Thanks to a nearly 10-hour wait at the Honolulu Airport last month (thanks a lot, Delta), I was forced to do something I had long been avoiding: I started reading Eat, Pray, Love. (Photo (c) Barnes & Noble)
Now, mind you, I have nothing against Elizabeth Gilbert and, having read her book, I thought it was fairly enjoyable—a little self-indulgent (you were totally right, Justina) but not all that bad. This is especially true when you’re stuck at the airport’s Kona Brewing Co. and your only friend is your waiter, Mark, a man who’s kind enough to even watch your stuff during bathroom breaks. (BTW, the Fire Rock Pale Ale is pretty awesome.
It’s just that, well, I’m a bit of a book snob. If Oprah and her book club are reading it, I probably won’t be. It’s for this same reason that I still haven’t read any of the Twilight books (I’ll save that for my next marathon airport wait, I suppose).
Reading Eat, Pray, Love, however, got me to thinking about how some of my favorite books have inspired me to want to travel. The Italy section (Eat) made me long to return to Rome—just for the gelato—and the Indonesia section (Love) only made me want to go there even more. I also realized that most of the books I’ve read this past year all have ties to places that I’ve either (1) gone to or (2) really, really want to go to. And, they all made excellent airplane reads (that’s the only time I ever get any of my reading done). So, here they are…be sure to check them out if you get a chance, or if your next flight gets cancelled.
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
One of my favorite books, it chronicles the life of a self-described “love-sick ghetto nerd,” weaving in pieces of Dominican history and folklore throughout. It might be a little difficult to jump into at first but, once you do, it’s hard to put the book down.
Last year, I traveled to the Dominican Republic on a press trip and stayed in Punta Cana. While Punta Cana was altogether lovely, beachy and sunny, it wasn’t the D.R. that I read about in this book, which focused mainly on Santo Domingo (the capital, located way on the other side of the island). One of these days, I’d love to go back and see that side. (Photo (c) Barnes & Noble)
My Life in France by Julia Child with Alex Prud’Homme
My friend Justina let me borrow her borrowed copy of this memoir, made even more famous now thanks to the film, “Julie & Julia.” Reading it made me truly regret not having taken that solo trip to Paris after my fall classes at Oxford wrapped up—think of all the bread, butter, cheese, wine and sole meuniere I missed out on! Oh well, all the more reason to make it a point to travel to France sometime soon. (Photo (c) Random House)
The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food by Jennifer 8 Lee
The Chinese-food lover in me was fascinated by this book. I mean, who knew that the dude who invented General Tso’s Chicken couldn’t even recognize the Americanized version of his famous dish? Or that the Japanese actually invented fortune cookies?
Reading this book also confirmed my sentiments about Chinese food here in the rest of the world versus Chinese food in China—it’s just not the same—really. But, no matter where you eat it (or what you’re eating)—it’ll be delicious nonetheless. (Photo (c) Barnes & Noble)
The Sartorialist by Scott Schuman
Okay, so “reading” this book would be an overly broad statement (it’s practically all photos and even the paperback edition weighs a ton) but hey, sometimes you just want to look at pretty pictures. If that’s what you’re in the mood for, this book is perfect. While it also captures one-of-a-kind styles from folks around the world, it also gives you a glimpse into those places, too, including Beijing, Milan, Paris, Rio de Janeiro and more. (Photo (c) Amazon.com)
The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
Before my cousin Christina left on her whirlwind trips around the world, filming instructional English language videos for students around the world, she gave me this book and told me, “Read it. It’s good.” She was completely right; it's now one of my all-time favorites.
I won’t go too much into the plot details but, suffice it to say, this book is not set out on making you want to go to India and live like a maharajah. Quite the contrary—this bildungsroman reveals a side of India that is very well heart breaking and even disturbing—and not at all sugar coated in a Slumdog Millionaire kind of way. Still, it made me want to go to India and see the country for myself. (Photo (c) Penguin Australia)
Next on my shelf? Lost Over Laos. Let me know if you have any good recommendations, too. I’d love to hear about them. (Photo (c) Barnes & Noble)