The summer is usually a great time to explore, whether its nearby spots or locales around the globe. But of course, this year is different for obvious reasons, and travel isn’t as simple as it has been in the past. Instead of adventuring on expensive and potentially unsafe vacations over these summer months, instead, spend some time with some great books that can inspire where you go next or pique your wanderlust for the future.
TAKE TO THE STATES
NEW YORK CITY | “Meet Me in the Bathroom” by Lizzy Goodman: With this remarkable deep dive into the garage-rock era of early 2000s New York City, Lizzy Goodman looks at the interconnected bands and artists who helped redefine music for an entire generation. Goodman does an excellent job setting up what music led to the rise of bands like The Strokes and LCD Soundsystem, but also shows how the city’s change at the turn of the millennium and the shock of 9/11 changed music as we know it. An essential tome for anyone interested in “indie rock.”
LOS ANGELES | “Inherent Vice” by Thomas Pynchon: In this detective novel unlike any other, private investigator Larry “Doc” Sportello is as unreliable as the wild characters that he comes across. Pynchon isn’t as interested in the 1970s-set mystery as he is putting his audience in the paranoid and confused mindset of Sportello, which he does effectively through twists, turns and complete nonsense thrown at Doc on every page. “Inherent Vice” is a story that must be experienced to be understood.
CHICAGO | “The Devil in the White City” by Erik Larson: Set in late 1800s Chicago, “The Devil in the White City” combines the true story of two fascinating men in the shadow of the World’s Fair. Larson’s tale follows Daniel H. Burnham, the architect of the massive 1893 World’s Fair, and Dr. H. H. Holmes, a serial killer who would lure his victims into what he called his “Murder Castle.” These two wildly different stories meld into a tremendous historical work of the horrors and wonders of a city at the turn of the century.
THE AMAZON | “The Lost City of Z” by David Grann: This nonfiction novel by David Grann shows a narrative of obsession and exploration, as British explorer Percy Fawcett travels to the Amazon jungle in 1925 to try and find El Dorado, an excursion from which he never returned. Grann’s investigation explores what might have happened to Fawcett and his companion son, in this epic account about man vs. nature. “The Lost City of Z” is part adventure, biography and travelogue, a combination that is always compelling and exciting in the hands of Grann.
ITALY | “Call Me By Your Name” by André Aciman: A slow-burning romance in 1980s Italy, “Call Me By Your Name” tells the story of Elio, who becomes enthralled by Oliver, a doctoral student staying with his family over the summer. Their blossoming relationship is built off small moments of affection and coy interactions until neither of them can hide their feelings any longer. Aciman writes this romance with such detail and beauty, it’s easy to get lost in this seemingly endless summer full of listless days relaxing in the sun. “Call Me By Your Name” beautifully captures the pain and tragedy of unexpected young love.
THAILAND | “The Beach” by Alex Garland: In his debut novel, Garland shows the futility of trying to find utopia through travel, that the reality can never live up to the expectation of paradise. “The Beach” centers around Richard, a young traveler who discovers a map to a fabled beach straight out a dream. Richard gets together with a French couple, and the group sets out to find this heavenly wonderland. Garland’s novel shows a generation desperate to relate to the world, unable to even accept perfection when it’s right in front of them, an unending longing for something they can never find.
HIT THE OPEN ROAD
“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams: There might not be a bigger expedition than the one started at the beginning of Adams’ epic series, traversing the entire galaxy for the meaning of everything, an opportunity for adventure in a humdrum life, and a great restaurant at the end of the universe. While all six make for one of the greatest science fiction comedy series ever, this first book is a classic on its own, following Arthur Dent, is one of the last survivors of Earth after it was destroyed to make room for a hyperspace bypass. “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” is not just a classic everyone should read, it’s a hilarious trek through incredible worlds with a sharp wit and insights into how our world works.
“Wild” by Cheryl Strayed: Part memoir, part travel pilgrimage, Strayed’s search for self-discovery took her on a 1,100-mile hike from California to Washington, as she reflects on her past and the events that led her to this journey. Strayed’s arduous solo walk through this Pacific Crest Trail is adventure enough, yet her flashbacks to the life that led her down this road makes this hike even more impressive and remarkable.
“Less” by Andrew Sean Greer: This Pulitzer Prize winner follows Arthur Less, a writer who goes on a literary tour as he is about to turn 50. Less’ voyage takes him from around the world, yet no matter whether he’s in Paris, India or any other stop on his adventure, he still can’t escape himself, his looming birthday and his past relationships that stick with him. Greer’s comedic saga is a humorous, introspective look at the choices and mistakes that we all make and deal with years after we make them.
“On the Road” by Jack Kerouac: A classic road trip novel and American classic, “On the Road” is a thinly veiled autobiographical story about his roaming back-and-forth across America that stands as one of the most important works of the Beat Generation. Kerouac’s literary alter ego, Sal Paradise, travels with his friend Neal Cassady as they search for meaning in their lives as they explore everything that America has to offer. Kerouac shows the country steadily changing, packed with characters (even one who is obsessed with Fredericksburg!) that show the struggle and variety of experiences that make America a fascinating melting pot.