colm toibin

The Book is the Destination

I’ve discovered my newest favorite thing to do when I travel: Read a book that takes place in the destination. Forget travel guides totally and just bring a book (actually don’t forget the travel guides… this idea makes my Type A tendencies very, very nervous).

As literary lovers, we have the vivid imaginations that bring fictional worlds to live in our mind. I was lucky to travel for a week to Dublin where my company is headquartered. Dublin has a rich literary history, between James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, and W. B. Yeats, just to name a few. (In fact, we stayed right across from Oscar Wilde’s house and his rather flamboyant statue!)

oscar wilde statue

I decided to go another route, and be trendy and take my cue from this recent Academy Awards series. As a native New Yorker, I was fortunate to pick up Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín, which takes place in both Ireland and New York City.

I started reading it on the flight there, getting hyped about my visit. The historical aspect added another layer of interest. I could walk around the city and try to imagine what it was like in the Post-World War II era of Ireland.

Even coming back to New York, since the book also took place here, I tried to picture what it was like for Eilis Lacey, the young woman who braves the Atlantic by herself like so many immigrants did.

It was fascinating and made me notice things much more. I think this is a literary strategy I will keep in mind for whenever I travel!

How to find books about where you’re visiting?

Pretty simple—you can look up the famous authors who lived in your destination. For Japan, Haruki Murakami is often considered the Japanese contemporary author. Of course, you could go for a natively written form, like haiku of early Japanese poets like Matsuo Bashō.

trinity college library

Trinity College’s library! This would be a great place to find a book, if we were allowed to touch them…

You might have a hard time finding a book that takes place in a particular tiny village, but broadening the scope to gain knowledge about the general culture as I did with Brooklyn is equally valuable. Goodreads is another great source for this. Their lists can be as granular as they are numerous. Their whole cultural section can be found here.

And you don’t have to leave your genre either. If you’re really into thrilling action books with a mystery and visiting Italy, well, Dan Brown’s books are pretty perfect.

As for my city, well, there are countless books that take place in New York. It’d be harder to find a book that doesn’t take place here, I think! It’s worth taking the time and keeping your inner bookworm happy as you travel.

What do you think? Have you ever picked up a fiction book about the place you were traveling to?

Gabriele Boland is an aspiring grown-up. She enjoys pretending she’s in a Disney movie, letting her dork flag fly, and writing stories that will never see the light of day. The other ramblings of her mind can be found at her website.

St. Patrick’s Day Reads

Gather your four leaf clovers, pots of gold, and shillelagh sticks, for it’s time for St. Patrick’s Day and a celebration of all that is Irish. Us Americans are completely enthralled with the holiday (or just the excuse to drink and drink, a fine testament to the Irish legacy). Luckily, there are plenty of books out there to get you ready to gallivant to Ireland, kiss the Blarney Stone, and tumble down the green countrysides.

Check out this list to get you in the mood to wear all green!

dublinersPretty much anything written by James Joyce
Whether it’s Dubliners, Ulysses, Finnegans Wake, or Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce keenly illustrated Ireland as his characters’ stomping grounds. And, if you ever visit Dublin, they have the places from his books commemorated with plaques throughout the city. There’s also the annual Bloomsday celebration in honor of the author’s life! The day has a plethora of Ulysses readings, people in Edwardian costume, and of course, pub crawls.

psiloveyouPS I Love You by Cecelia Ahern
Dubliners Holly and Gerry are the perfect couple. Holly can’t imagine life without Gerry, until he dies of a terminal illness. A widow at 30, Holly is despondent, until she finds a series of letters Gerry left her. The letters take her on a path back in time through their courtship and relationship, and also forward as Holly too must move forward with her life. Plus, it’s also a loosely-adapted movie with the dreamy Gerard Butler.

inthewoodsThe Dublin Murder Squad series by Tana French
A mystery series backdropped against Dublin, where a team must piece together the grittiest and most nebulous of crimes. The first book, In the Woods, is full of psychological mind-benders and twists. Detective Ryan and Maddox are strung along on this crazy ride and you’ll be holding your breath as they try to uncover what really happened. 

brooklyncolmBrooklyn by Colm Tóibín
Perfect for those with Irish ancestry, Brooklyn explores the life of a young women leaving life behind in Ireland for America. In early 1950s Brooklyn, where Eilis Lacey must forge a new life, putting an ocean between her and her family and everything she’s ever known. She works hard in a department store, falls in love, and manages to find a new life. But there comes news from Ireland that threatens to destroy everything. 

artemisfowlArtemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer
Okay, so this is a fantasy/sci-fi series. But it still takes place in Ireland! Twelve-year-old Artemis Fowl is clever enough to take over the world. He decides to steal a fairy to hold for ransom, but he gets more then he bargained for when the fairy ends up being Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon Unit. Shenanigans, mischief, and madness ensue, and Artemis Fowl has to hold tight to his wits to be able to catch up. 

How will you be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day? Are there any books that put you in the Irish spirit?

Gabriele Boland is an aspiring grown-up. She enjoys pretending she’s in a Disney movie, letting her dork flag fly, and writing stories that will never see the light of day. The other ramblings of her mind can be found at Brilliant Buckets.