Bests of 2013 at A Traveler’s Library
Which best travel books? There are so many qualifiers that they would not fit in the title line. So here goes:
The criteria at A Traveler’s Library for best travel books are different than most of the lists you’ll see. When I choose, my first question is , “Is this a beautifully written book?” and my second is, “Did it make me want to go somewhere?”
So here’s the list for NEW Best Travel Books in 2013 that made our list. Two nonfiction and eight fiction, take us to Vietnam, Morocco, Arizona, Iran, Central America, China, Denmark, California, Afghanistan, New York and — incidentally– a couple of other places. They include a first novel, a mystery, a food book, a memoir and historic fiction. In short, they represent the diversity that you expect from A Traveler’s Library.
10. Communion: A Culinary Journey Through Vietnam by Kim Fay makes me want to go to Vietnam–or at least to a local Vietnamese restaurant to try some of the great food she discusses. I said, “This book is a delight to read. Kim Fay’s enthusiasm for all things Vietnamese shines on every page. But unlike some enthusiasts, she is skillful at seeking out the details that help us understand her enthusiasm.” Read the entire review here.
9. The Bottom of the Jar byAbdellatif Laâbi painted such a beautiful picture of Moroccan culture that it cemented my desire to travel there. I said, “The rhythm of the book is like poetry and the imagery so sharp that for a few hours, I felt that I was in Fez in the 50′s. ” Read the entire review here.
8. Rage Against the Dying by Becky Masterman. Technically, this fun-to-read mystery did not make me want to travel to Tucson–but only because I already live here. I said, “..the twists she has given the tried and true formula make it fresh, unpredictable and fun. And isn’t it delightful to discover a brand new author and begin panting for the next book?” Read the entire review here.
7. Children of the Jacaranda Tree by Sahar Delijani has me once again wishing that political situations were such that a journey to Iran would not be so fraught. I said, “The beginning of the novel is one of the most hypnotic I have ever read.” Read the entire review here.
6. The Blind Masseuse by Alden Jones is a collection of travel essays tied together as a memoir of many years of travel. Thus the book goes several places, principally Central America. Jones definitely gives you enough atmosphere that you have reason to want to follow her travels. I said,” Unlike most travel memoirs, The Blind Masseuse is thoughtful and literate, leaving you with much to think about.” Read the entire review here.
5. A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar by Suzanne Joinson fictionalizes real women who struck off for this Silk Road city in the 1920’s. It is just so exotic that who could resist wanting to follow? I said, “Not only is this a rousing good story, it turns out that the author has done a very good deed in painting a picture of a territory little changed in the past hundred years until recently when the Chinese decided to obliterate most of the old town of Kashgar as part of their effort to dominate the recalcitrant Uighurs.” Read the entire review here.
4. Kerrigan in Copenhagen by Thomas E. Kennedy. With a main character who is a guide-book writer, this novel unwinds like a real life Michelin of Copenhagen and introduced me to more reasons to want to go there than I would ever have dreamed of. I said, “Besides having the magnetic draw of fascinating characters and a beautifully woven tale, the novel is funny.” Read the entire review here. *Note: This is technically not a NEW book, but it was published for the first time in the U.S. last year.
3. San Miguel by T. C. Boyle. This intriguing book had me wanting to go to a domestic destination that I had previously not devoted any thought to at all–the Channel Islands off California. I said, ” Boyle deftly tells the story of these families from the point of view of the women. His novel explores not only human psychology but also sharply defines the enormous changes in attitudes, beliefs, and the effect of technology, communications and war on American life over a period that equals an average life time.” I could not put the book down. Read the entire review here.
2. What Changes Everything by Masha Hamilton, just blew me away with its technical writing skill and thoughtful presentation of difficult issues. Although it did not lure me to Afghanistan (not at the present, anyhow) it did make me resolve to spend some time in Brooklyn the next time I to to NYC. Read the entire review here.
1. Seven Locks by Christine Wade. Besides the fact that I absolutely loved everything about this book–the story telling, myth borrowing, details of a bit of history that is generally ignored (the effect of war on common people) and the flip side of the story of a reviled woman–the book made me really, really, want to wander through the Hudson River Valley. I said, “The book can be searing in its raw description of the life of a woman deserted by husband and children and community. But the language is so beautiful that you can’t put it down. Within its many threads, it comes down finally to a question of what is true and what we believe.” Read the entire review here.
Of course I would like to have you read my reviews of any of these books that catch your eye, but even more important–read the books.
A few more caveats to go with the introductory explanations:
- The books we review are not necessarily those you will find in the travel section of a book store.
- The books we review are generally published by established publishers rather than self-published, but we make exceptions if the author is a known quantity.
- The books we review are generally available in both digital or print format.
You may not agree with these choices of best travel books. Please say so in the comment section and tell me what you would suggest instead.
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