Around the World in 8 Books

Summer is the perfect time to travel; but, we don’t always have the means to go wherever we want. Here are eight exciting reading suggestions that have the power to take you anywhere.

The Geography of Bliss: One grump’s search for the happiest places in the world by Eric Weiner — What makes us happy? Do certain countries have happier citizens? Weiner tackles these questions and more as he travels the world and tries to unlock the science and psychology of happiness. Part humor, self-help, and a discussion of foreign affairs, this book allows readers to travel around the world and through humanity.

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson– A master traveler, Bill Bryson documents hiking the Appalachian Trail in this humorous and insightful memoir. Along the journey, he examines the history and ecology of the trail, which extends from Georgia to Maine, and talks about some of the quirky personalities he met along the way. Read this classic before the movie comes out later this summer.

Kinky gazpacho: life, love & Spain by Lori L. Tharps– Born and raised in a mostly white suburb of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Tharps was one of the few people of color. From an early age, she decided that traveling to Spain was part of her destiny, despite personally not knowing the language or the people. When she traveled there in college, she discovers her skin color makes her as much of an outsider in Spain as it does in America. The story doesn’t end there. Tharps falls in love and marries a Spaniard. Through their relationship, she rekindles her love of Spain and learns how to live with her new Spanish family.

Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven by Susan Jane Gilman — In 1986, Susan Gilman and a friend from college embark on a backpacking trip through China shortly after the country opens to independent backpackers. They quickly find themselves over the heads in their inability to navigate the culture, the terrain, and the language. One friend begins to unravel physically, while the other unravels mentally. Travel with these young women as they navigate their way through China and find their way back home.

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer– After graduating college in 1991, Christopher McCandless gave away all of his money, abandoned his car and embraced a vagabond lifestyle, which culminated in his death in the Alaska wilderness. Krakauer reconstructs McCandless’s journey across America with interviews of people McCandless met in his journey. He also tries to crack the mystery of who McCandless was and why he would abandon his life and set out on, what many would consider, a foolish journey.

Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes — Set out on an Italian adventure with this classic travel memoir. Mayes, a gourmet cook and travel writer, buys and renovates an abandoned villa in the beautiful Tuscan countryside. The book contains a lively description of the countryside and its people, along with delicious seasonal recipes she created in her time living there.

The Motorcycle Diaries by Ernesto “Che” Guevara — In January 1952, Ernesto Guevara departed from Buenos Aires, Argentina with his friend Alberto Granado. The two young men began a journey through Latin America on their motorcycles. Through their travels, they met the poor and disenfranchised of their continent, including the descendants of the once great Inca civilization. Growing up in an upper-middle class family, Guevara was blind to the struggles and social injustices these peoples faced. It is through this journey that he formed the ideology that led to him being known as “Che” Guevara.
On the trail of the ancestors: a black cowboy’s ride across America  by Lisa K. Winkler– Like many young boys, Miles Dean fell in love with the idea of being a cowboy. In September 2007,  at 57-years old, Dean decided to realize his dream by riding horseback across the country. As a school teacher in Newark, NJ, he wanted to infuse his trip with historic stops along the way. His journey began in New York City  at the African Burial Grounds in lower Manhattan and ended 6 months later at the California African American Museum in Los Angeles, California. Along the way, he paid respects to many forgotten African American heroes and pioneers, such as the Tennessee’s African American Civil War Cemetery. In each state, a new pioneer or hero his highlighted. Dean’s story also highlights the practical problems he faced, such as riding a horse for 6 months straight and  taking care of health concerns for him and his horse.

If you could travel anywhere in the world and write your own memoir, where would you go and what would you do?

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