Tag: world travel

Time for summer vacation... and your next book!

The Best Summer Vacation Locations From Your Favorite Books!

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.


Image result for reading on an airplane

Gif Via Real Simple


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 Devices trilogy 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.


1. The Lost Continent – Road Trip


'The Lost Continent' by Bill Bryson



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.


2. The Beautiful and the Damned – NYC


'The Beautiful and the Damned' F Scott Fitzgerald



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 Damned captures 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.


3. Nightwood – Paris, Berlin, Vienna


'Nightwood' Djuna Barnes



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.


4. My Brilliant Friend – Northern Italy, Coastal Islands


'My Brilliant Friend'



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.


5. Like Water for Chocolate – Mexico


'Like Water for Chocolate' Laura Esquivel



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.


6. Down and Out in Paris and London – Paris, London


'Down and Out in Paris and London' George Orwell



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.


7. Native Stranger: A Black American’s Journey Into the Heart of Africa – Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, South Africa


'Native Stranger: a Black American's Journey Into the Heart of Africa' Eddy Harris



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.


8. Catfish and Mandala: A Two-WheEled Voyage Through the Landscape of Vietnam – Mexico, Japan, Vietnam 

'Catfish and Mandala' Andrew X Pham



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 Mandala offers a unique look into Vietnam’s language, culture, geography, and history that’s both enormously meaningful and small enough to cram in that suitcase!


9. Sag Harbor – Long Island, The beach


'Sag Harbor' Colson Whitehead



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 Harbor is a bildungsroman for the African-American elite, for the “black boys with beach houses.” Plus, it’s loaded with 80s nostalgia.


10. Less – Berlin, Morocco, India, Paris, Kyoto


'Less: A Novel' Andrew Sean Greer



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.”

(It’s not.)


All In-Text Images Via Amazon.
Featured Image Via RealSimple.




8 Real Literary Locations You’ve Read About in Novels!

I know it’s the end of summer vacation, yet I still want to share this combo of traveling and literature with you, maybe for your next vacation plans. Here are eight beautiful places that have been set in the world of words!




Thanks to Tim Pile’s recommendation, plus one of my pocket list, here’s the eight literary books:

  • Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (1994) by Louis de Bernieres
  • The Great Gatsby (1925) by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • River of Time (1995) by Jon Swain
  • Our Man in Havana (1958) by Graham Greene 
  • Tess of the D’Urbervilles (1891) by Thomas Hardy
  • Out of Africa (1937) by Karen Blixen
  • The God of Small Things (1997) by Arundhati Roy
  • The Stolen Bicycle (2017) by Wu Ming-yi






Images Via Amazon, Amazon UK, lickr.comText Book Centreand The Tough Guy Book Club



Have read these yet? Let’s see the pictures first!



1. Kefalonia in Captain Corelli’s Mandolin


Image Via scmp



The Greek Island of Kefalonia is the soul in both Bernieres’ novel and 2001 cinema. In the story, a young officer came to the island with the Italian army and fell in love with a local doctor’s daughter. However, the woman he thinks is the one is already engaged to someone else. In the real word, the beaches on the island are incredibly beautiful without much contamination of tourism.



2. The Oheka Castle in The Great Gatsby


Image Via scmp



In Gatsby’s world, there’s a mansion called West Egg where Gatsby lives in search of his lost love of Daisy. Though it’s a fictional place, there’s a spot which inspired Fitzgerald in the real world. Located in Long Island, New York, the Oheka Castle is a place where literary New Yorkers should visit.



3. The Mekong River in River of Time


Image Via scmp



Jon Swain’s memoir describes the fall of Phnom Penh to the Khmer Rouge in 1975. The Mekong River is the soul in Vietnam. Sampans in the picture allow visitors to explore the beauty of the Mekong.



4. The Havana streets in Our Man in Havana


Image Via scmp


It’s a story about a vacuum cleaner salesman living in Havana, Cuba, who agrees to moonlight as a secret agent and recruit local spies for the British government. If you visit the streets in Havana, you can jump directly into the novel as Tim Pile suggests because the view has never changed.



5. Dorest inTess of the D’Urbervilles


Image Via scmp



One of the most famous villages for every English majors: Dorest in England’s southwest aka Hardy Country. It’s a beautiful village with “thatched cottages, grand manor houses, rolling hills and dramatic seascapes.”



6. Kenya’s Malindi beach in Out of Africa


Image Via Rhino Africa Blog


British East Africa, or Kenya, has one of the most beautiful beaches in the world!!! Look at the transparent water! You can swim as if you’re in the center of the world and think of the story of Karen Blixen.



7. Kerala in The God of Small Things


Image Via scmp



Kerala is always a mysteriously attractive place to visit. In the jungle, would you find your god of small things?



8. Taipei in The Stolen Bicycle


Image Via Travel Wire Asia


Longlisted in 2018 for Man Booker’s International novel, Wu’s The Stolen Bicycle tells of stories interweaved in this beautiful island called Taiwan. The capital Taipei is a wonderful place to visit. You can find unbelievably delicious food here! 




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Featured Image Via ThurstonTalk

Cat in bookshop

7 Perfect Independent Bookstores from Across the Globe

If there’s one thing I love more than books it’s bookstores. And, if there’s one thing I love more than bookstores, it’s independent bookstores. Independent bookstores act as a sort of home. They’re the places you go when you want to get out of the house, but you also still want to sort of be alone.


And this is why it’s so very vital that we stand by, support, and shop at our independent bookstores. Our independent bookstores are small business that are constantly being threatened by the bigger, fortune 500 corporations; it’s up to us to keep ensuring that the corporations don’t win and that the independent stores are able to stay in business.


So, pop into your local indie bookshop this week and pick up that novel you’ve been dying to read!


And, check out these seven super-rad independent bookstores from all across the globe; who knows, maybe you’ll see your local shop on the list?


Housing Works – NYC


Housing Works

Image Via Boo York City


Housing Works is a beautiful place because, on top of offering every book under the sun within their shop, they are also an organization that helps provide housing, healthcare, and treatment to those affected with HIV/AIDS. (You can also rent out the bookstore for your wedding!)


Daunt Books – London


Daunt Books

Image Via Voyage Collective

This breathtaking shop opened in 1990 with one objective in mind; organize books by country rather than genre, so the reader can walk through the shop all the while traveling the world.


Women & Children First – Chicago


Women & Children First

Image Via Afar


This friendly feminist bookshop opened in 1979 and specializes in books by female-identifying and LGBTQ+ authors in all forms. They are one of the largest feminist bookstores in the world, containing more than 30,000 books!


The Book Lounge – Cape Town, South Africa


The Book Lounge

Image Via Your Local Book Shelf


This incredible little shop opened in 2007 and contains the most unique, eclectic selection of books. They also host story time every Saturday morning!


Leaping Windows – Mumbai, India


Leaping Windows

Image Via Homegrown


Leaping Windows was born of the idea to connect comic book lovers with all the books their hearts could possibly desire. They believe in the connection books cause between fellow readers, the power of imagination, and the ability to create a space for all to feel welcome.


Type Books – Toronto, Ontario


Type Books

Image Via Type Books


This adorable little shop believes in the written word, hosts events for authors and artists, and offers a wide variety of books under all genres. Check out their insanely beautifully curated window displays!


Flow Books – Hong Kong


Flow Books

Image via Hong Kong Free Press


This book shop opened in 1997 and, in the past twenty-one years, have seen more than half-a-million books flow through! 







Featured Image via The Book Man


Writers In a New York Airport are Writing Stories For Flyers

When I think of reading in airports I think of Dan Brown novels, the latest thriller book, and very limited options when it comes to deciding what to pickup at the terminal’s book and magazine shop. Writers Gideon Jacobs and Lexie Smith are about to change all of that. 


The two writers set up shop at what used to be a Hudson News kiosk in Terminal A of New York’s La Guardia Airport, offering flyers a writing nook stacked with books, decorated with wooden furniture and rugs, and adorned with a vintage typewriter. In their nooks, they’re writing short stories for fliers.


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Image Via The New York Times


The writing initiative, named Landing Pages, is a part of a residency program by the Queens Council on the Arts and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Jacobs and Smith are just two out of many artists who have taken up residency at the terminal, taking over for three months to experiment and share their mediums. 


To receive a story from the authors, passengers just have to provide their flight number and contact information. Jacobs and Smith then go to work while passengers are in the air, texting them their completed stories before they arrive at their destination. 


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Image Via Hyperallergic


Together, the duo write about six stories a day with a goal of completing fifty by the end of June. With the end goal in mind, they plan on compiling all the stories they’ve written and self-publish them in an anthology. Until then, all the stories they’ve written so far are available to read online


Featured Image Via The New York Post. 


11 Literary Festivals to Attend and Rejoice with Fellow Bookworms

Sleep, eat and breathe literature by attending these eleven literary festivals around the world. Whether you are a public speaker, an author or just someone with a passion for anything literary, these festivals are the perfect opportunity to hang out with fellow literati (bookworms) and immerse yourself in discussions, debates, workshops and other cultural and arts events that will blow your mind.


1. Shanghai International Literary Festival, China.


Having grown from small beginnings, this is now China’s leading English language literary festival, at which all genres are celebrated and discussed in order to create a taste for the current literary landscape. Each March, you can attend literary lunches, panel discussions, workshops, live events and readings, as well as watch some of the world’s greatest writers in conversation with one another. With a focus on fiction, literary non-fiction, poetry and children’s writing, activities also include interactive forums and sessions in other languages such as Mandarin, Italian and French, including sessions with well-known writers and Man Booker Prize winners. 




Image Via SmartShanghai


2. Kosmopolis, The Amplified Literature Fest, Barcelona, Catalonia.


Born in March 2002, Kosmopolis showcases the wild literary scene of Barcelona right from its heart at the Center de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona in the beautiful El Raval neighbourhood. Literary history runs deep through this region of Spain, which is why many of its most successful publishing houses are located here today. Barcelona’s literary brand of Gothic mystique and historical weightiness has, for eons, produced some of the best works of romance, love, betrayal, adventure, friendship, familial conflict and mystery. The city feeds the imaginations of emerging writers and those who are just passing through. Around 9,000 people attended the festival this past March and Festival director Juan Insua explained that “the goal is to think of literature as a big house with many doors; the ‘amplified’ concept relates to the fact that you can enter from a television series, a video game, a graphic novel or scientific developments”.



Image Via Culture 360


3. Hay Festival, Hay-on-Wye, United Kingdom.



Image Via WeekendNotes


Hay-on-Wye is considered to be the Glastonbury of book festivals, and England’s most well-known. It began in 1988 in the small English-Welsh border town of Hay-on-Wye and has since gained a powerful reputation playing host to a rich line up of novelists, poets, dramatists, biographers, historians, artists, chefs and many more influential creatives each year around the end of May. People in attendance can kick off the Summer either by camping in some of the U.K.s most beautiful stretch of countryside or stay in one of the book-town’s many B&Bs. To top it all off, this town is also home to Hay castle, a medieval fortification built  in the 16th century, which has an outdoor public library wrapping around the castle walls.


4. Small Wonder, Charleston, Sussex, United Kingdom.


Small WOnder

Image Via Bede’s


Small Wonder is another prime example of book festivals which thrive when hosted in small, pretty towns. Ledbury hosts this ten day long festival with a heavy focus on short story and poetry writers. With an international line-up to enjoy, many days are spent at the fabled setting of Charleston House, the previous home of Victoria Bell and Duncan Grant reading, listening and making friends with fellow book lovers who are all there to share the properties significant literary heritage and the voices that travel to it each year.


5. Brooklyn Book Festival, Downtown Brooklyn, New York, United States.



Image Via LA Now


Originally established to shine the spotlight on Brooklyn’s many homegrown writers, today the BKBF has become an international literary event and is NYC’s largest free literary festival. With hundreds of book-related events for new and emerging authors to showcase their work, a lively children’s day and a festival day, the outdoor marketplace which hosts it creates a hip, urban vibe which thousands of people visit each year to hear the “Brooklyn voice.”


6. Sydney Book Festival, Australia.



Image Via City of Tongues

Beginning in 1997, this festival has expanded, now drawing a crowd of 80,000 people each year, in mid to late March. The festival involves 400 participants and presents over 300 events in renovated piers in Walsh Bay, Sydney. 



7. Berlin Book Festival, Mitte, Berlin, Germany.



Image Via Exberliner.com


Berlin is internationally recognised as a lively cultural hotspot. Its festival of literature boasts a program in which people can attend a multitude of events with a contemporary focus, such as “reflections” in which authors, journalists and international experts from various specialist areas will all be voicing their opinions in discussions that takes on current political, social and cultural topics. ‘Science and the Humanities’ is also on the list in which scientific insights, approaches and potential solutions are discussed. Other programs include ‘Literatures of the World’, ‘Speak’, ‘Memory’ and ‘Specials’ which foregrounds new German voices. All texts presented at this festival are done so in their mother tongue, yet with presenters and translators available, discussions between presenter, author and even audience are all made possible.


8. Zee Jaipur Literature Festival, India.



Image Via Livemint.com


This is the largest free festival in the world. Last year, 350,000 people attended in the Northern Indian city of Jaipur. Sanjoy Roy, founder of Teamwork Arts, the festival’s organizer says “This kind of energy is difficult to reproduce because it comes from the young participants and the array of conversation on topics from cookery to math, ancient literature to modern writing. It is all about the discovery of new voices.” As the tally of literary festivals across India continues to rise, the JLF remains “magnificent and chaotic and marvellous.”


9. Miami Book Fair, Florida, United States. 



Image Via Miamiallround


The Miami Book Fair has gained quite the reputation for itself as being more of a “literary party” than anything else. This fair takes place over the course of eight days at the Watson Campus at Miami-Dade College every year in November. 250,000 people on average attend. Complete with live music and delicious food vendors, there is also a great selection of new and used books on sale and an engaging panel discussion.


10. World Voices Festival of International Literature, New York, United States. 




PEN World Voices is a week-long literary festival in New York City. The Festival was founded by Esther Allen and Michael Roberts under then PEN President Salman Rushdie. The Festival is composed of programs, readings, conversations, and debates that showcase international literature and new writers. It is produced by PEN America, a nonprofit organization that works to advance literature, promote free expression, and foster international literary fellowship. It runs for a week in April and has a focus on human rights. 


11. Wordstock, Portland, Oregon, United States



Image Via Literary Arts


In November each year, the literary arts annual celebration of books is where you can pick up information about MFA programs and writing classes, get book recommendations from your favourite authors and and attend events and talks such as ‘Border Crossing: Poetry and Place’ and ‘If You Can Make it Here: Art and Artists in New York City.’


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