One of our favorite things to do when we are not on a trip is to read travel books. It’s a great way to learn about a new place, or learn more about a place you’ve already been. We’ve read some really great (and not so great) travel books, so we wanted to share with you our thoughts and suggestions! This post will be updated as we read more books. Please feel free to comment with any suggestions, recommendations, and your own thoughts and opinions on these books!
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Getting Genki in Japan: The Adventures & Misadventures of an American Family in Tokyo by Karen Pond (Illustrations by Akiko Saito)
GENKI = Energetic, Exciting, Full of Life
Getting Genki in Japan is a very clever and delightfully illustrated book about the adventures of an American family living in Tokyo. Tokyo is a character in the book that is both difficult to deal with and amusingly charming at the same time. Each chapter highlights the everyday struggle of moving to a foreign country and particularly one where the language and culture are so significantly different than America. This family was very brave to dive right in and immerse themselves in a whole, new life. It is both impressive and humorous reading the tales of getting through mundane situations in Japan and with children nonetheless! This book is a terrific, lighthearted read that highlights those exact aspects of life in Tokyo.
Lunch in Paris, A Love Story with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard
While living in London, Elizabeth visited Paris for a weekend and had lunch with a handsome Frenchman, Gwendal. The lunch turned into a life adventure rooted in French cuisine. This realistically recounted love story highlights the charms of both her relationship and Paris. Elizabeth delves into the struggles of living abroad for herself, but also the affect on the friends and family close to her. The one constant throughout is the food. Getting to know her butcher and fishmonger helps her better understand her new surroundings and culture. The book nicely depicts the rewards of a decision to pursue a future abroad.
Picnic in Provence, A Memoir with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard
Married and newly pregnant, Elizabeth and her husband, Gwendal decide to move away from their city roots in Paris and start a new adventure in the small, Provencal village of Cereste. There are many adjustments to be made. Although French, even Gwendal experiences cultural changes. Elizabeth honestly and fearlessly recounts her struggle with adjusting to motherhood. While hard to admit, many women are sure to relate to her challenges and admire her effort towards resolution. The move to Provence changes Elizabeth and her family life profoundly. She manages to wonderfully describe her story with the cornerstone recipes that tie everything together.
Elizabeth delves not only into French life, but her own life and struggles that brought her to settling in France. Although fully ensconced in French life, it was nice to read she still wants to not only hang on to her American roots, but pass on her national pride to her son. The recipes play an important part of the story. They provided great inspiration for adaptation to plant based recipes.
North of Naples, South of Rome by Paolo Tullio
North of Naples is a recommendation from the Crystal Cruises website. The author was born in Gallinaro in the Comino Valley, but was educated and resides in the UK. He returns to his family home in Gallinaro for summers. It was written in the early 1990’s so it is interesting to have an older time period and the point of view of a non-American. Paolo’s take on Italy’s economy was a time of Italian prosperity with an influx of foreign investors. The politics were scattered and based heavily on the favor system, so not much has changed!
The stories told are typical Italian, but very interesting. They offer an insight not often covered by many of the romance laden travel journals. I found myself laughing and at the same time getting a deeper understanding of the passionate Italian people. Paolo’s take on Naples for example goes beyond the typical, scary depiction of theft and non-safety. It endeavors to make you think of Naples as a place for the ultimate hustlers, therefore only scary to the naïve. Apparently, this book inspired a PBS mini-series in the 1990’s and I would love to see it!
Stolen Figs and Other Adventures in Calabria by Mark Rotella
Stolen Figs has been on my reading list for some time. I was happily entertained by Mark Rotella’s recounting of discovering the hometown of his family, Gimigliano. I have never visited this part of Italy located in the toe of the boot. It is much less traveled by tourists, which makes it very interesting to me. Although life seems less prosperous and perhaps more difficult, it is easy to be drawn into the welcoming and charming family of the author. Life in Calabria seems to be relatively unchanged over time for better or worse.
After arriving unannounced in Gimigliano, Mark and his father are welcomed with open arms by extended family and residents. Particularly Giuseppe, an informal guide and postcard salesman, introduces Mark to the real Calabria. Their adventures and fun and make me want to hop on a plane to visit immediately. This is always the sign of a good book! Apparently, figs right off the tree are the best in Calabria. I never think about eating them, but I am now inspired to try a recipe with fresh figs!