A good book on vacation is a wonderful pleasure; a good book related to you travel destination is an even greater pleasure. Here are some suggested books for some popular vacation spots around the world (this the first of two blogs on great books visit the next blog):
Dublin - A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
This sensitive portrayal of a young man, who considers entering the priesthood but ultimately chooses the artistic life, is a page turner in its quiet, but earnest way. With autobiographical echoes of Joyce’s own life, the protagonist, Stephen Dedalus (so named after the mythical, Daedalus, a skilled artist and craftsman) grows, suffers, and “sins” his way to his ultimate, artistic fate. Much of the novel is set in Dublin, famous for its various literary figures and other colorful characters. Some passages of the book are heartbreakingly lyrical, and one can see clearly how Joyce and Dedalus are likely one when Dedalus proclaims at the end of the book, “I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.” To many, Joyce is the conscience of Ireland and Dublin.
Istanbul – The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk
Just as Joyce is to many “the uncreated conscience” of Ireland and Dublin, so Orhan Pamuk is “the uncreated conscience” of Istanbul and Turkey. Deserving winner of the Nobel Prize, Pamuk sensitively weaves a passionate love story in and out of the teeming and varied streets of Istanbul throughout “The Museum of Innocence.”
Kemal, though engaged to Sibel, falls in love and longs for Fϋsun, a distant relative. While pining for Fϋsun, Kemal comforts himself by wandering through Istanbul taking in the sites, smells, political atmosphere and many moods of the city. In addition to his wandering, Kemal begins collecting and pilfering objects related to Fϋsun:
As the objects accumulated, so did the manifest intensity of my love. Sometimes I
Would see them not as mementos of the blissful hours but as the tangible precious
debris of the storm raging in my soul.
Florence - Dante’s Inferno
A raging in the soul of another sort is found in Dante’s Inferno. The first part of Dante’s, The Divine Comedy, Inferno chronicles Dante’s journey through hell next to his guide and teacher, Virgil. A wonderful blend of the religious and secular, Inferno details various sins, sinners, and their punishments. As terrifying as any horror film of current imaginations, Inferno describes such dreadful scenes in hell as two sinners buried in the ground close together with only their heads sticking out; one head chews on the head in front of him. For some reason, this was especially terrifying to me, and I had to stop reading for a bit; in fact, on my way to Italy, a woman on the plane mentioned that she had tried to get through Inferno several times, and was unable to finish it.
So why should you read it in Florence? Because not only is it a canonical work, but it also speaks to who Dante was and what was going on in fourteenth-century Florence. As brilliant as Dante was, he also managed to make some enemies and was later exiled from Florence. One of the city’s favorite sons today, his portrait hangs in the famous Il Duomo. Il Duomo itself served as both a religious and secular center of sorts reportedly because of sizable secular funds used to build it.
New York City – By Nightfall - Michael Cunningham
No one portrays sophisticated New Yorkers better than Michael Cunningham. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for The Hours, Cunningham turns his attention to a modern, New York couple’s marriage and extended family. Peter and Rebecca Harris have a comfortable life; Peter is an art dealer, and Rebecca, an editor. They seem to have it all—careers in the arts that pay! But something haunts Peter; he questions his own authenticity; he questions his marriage, and he ends up questioning his sexuality. It is like Cunningham to play with the blurred lines of human sexuality—in this sense, he is a very honest writer.
Rebecca’s younger brother, “Mizzy” comes for a visit. A college dropout, former drug addict, and free spirit, Mizzy challenges Peter’s belief in himself. In part a commentary on the commodification of art, this novel will not only give you a sense of the complicated New Yorker, but also spotlight the tragedy of modern, “successful,” American living.
Want to Travel and Read a Great Book?
Are you looking to visit one of the cities listed above? International Vacation Home Exchange can help. See these luxury home exchanges, see how it works and read testimonials.
Come back in a couple days, we'll have more great travel books to share with you - read it here.
Thanks to travel writer Sona Schmidt-Harris – Follow her on Twitter @Sonag2000