Books have a way of transporting us to faraway lands, but they are also great tools when preparing for an experience abroad. They can provide fantastic context into the history and culture of a region, help you understand what the people are like and what you should expect, and even clue you in to what you should pack or where else you should visit!
The following list highlights five books that are sure to help you out when preparing for a trip to Europe, even if they don’t take place in the country you are visiting. They will only make you want to explore more!
Neither Here Nor There by Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson is one travel writer who never disappoints, and his novel Neither Here Nor There is no exception. Bryson takes us on a journey with him from Hammerfest, the northernmost town in Europe, all the way to Istanbul, the city on the edge of Europe and Asia. Along the way he retraces his steps from his travels during college nearly two decades before, and introduces the reader to a multitude of individuals and experiences that can truly only exist in the context of Europe. Bryson’s honest humor and witty storytelling provide a great introduction to the experience of traveling in Europe, and the book is sure to inspire you to go off the beaten path.
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
Published shortly after Hemingway’s death, this memoir recounts the famous American author’s time in Paris as a young, broke, and adventurous writer and his experience living in the “City of Light.” It is a flashback to perhaps a prime age in Paris — a time when the arts were alive in the wake of the first World War and a new social age was emerging. A Movable Feast is a fantastically raw look at the experience of an American living abroad while providing glimpses into Hemingway’s early life. It is an essential piece to read before visiting Europe, and it will make you want to pick up some of Hemingway’s other works just to see how his time in Paris may have influenced him.
Under the Glacier by Halldór Laxness
This fascinating, confusing, and bizarre novel by Iceland’s most famous writer, Halldór Laxness, is sure to provide an interesting and entertaining read. Set in rural Iceland, Under the Glacier tells the story of a young man sent on a quest by the Bishop to visit an off-the-grid town on Iceland’s farthest West peninsula — at the base of the Snæfellsjökull glacier. Following reports of strange happenings in the town and of a minister gone rogue, the young man is sent to observe, return, and report, but what he encounters is far stranger than he could ever imagine. This wildly strange novel dives into the world of magical realism that is so prevalent in Icelandic culture, a part of the world that is often forgotten by popular literature.
Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mays
This classic travel memoir tells the story of author Frances Mays, who escapes to Italy’s Tuscany region to restore a countryside villa. Mays, an esteemed gourmet chef, shares with the readers her experiences living, cooking, and eating abroad with the help of her newly cultivated garden and traditional Italian kitchen. The memoir even provides some of her favorite recipes from her time in Italy, and is sure to be a big hit with food enthusiasts. Under the Tuscan Sun is a bright and enjoyable work of nonfiction that will provide excellent perspectives on what it means to be an American living abroad.
Exit Into History: A Journey Through the New Eastern Europe by Eva Hoffman
Over the last century, many of the countries of Eastern Europe have found themselves shaken up by cultural and political turmoil, and what is leftover are rearranged borders, new norms, and a simply different way of life. In this memoir, Eva Hoffman takes the reader on a journey with her back to her homeland, Poland, and along an intimate journey through the modern region of Eastern Europe. Visiting countries such as Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and the former Czechoslovakia, she explores the elaborate and fascinating history of the region and context to its current political and cultural climates. This is a must read if you are visiting any Eastern European country.
Posted by World Endeavors on July 27, 2016
World Endeavors believes that international travel has the power to change lives, broaden horizons, and deepen intercultural understanding. The world is undergoing rapid changes, with societies becoming more interconnected and environmentally aware; at the same time a more challenging global economy inspires in many a need to reach out and make a positive difference while seeking personal growth opportunities. There has never been a better time than now to travel abroad.