let the words stop it pass on by you
Words that are somewhere in told are cold if it’s not fun then it’s funny to show
With the advice like this what else could you want if a body need a body I know
I know none of you need too much encouragement to read, but these products will make the idea absolutely irresistible!
1. The Book Lover’s Journal
A physical Goodreads, this journal lets readers document every book they’ve read, what they thought about it, and what they want to read next. Inside this journal, readers can keep track of their To Be Read list, which books they’ve leant out and to who, and inspiration for future reading. This pocket-sized journal is perfect for carrying a bookish journey along with anyone anywhere.
Image Via Reading360
2.Personal Library Kit
Everyone has lent a book to someone and have totally forgotten who they sent it to and when. This personal library kit fixes all of reader’s lending woes. Similar to library books of days gone by, this personal library kit includes self adhesive pockets and checkout cards, a date stamp and ink pad, and a pencil. Now you will be able to trust your friends again with your books.
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3.Literary Cutting Board
Wishing you could add a little literary flair to your kitchen? Now you can with this Romeo and Julienne cutting board. The side of the solid beech wood cutting board looks like the spine of a Shakespeare classic, but with a twist.
Image Via Ebay
4.Book Cover Kindle Covers
Miss the look and feel of having a traditional book since switching over to Kindle? Now you can reclaim some of that feel back with these classic book cover Kindle cases. These cases feature book covers of authors such as Harper Lee and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Protective from the inside out, these covers feature a book plate finish inside with a gorgeous cover on the outside.
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5.Bookish Washi Tape
One of the millions of rolls of washi tape a bullet journal enthusiast is bound to have, this roll showcases your love for books. This tape gives a bit of literary flare to scrapbook pages, cards, interesting wrapping paper, and any other DIY project.
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6. Novel Teas
I like to unwind after a long day with a good book and a cup of tea. These novel teas feature literary quotes from authors all around the world. The perfect gift for book lovers and fans of the Victorian era of literature, you can now read them and steep!
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7.Book Spines Planter
Add some literary flair to your garden with this stacked book planter. The perfect bookish accessory, this charming planter looks like a stack of home and garden books.
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Envious of those gorgeous floor-to-ceiling bookshelves you see on Instagram? Now you can (kind of) obtain it with the bookshelf wallpaper. For only 50 ¢ a square foot, you can now transform any blank wall into a swoon-worthy wall of books.
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9. Literary Lunch Box
Bring your lust for literature to lunch with this literary lunch box. Disguised as a book, this bento-box style lunch box is perfect for any lunch. Complete with a inner sliding divider, this lunch box will keep your veggies crisp and your snacks separate.
Image Via Amazon
10. Book of Spells Kindle Cover
Wanting to bring a bit of Harry Potter with you wherever you go? These slim and lightweight Kindle cases add a bit of magic to reading on the go. Featuring a Book of Spells design, this case comes in six different colors to satisfy any reader.
I know everyone and their mother loves a good F. Scott Fitzgerald work, but have we all forgotten about his notable significant other, the powerhouse that was Zelda Fitzgerald. Her spunk, fiery personality, and artistic style made for an explosive pairing with Scott. A painter, novelist, and dancer was only the surface of what made up this beautiful socialite whose own demons played against her.
Just as the classic saying goes, behind every great man is an even greater woman. Here are ten quotes from the mystical Zelda.
1. “Nobody has ever measured, not even poets, how much the heart can hold.”
2. “I love you, even if there isn’t any me, or any love, or even any life. I love you.”
3. “I don’t suppose I really know you very well – but I know you smell like the delicious damp grass that grows near old walls and that your hands are beautiful opening out of your sleeves and that the back of your head is a mossy sheltered cave when there is trouble in the wind and that my cheek just fits the depression in your shoulder.”
4, “She quietly expected great things to happen to her, and no doubt that’s one of the reasons why they did.”
5 “All I want to be is very young always and very irresponsible and to feel that my life is my own-to live and be happy and die in my own way to please myself.”
6. “I wish we could spend July by the sea, browning ourselves and feeling water-weighted hair flow behind us from a dive. I wish our gravest concerns were the summer gnats. I wish we were hungry for hot dogs and dopes, and it would be nice to smell the starch of summer linens and the faint odor of talc in blistering summer bath houses … We could lie in long citoneuse beams of the five o’clock sun on the plage at Juan-les-Pins and hear the sound of the drum and piano being scooped out to sea by the waves.”
7. “We grew up founding our dreams on the infinite promise of American advertising. I still believe that one can learn to play the piano by mail and that mud will give you a perfect complexion.”
8. “I am really only myself when I’m somebody else whom I have endowed with these wonderful qualities from my imagination.”
9. “She refused to be bored chiefly because she wasn’t boring.”
10. “My dear, I think of you always and at night I build myself a warm nest of things I remember and float in your sweetness till morning.”
11. “And only weaklings…who lack courage and the power to feel they’re right when the whole world says they’re wrong, ever lose.”