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.

Review: The Geography of You and Me

geography of youIf you’re reading this review right now, then hooray – BiblioSmiles has not exploded into smithereens in my absence!

(I feel like a mother who is anxious to leave her child alone with the sitter.)

I’m currently spending the week in Italy, seeing the sights of Naples, Sorrento, and Rome with my best friend. We are undoubtedly taking lots of selfies. We are also gorging ourselves on tons of pasta, seafood, and pizza. I am probably weeping over some incredible cheese as you read this. Wish you were here.

Wish you were here. I figured now would be the best time to discuss Jennifer E. Smith’s The Geography of You and Me, which was released in April of this year. The Geography of You and Me is a story of locations, of traveling, and of remembering who and what is important in your life. And though this is a YA novel and not some highly-touted self-help-self-discovery book, I still found it to be a positive read. I’m glad I read this before taking my first-ever trip out of the country.

High school seniors Owen and Lucy meet during a blackout in New York City and are forever changed by the experience. Lucy, who lives near the top floor of the building, and Owen, who lives in the basement, meet halfway when they are stuck in an elevator. Though they come from different circles, they spend a night together on the roof under the stars, and a bond forms between them.

Lucy is a born New Yorker who has lived in a luxurious apartment all her life. She’s a daydreamer and a wanderer, who always has her nose in a book. Her parents are often away traveling, and Lucy has become accustomed to being alone. Owen begrudgingly moves to New York with his father after his mother passes away. Owen’s father becomes the maintenance man of the building, struggling to hold down the job. Owen is dealing with his own sadness and feelings about life and growing up, while also feeling helpless his father’s grief.

After the blackout, Lucy and Owen do not find themselves in each other’s company frequently. An inside joke compels them each to send a postcard to the other, and this correspondence picks up as they find themselves on opposite sides of the world. As Owen moves west across the United States, Lucy moves to Edinburgh, and then to London, and even finds herself in Italy. As Owen and Lucy’s lives drastically change, they both struggle with their feelings and the strange attachment they have to one another. They’ve met other people, and they’re starting to make new lives for themselves. Why can’t they stop thinking of each other? Were they only supposed to have one night together, or were they destined for something more?

The chapters are told in third-person POV, and the focus shifts between Owen and Lucy. I found the mirrored beginnings of chapters to get tiresome by the third part of the novel, entitled “Everywhere.” Some of the chapters are only a sentence long, which was a style I got bored with after a while. I found the flow of the first part of the book to be a lot smoother and more engaging.

The Geography of You and Me is a sweet, somewhat predictable love story with charming characters. Both teens struggle with loneliness, deal with absent parents, and desire to find their place in the world. While the love story angle may be more engaging for young female readers, I think this would be a great read for anyone who has dealt with a long-distance relationship, or worked through grief, or has desired to be “somewhere.” Maybe you’re still looking for that somewhere. Or maybe that somewhere you’ve been looking for has been here all along. Either way: wish you were here.

Danielle Villano is the editor of BiblioSmiles, and she is really glad you’re here. Learn more on the About page.  Tweet @daniellevillano.