Before I take off to a new destination, I try to find a book to take with me so that I can get a better sense of the place. I’m not talking about travel books or guides. I mean a good, solid story that will immerse me in the culture and its people — past or present.
So I decided to curate a list of books that do just that. I call these my “Journey Reads” books. Each of the books I’ve chosen meets one of the following criteria:
- Classic/Culturally Significant. The book is either considered a classic in that country or is something most everyone in the country has read or refers to.
- Person/Place/Event. Reading the book will give you insight into a person of note, a city, or historic happening.
- Sense of Culture. Reading the book provides a better understanding of how a country’s people think and behave, either through their actions or through the eyes of an outsider.
And, of course, each book has to be a good read. It can’t be something you force yourself to get through. If I wouldn’t rate the book with four stars or higher (out of five), it doesn’t make the list.
Below are the countries I’ve started on. You can also suggest a book or read more about this project.
Note that I’ve included links to Indiebound where possible, but some books are not available on there. Support indie bookstores! If a book is now in the public domain, I have tried to provide a link to where the e-book can be legally downloaded for free.