The Best Travel Books of Summer 2017
With summer well underway and the amount of beach days slowly dwindling, there’s no better time to crack open this season’s best literary newcomers. Even if you can’t squeeze a vacation in with the few remaining days, this reading list will do the job of whisking you away and make you feel as if you’ve traveled long and far. From conquering fears of the ocean deep to unmasking with the inner lives of India’s nouveau-riche, there’s a story for every type of traveler. For my 2016 list, click here.
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IF YOU ARE INTO THE IDEA OF “MAKING IT”, TRY… THE WINDFALL BY DIKSHA BASU
It’s true what they say: “more money, more problems.” From new kid on the block Diksha Basu comes the heartwarming comedy of a lower middle-class Delhi couple who are bestowed with an unexpected fortune. They quickly trade in their shabby lifestyles for the luxuries of the upper crust, but soon realize that their newfound luck might not be so lucky after all. While dealing with the unforeseen consequences of their new economonic status on their marriage and friendships, the couple’s only son studying in New York is also having a difficult time navigating his place as an Indian in the globalized world with a forbidden love affair.
IF YOU’RE A FAN OF GASTROTOURISM, TRY… GRAPE, OLIVE, PIG: DEEP TRAVELS THROUGH SPAIN’S FOOD CULTURE BY MATT GOULDING
This summer, I discovered I’ll be headed on my first all-expenses paid trip to Barcelona with my new job. To do some research, I’m resorting to Grape, Olive, and Pig, the second title in an immersive new genre of food and travel writing cooked up Roads & Kingdoms co-founder Matt Goulding. This 368-page book is chockful of arresting photographs and meticulous writing that bring to life the tastes and aromas of Spain: from the sparkling wines of Basque country to the honeyed pastries of Salamanca. For anyone who has reduced Spanish cuisine to the mere trappings of paella and tapas, you’ll have a fresh new appreciation of this much overlooked Western European fare.
IF YOU’RE AFRAID OF WHAT’S LURKING UNDERNEATH, TRY… THE SHARK CLUB BY ANN KIDD TAYLOR
One fateful Florida day, young Maeve Donnelly experiences two things that will change the course of her life forever. First, she gets kissed by her crush Daniel, and then… gets bitten by a shark. The unexpected happens: instead of being completely traumatized, the incident fuels a lifelong obsession with the sea. Years later, now a world-renowned marine biologist, she returns home to the sandy shores of Florida where she encounters Daniel, her first love… but with her new romance, Nicholas, in tow. Forget the romance. Ann Kidd Taylor’s decadent descriptions of what lies beneath the water’s surface is what you’ll fall in love with.
IF YOU’RE INTO LEARNING ABOUT YOUR FAMILY HISTORY, TRY… THE BEST WE COULD DO: AN ILLUSTRATED MEMOIR BY THI BUI
Thi Bui’s searing debut captures the fears and the wistfulness of the immigrant experience so poignantly, you will feel your heart ache and swell throughout the sojourn. Across the pages, Bui recounts a life marred by loss as boat people having escaped the Fall of Saigon. In muted black and red inkwash, she expresses the pain of being reared by a hardened father and a loving, but distant, mother, tracing back through a series of unfortunate events that shaped her parents’ present day realities.
IF YOU’RE PRONE TO IMAGINING THE WORST CASE SCENARIO, TRY… DO NOT BECOME ALARMED BY MAILE MELOY
This is every vacationing parents’ worst nightmare come true. Thirtysomething cousins Liv and Nora plan a Central American family fun holiday for their spouses and young children. But their hopes for a dream vacation are soon destroyed when the kids disappear. While the adults succumb to despair and turn on one another, their children rely on newly discovered facilities in a desperate fight to stay alive. Suspenseful and fastpaced, the story hones in on how fragile and misplaced the American sense of security truly is.
IF YOU’RE A FAN OF PLOT TWISTS, TRY… BEAUTIFUL ANIMALS BY LAWRENCE OSBORNE
Bangkok-based travel writer Lawrence Osborne is back with another conversation on morality set against the backdrop of a Christmas faraway destination. His previous books have been set in Morocco, Cambodia, and France. The newest psychological thriller takes place on a sultry Greek island where two vacationing girls, Naomi and Samantha, discover a handsome stranger on the brink of death during their hike through the hills of Hydra. Faoud, a migrant from Syria and a casualty of the war ravaging his homeland, are taken in by the two innocent girls, but the well-meaning friends set into motion a cataclysmic chain of events.
IF BACKPACKING AROUND INDIA IS ON YOUR BUCKET LIST, TRY… THE MINISTRY OF UTMOST HAPPINESS BY ARUNDHATI ROY
Twenty years after her bestselling debut The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy has returned with a sophomore triumph. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is a tender portrait of India, evinced by endearing characters across time and space. Not restricted to one location, Roy’s words will carry you across the Indian subcontinent where you will encounter army intelligence officers and hijras (India’s “third-sex”), children loved, and children lost. It’s a rich tapestry of the human experience woven together in one achingly hopeful love story.
IF YOU ARE FASCINATED BY THE SECRETS OF “CLOSED OFF” COUNTRIES, TRY… THE ACCUSATION: STORIES FROM INSIDE NORTH KOREA BY BANDI
Under the pseduonym “Bandi”, meaning Firefly, the author bravely pens fictional tales inspired by real world accounts under the North Korean dictatorship. Set during the Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il regimes, each of the seven short stories expose the brutality of the Communist nation upon the liberties of its people. From former war heroes to the citizens of the elite, at the heart of the every story is the terrible truth that no one is free from oppression, no matter their station. It is said that these manuscripts were smuggled on 750 sheets of paper for over eight years into South Korea. The author is believed to be still living in North Korea.
IF YOU LOVE A GOOD MYSTERY, TRY… SEANCE INFERNALE BY JONATHAN SKARITON
This might not be the typical “beach read” but if you’re a thrill seeker, the gritty, graphic writing of newcomer Skariton should keep you occupied. The historical fiction revolves around inventor Augustin Sekuler, who en route to Paris in 1890 to unveil his invention of the world’s first motion picture camera, vanished into thin air. The protagonist Alex Whitman, a movie memorabilia dealer, falls into a rabbit hole of madness and mayhem on his hunt for the mythical “Séance Infernale,” believed to be the first film ever made.
IF YOU HAVE AN AFFINITY FOR GETTING LOST, TRY… WATCH ME DISAPPEAR BY JANELLE BROWN
Putting a fresh spin on the overplayed-yet-irresistible Gone Girl plot, Watch Me Disappear centers around the tragic loss of Billie Flanagan, a beloved mother of two gone astray on a solo hike. The family she leaves behind struggles to cope: her daughter Olive retreats into herself, while her son Jonathan drowns his sorrows in cheap booze. But a year after their mother’s mysterious disappearance, Olive has a vision of her mother still very much alive, launching a search into her tumultuous past for answers of her present-day whereabouts.
IF YOU’RE FEELING A BIT LONELY, TRY… MEN WITHOUT WOMEN: STORIES BY HARUKI MURAKAMI
Surreal storyteller Haruki Murakami deconstructs the abstraction that is loneliness through seven short fictional tales centered around the inner worlds of men. Even though each piece is meant to stand alone, he is able to thread together his collection through the subtle repetiton, demonstrating that even in loneliness, there exists interconnectedness. For existentialists, this book will surely do you in as you contemplate the dichotomies of the universe: man versus woman, inner self versus outer self, and even the tug and pull of our personal microcosms against the external macrocosm.
IF YOU’RE BLUE ABOUT THE QUESTIONABLE STATE OF CUBAN TRAVEL, TRY… HAVANA: A SUBTROPICAL DELIRIUM BY MARK KURLANSKY
For the majority of my lifetime, Cuba has been off-limits to Americans thanks to decades’ worth of geopolitical tensions. President Barack Obama finally lifted the travel ban back in 2015, but it was recently overturned by the current Trump Administration. I’m finding solace from the tragic news through this gorgeous history of Havana, which chronicles 500 years of Caribbean capital’s history and unique identity influenced by different facets of its culture (musical, culinary, political) and external players like the Spanish, Russians, Africans, and Americans.
TWO LUCKY READERS WILL RECEIVE ANY BOOK OF THEIR CHOICE OFF THIS READING LIST. CONTEST ENDS FRIDAY, AUGUST 12TH AT midnight EST. WINNER TO BE ANNOUNCED THE FOLLOWING SATURDAY. ENTER NOW!
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