Weekly Spotlight On…Traveling through Reading

I’ve always felt that reading has helped me become transported into another land.  I feel even more refreshed when I get to experience the nature of another place through words whether it’s a sandy beach, a distant cottage on the sea, or a trek through the wilderness with mosquitoes nipping at me. But reading indoors is much more climate controlled and insect repellent!

I have selected books that have a very strong setting in a natural environment, to help you, the adventurous reader, smell moss and salty air, and feel the humidity of jungles and the dry heat of the desert, simply by reading a good book.

I’ve included some titles to help you plan some of your own travels, plus information on exploring museums and zoos nearby with the library’s museum passes. 

All of the book titles include hyperlinks to our catalog, so you can find the book on the shelf, or request it!

The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann

The Lost City of Z by David GrannSetting: Amazon Jungle

“After stumbling upon a hidden trove of diaries, New Yorker writer David Grann set out to solve “the greatest exploration mystery of the twentieth century”: what happened to British explorer Percy Fawcett. In 1925 Fawcett ventured into the Amazon to find an ancient civilization. For centuries Europeans believed the world’s largest jungle concealed the glittering El Dorado. Thousands had died looking for it, leaving many convinced that the Amazon was truly inimical to humankind. But Fawcett had spent years building his scientific case. Captivating the imagination of millions, he embarked with his 21-year-old son, determined to prove that this ancient civilization–which he dubbed “Z”–existed. Then he and his expedition vanished. Fawcett’s fate–and the clues he left behind–became an obsession for hundreds who followed him. As Grann delved deeper into Fawcett’s mystery, and the greater mystery of the Amazon, he found himself irresistibly drawn into the “green hell.” “–From publisher description.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Wild by Cheryl StrayedSetting: Pacific Crest Trail, Western U.S.

In this powerful memoir, the author tells her story of hiking 1,100 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert to Washington.  Cheryl decides to hike this trail alone to block out the grief of her mother’s death and her own recent divorce. Armed with a giant, too-heavy backpack she refers to as “Monster”, a pair of too-tight boots, and a pink ski pole, she discovers brutal winds, intense heat, blisters, wild animals, other hikers, and more importantly, herself. This book was an Oprah’s Book Club pick.

The Places In Between by Rory Stewart

The Places In Between by Rory StewartSetting: Afghanistan

The author sets out across Afghanistan in January 2002, just weeks after the Taliban was ousted, following the trail of 15th century emperor Babur from Herat to Kabul. His experiences highlights the lands and the peoples, but also shows how it was at times both reflective but scary to cross through an unsettled land. He also acquires the friendship of a dog, which he lovingly names Babur. He sleeps on villagers floors as he crosses the countryside.

The Paradise Guest House by Ellen Sussman

The Paradise Guest House by Ellen SussmanSetting: Bali

Jamie, a tour guide, returns to Bali one year after the terrorist bombings of 2002. She was a victim of this terrorism, and her fiance at the time was killed. During that frantic search for him after the bombing, she meets a Bali native Gabe, who helps care for her in a remote cottage. She leaves him abruptly, only leaving a goodbye note, but hopes to find him again on her return back to the beautiful island that is still reeling from the tragedy. Parts of the book are narrated by Gabe, who questions whether or not he should give Jamie a second chance.

Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Cape Town By Paul Theroux

Dark Star Safari By Paul TherouxSetting: Africa

The author hitches rides for hundreds of miles in Nairobi, by bus, canoe, cattle truck, armed convoy, ferry and train. Along the way he learns about the history of the country, the beauty of the land, and the stories of it’s people by talking with the natives, but also tourists and missionaries. In the course of his journey, he endures both danger and enlightenment.

The True History of Paradise by Margaret Cezair-Thompson

The True History of Paradise by Margaret Cezair-ThompsonSetting: Jamaica

This historical novel is set in Jamaica during the 1980s, and explores the violence in the country. The author is from Jamaica and weaves in the true terrors, menaces, and seductions that abound even on a beautiful island of paradise. Her main character Jean has strong ancestral ties to the island and is conflicted about leaving her homeland. But when her pop singer sister Lana tragically dies, Jean rides cross-country with her close friend Paul while they reflect on the past and her sister.

Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell

Assassination Vacation by Sarah VowellSetting: United States assassination sites and memorial locations

This author is known for her irreverent sense of humor. Her dark wit shines in this memoir of the author’s visits to sites associated with the assassinations of Presidents Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley.  Providing history on these deaths, she also explores the ways in which American culture has profited from these murders through historical tours and architecture/museums/literature.

The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville

The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart NevilleSetting: Belfast, Ireland

In this thriller, ex-IRA hitman Gerry Fagan becomes haunted by the ghosts of the 12 people he killed. The only way to appease the spirits is by killing the men who ordered the hits in the first place. The author seamlessly and hauntingly depicts the dark and violent atmosphere of Northern Ireland.

A Voyage Long and Strange by Tony Horwitz

A Voyage Long and Strange by Tony HorwitzSetting: United States “New World”

In this historical narrative, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Tony Horwitz sets out to retrace the steps of early explorers, and explores the myths and truths of The New World. He starts with the Plymouth Rock, which actually was not the first discovery of the New World. Parts of his book are dedicated to each area of conquest: Gulf Coast, Southwest, the South, the Mississippi, Roanoke, Jamestown, and Plymouth. This smart read helps to educate the reader, and includes 15 maps and a rich bibliography.

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walters

Beautiful Ruins by Jess WaltersSetting: Italy; Hollywood

A love affair with an actress picks up again in Hollywood fifty years after beginning on the Italian coast of the Ligurian sea. A small town hotel owner with hopes of expanding his business meets a beautiful young actress, one of the few celebrities to come to the area. The novel switches back and forth between 1962 Italy and present-day Hollywood, providing the reader rich settings and intricate character backgrounds.

Lost in Shangri-La by Mitchell Zuckoff

Lost in Shangri-La by Mitchell ZuckoffSetting: New Guinea at the end of WWII

This true story, written by Zuckoff, a former reporter and a Pulitzer prize nominated writer, follows three survivors of a plane crash towards the end of WW II. These US military survivors crashed on a sightseeing trip in the New Guinea jungle, known for its cannibalistic tribes.. A paratrooper rescue group jumps into the jungle with supplies, and the two groups are trapped on the ground waiting for a dangerous plane rescue.

Travel Guides 

Museum Adventures

Don’t forget that you can come into the library to check out Museum passes!

List of participating museums and details: http://www.museumadventure.org/museums/


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