You Should Read These Books Before You Travel To [Insert Country Here]

Friday, April 29, 2011

Before I head off on a trip, I love to read a few books and watch movies about that country. Sometimes it’s helpful, as was the case in reading Marquez before I traveled to Colombia, sometimes it leads to false expectations (are you telling me I came all way here to Barcelona and Penelope Cruz is not planning on beginning a torrid love affair with me?), but either way, it at least helps to address that obsession every traveler has ahead of a trip.

To help you figure out what to read ahead of your next trip, Lonely Planet put together this helpful (and exhaustive) list. For example, ahead of a trip to Argentina, LP suggests you stock up on “The Motorcycle Diaries” and “In Patagonia” (I’d suggest Borges too, but apparently LP is not as sadistic as me), and for France they offer up Edith Wharton’s “A Motor-Flight Through France” and “The Man who Married a Mountain.”

There are a few surprises here. How can any visitor to Vietnam (especially Saigon) not read “The Quiet American” before going? Or what about “Midnight’s Children” for India, or pretty much any Hunter S. Thompson for the USA?

[Photo by Willie Stark/Flickr]

  • Parth

    That’s a helpful list. Idlewild bookstore in manhattan has a good country based selection of novels that I have used in the past. My one issue with some of the books though is that they give you an impression of a different time not the current time. So, if you were moving to that country for say a few years (or even a few months), it may be helpful to know about how thing were in a different era. But for a traveller who may spent a few weeks in a country stories from a different time don’t amount to much.

    For example Midnight’s Children (however good the book may be) is depiction of an India in 80s. Which is very different form what you see now. Ditto with Hunter S Thompson for the US.

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