In embracing our new-found isolation life, the SiPP Communications team has taken inspiration from our media friends at Conde Nast Traveler, Forbes and more and decided to round-up our favorite travel-inspiring books. While many of these are not specifically travel books, each helps us indulge in the kind of escapism that travel affords us from the comfort and safety of home.
Katie’s Book Picks
Eric Weiner’s Geography of Bliss
When one of the opening scenes of a book starts with a cross-cultural miscommunication of the meaning of “inter-course”, you are in for a wildly entertaining read.
Weiner’s quest in search of the happiest places on earth and what lessons we can learn from them took him to the Netherlands, Iceland, Bhutan, Qatar, India, and my favorite chapter, Moldova, to name just a few. Each chapter had me literally laughing out loud and while also absorbing how different cultures perceive – and achieve – happiness.
Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache Series
More than a few years ago, I was working at a consumer travel show on behalf of the province of Quebec and person after person came up and said that they were reading the “Louise Penny books.” At the time, I had no idea who Louise Penny was or what her books were, but I found out that Quebec’s various regions made for captivating supporting roles in her mystery series starring Inspector Gamache. So much so that people reading the books were telling me that they were in the process of planning a trip to Quebec. This Christmas, I finally decided to read them for myself and bought the first three books in the series and just started digging into the first book, Still Life.
Stephanie’s Book Picks
Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile
In this classic who-done-it, Dame Agatha Christie invites readers to follow pairs of British and American vacationers as they converge on Egypt for an idyllic, luxury cruise vacation along the Nile in the 1930s.
As readers, we are treated to snippets of each characters’ backstories, though it soon becomes apparent that everyone has something to hide. As the ship as well as the story progress down the Nile, the local scenery seems to reflect the moods of the passengers: the anxiety of the central couple is at first enhanced by the bleakness of the Nubian landscape but a new day brings a more cultivated terrain and with it, a lifting of spirits. But soon, a fatal “accident” at the majestic Abu Simbel temples becomes a watershed in the narrative. As suspicion and fear heighten, the confined quarters of the small boat inflame tensions to the breaking point. There’s a reason this novel has been adapted and re-adapted time and time again!
Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City
It is rare to find a book that draws you into the atmosphere of the time with its rawness, where you imagine hearing the clanging of the trains mixed with the clopping of horses’ hooves and smell soot in the air.
In The Devil in the White City, Chicago feels like a city on the brink as it has just won the coveted honor of hosting the 1893 World’ Columbian Exposition. Architects and builders race against the clock to realize Burnham’s vision for “The White City” that will astonish visitors and put Chicago on the map. Under the shadow of this piece of American history, con artist and drifter H.H. Holmes is also building a property, with a much more sinister agenda.
Jacqui’s Book Picks
Lucy Diamond’s One Night in Italy
My parents’ bookshelf is like a lending library where you are sure to discover something that would never normally be marketed to you on Amazon or Goodreads. The last time I was there, I picked up a simple paperback described as a “page-turner” titled One Night in Italy, by Lucy Diamond.
It usually takes me weeks or months to read a book, but true to the review, those pages seemed to turn themselves. I finished the novel in a day. It wasn’t a steamy love affair as the title suggested.
The story was about a set of characters who met at an Italian language course in the UK. They were all at different ages and stages of life, and all planning or hoping to go to Italy… one day. The book was not about their time in Italy, but their discovery of the language and culture, and the excitement of planning their respective journeys.
Ludwig Bemelmans’ Madeline
Every night at half-past six, my children and I travel to the streets of Paris, as I read them a board book version of Madeline that we take everywhere.
We have read Madeline on planes, trains and automobiles, and at the moment, we read about her almost every night, from our isolation beds, and talk about Madeline’s home – a far-flung city that mommy loves very much and hopes we will visit one day as a family.
Leonard Cohen’s The Flame
Flicking through Leonard Cohen’s last collection of poems and writing instantly transports me back to Quebec’s largest city, Montreal. Whenever I pick up this book, I can just picture it: Montreal blanketed in snow, Leonard Cohen clutching his lapel and Fedora against the cold and then ducking into a cafe to scrawl in a notebook. Just as Montreal is an easy escape from New York, this book of musings is an escape from our current reality of isolation!
In keeping with this spirit of escapism from home, the SiPP team also rounded-up their top picks of TV shows, movies and more that are helping us indulge in travel from home.