Looking for something to read before you set off on your journey? Something to inspire you along the way? Here is a sampling of some of my favorite books on travel, culture, and life outside your passport country!
Bill Bryson is one of my favorite travel writers. I love his books, they are quirky and fun. If you aren’t familiar with his works, here are some of my favorites: Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe, The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America, Notes from a Small Island, I’m a Stranger Here Myself : Notes on Returning to America After 20 Years Away, A Walk in the Woods: Discovering America on the Appalachian Trail.
Rick Steves European Christmas – This book takes you on a Christmas journey through several different places.
How to fit a Car Seat on a Camel and other Misadventures traveling with Kids by Sarah Franklin
Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayers
Confederates in the Attic and Baghdad without a Map by Tony Horowitz
Eat, Pray, Love by Melissa Gilbert
The Canterbury Trails by Geoffrey Chaucer
Travel as a Political Act by Rick Steves
Prague Winter by Madeleine Albright
A Tramp Abroad by Mark Twain
La Bella Figura: A Field Guide to the Italian Mind by BepeSevergnini
The Princess Guide to Rome by Belinda Darcey
The Xenophobes Guide to the Italians by Martin Solly
Un Amico Italiano: Eat, Pray, Love in Rome by Lucca Spaghetti
Best American Travel Writing series – A new version is published each year, which includes the best travel writing of the year.
My Life in France by Julia Child – This is probably my favorite personal account of living overseas. I find her story inspiring, even though it took her some time to find her passion, she never gave up
Diplomatic Incidents by Cherry Denmen
Diplomatic Baggage, the Adventures of a Trailing Spouse by Brigid Keenen
French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon
As the Romans Do: An American Family’s Roman Odyssey by Alan Epstein
Globejotting How to Write Extraordinary Travel Journals by Dave Fox
Rick Steves’ tour books are the first place I look for information. He usually has a bit about everything. These are a great resource for the novice traveler, or a traveler with limited time.
Rick Steves Europe 101: History and Art for the Traveler – This book offers a great review of European history, and discusses the significance of several pieces of art.
Culture Smart Guides – This series of books claims to be “the essential guide to customs and culture”. These small pocket-sized guides offer insight on the culture and traditions. This is a good place to start gaining an understanding for the culture you’re visiting. I’ve read the Germany and Italy editions. There are guides available for all corners of the globe.
The Practical Interculturalist’s Transitions Across Cultures by Stephen W. Jones -This is a short book filled with practical advice for integrating into a new culture and reintegrating back home. The author introduces concepts through a series of big ideas, breaking them down into easily digestible chunks. Because this is practical rather than academic, it offers several tips to help you adjust along the way.
The Art of Crossing Cultures second edition by Craig Storti – This is another book that leans toward practical over academic. I found myself wishing I had found this book before I moved overseas. Storti differentiates between country shock and culture shock, noting that it is also necessary to adapt to things like a new climate, and all of the daily activities and surroundings that create your place in society. I would definitely recommend reading this book.
Cultural Intelligence by David C. Thomas – a bit heavier to digest, but worth a read.
The Emotionally Resilient Expat, Engage, Adapt, and Thrive Across Cultures by Linda A. Janssen – I found this book quite interesting. The first half read like a literature review and I was a bit unsure where she was going. The second half tied the book together nicely and went over several ways that Expats can increase their stores of emotional resilience. The book contains several interviews with Expats and the bibliography and resources provided here are quite extensive.
Books for kids:
Sammy’s Next Move by Helen Maffini – This is a very cute book about a snail who’s getting ready to move, again. This book is written with the Third Culture Kid (TCK) in mind. It is probably best suited for a younger audience. My children ages 5 & 6 both give it a thumbs up.
The Magic Tree House collection by Mary Pope Osborne – these books are fantastic for younger kids and early readers. My kids love to hear about the adventures of Jack and Annie. Many of their adventures help the kids understand a little more about a place we are visiting. The books are fantasy – two kids find a magic tree house belonging to Morgan Le Fay, with just enough historical fact to allow kids to learn something, without getting bored.
A Street through Time by Anne Millard & A City through Time by Philip Steele – Steven Noon contibutes beautiful illustrations to both books. These books are great for helping children understand how a place changes through the centuries. We refer back to these books often, and talk about them in relation to the places we’ve visited.
While not as popular in the US, Grimm’s Fairy Tales are huge in Germany. Good Märchenerzähler (Fairytale tellers) are always in demand. You will find them at festivals and making special appearances in the schools. These stories are great for discussions about culture. If you’d like a bit of background on the Fairy Tales, Clever Maids: The Secret History of the Grimm Fairy Tales is a good place to start.
The Sisters Grimm by Michael Buckley is a fun series about two sisters from NYC who end up in a land where Fairy Tales aren’t just in the story books.
The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi – the story of a recent immigrant, who comes to treasure her differences.
The Adventures of Bella and Harry: Let’s visit Rome by Lisa Manzione
The Hundred Foot Journey by Richard Morais – This was a touching story about intercultural relations.
The Bloodletters Daughter by Linda Lafferty – What I really enjoyed about this tale was the details of life in and around Prague during the time period covered.
The Hangman’s Daughter Series by Oliver Plötzsch – The historical crimi is a very popular genre in contemporary German literature. This series is translated into English, and what I find most interesting is the description of the places at different times in history. Especially the places that I have visited.