Here are the ten best travel books of 2016 according to The Next Somewhere
A recent discovery of an Icelandic holiday tradition where books are gifted to one another on Christmas Eve prompted me to put together a reading list for those wanting to adopt this Scandinavian tradition. More on this festive exchange, apparently the cherished custom causes what is known as a Jolabokaflod, or “Christmas Book Flood,” due to the overwhelming number of books purchased between September and December in a lead-up to Christmas. Reading is one of my most cherished pastimes and for those looking for a quick getaway, there’s nothing simpler than picking up a book and getting lost. Here are a list of travel books that I read and/or discovered this year that I’d like to share with you all. Happy reading (and an ever happier holiday season!!!)
THE GEOGRAPHY OF GENIUS BY ERIC WEINER
Of all the books that were released this year, none had me more excited than this title. The Geography of Genius is the follow-up to Eric Weiner’s 2008 debut, The Geography of Bliss. In The Geography of Bliss, the former NPR correspondent’s dissatisfaction with life leads him on a personal odyssey around the world to find out what makes people happy. In the same vein, The Geography of Genius is another worldly sojourn, but this time charting genius over time. From the Athens of antiquity to Florence’s Rinascimento, the great artistic era known as the Renaissance, Weiner unpacks the origins of creative genius in concentrated spaces. [Status] currently reading.
WHERE THE DEAD PAUSE AND THE JAPANESE SAY GOODBYE BY MARIE MUTSUKI MOCKETT
Five years have passed since my dad’s unexpected passing and only now do I find myself really trying to understand the depths of my grief. As I searched for answers, I cam across this book centered around a woman dealing with a profound loss of life. The author recounts the sorrows of being unable to bury her grandfather’s bones in the aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor explosion, while simultaneously grappling with the unexpected death of her father. This propels her on a journey about mortality and the afterlife, with Japan as the framework for this inquisition. [Status] currently reading.
BORN A CRIME: STORIES FROM A SOUTH AFRICAN CHILDHOOD BY TREVOR NOAH
I blame my current obsession with comedian Trevor Noah’s charm and wit for this addition to the list. I was introduced to my man crush by way of his 2013 “African American” stand up special (watch full show here) where he touches upon how his desire for acceptance as a mixed race child leads him to the USA. His new memoir, just released earlier this month and part of my holiday gift guide, focuses mainly on his complicated childhood in apartheid South Africa, being born to a white Swiss father and black Xhosa mother in a time when interracial couplings were a crime to the state. Beneath Noah’s sharp wit and candor is a story about finding one’s place in the world, a quest for belonging that all of us are bound to relate to. [Status] currently reading.
COOK KOREAN! A COMIC BOOK WITH RECIPES BY ROBIN HA
Accompanying my newfound enthusiasm for cooking is a newfound enthusiasm for cookbooks. A longtime lover of graphic novels, this cookbook dispatches its instructions through comics. And it’s also about Korean food, a cuisine I am especially fond of given my brief stint as an English teacher in Korea. With the ingredients and recipes of sixty traditional dishes all drawn out (literally!) you’ll become a kimchi master in no time. [Status] my sister just bought me this for Christmas! Thanks Mira! 😍
THE YOGA OF MAX’S DISCONTENT BY KARAN BAJAJ
This generation seems to be in a state of spiritual uprising. We continue to turn more and more inward for answers instead of listening to the antiquated scriptures of established religions. In this tale of transcendence, a disenchanted American travels to farthest reaches India on a quest for enlightenment. But it’s not your usual hippy-dippy trash; Max’s yearning to overcome his suffering requires him to test the limits of not only the mind, but the body and the soul. [Status] in queue.
LITTLE PRINCES BY CONOR GRENNAN
A personal favorite, Little Princes is an inspiring tale about one man’s determination to reunite the broken families of Nepal. I read this one right after a three-week visit to Nepal, which involved ten days volunteering at a homestay. It provided a great deal of context and reflection for me, while further proving the resilience of the Nepalese, which I had gotten a small preview of when visiting Nepal post-earthquake. If you need something to revive your belief in the goodness of humankind, check this out at your local library right now . [Status] Read. For longer review, click here.
ATLAS OBSCURA BY JOSHUA FOER, DYLAN THURAS, AND ELLA MORTON
Atlas Obscura, one of the year’s biggest bestsellers, is an exploration into the bizarre. I love getting off-the-grid but not in the traditional sense of trekking into the wild. This is more of an excursion into the curious, a homage to 700 of this planet’s wondrous oddities. From the manmade to the natural, every remarkable peculiarity covered in this book will astonish even the most intrepid of spirits. [Status] my brother just bought me this for Christmas! Thanks Christian! 😍
ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE BY ANTHONY DOERR
The winner of 2015 Pulitzer Prize in the fiction category, All The Light We Cannot See is a haunting World War II novel about a blind French girl whose destiny collides with that of a young German boy. The language is vividly intricate, so much so that it resembles poetry, and the magnitude of human emotion encapsulated in the tome’s 544 pages is enough to penetrate deep into the soul long after the words are read. [Status] Read.
EATING VIET NAM: DISPATCHES FROM A BLUE PLASTIC TABLE BY GRAHAM HOLLIDAY
Graham Holliday of the Noodle Pie fame is probably one of the most recognized bloggers-turned-authors. In his debut writing effort, Hollidays takes us on a journey through the backstreets of Hanoi and Saigon for a taste of Vietnam’s finest, yet overlooked, culinary displays. The gastronomic chronicles of Holliday are full of the strange and the sublime and offer insight into the culture most fail to recognize. I used this book as a bible for my own adventurous eating in Vietnam and it has yet to fail me. [Status] Read. For longer review, click here.
THE EXPATRIATES BY JANICE Y.K. LEE
An expatriate myself, I could really understand the superficiality of the storyline, which is also used as device to explore the nuances of expatriation. This drama revolves around the lives of three despairing American women living in modern-day Hong Kong and how their personal tragedies force their paths to converge. With every chapter belonging to a single character, the novel paints an accurate portrait of the isolation those living abroad face, even in a community so closely intertwined and insular. [Status] Read. For longer review, click here.
If you have any books to suggest, let me know in the comments below! I’ll also be starting a travel book club starting on January 5th! xoxo Izzy
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