Destination Reading: Do You Choose Vacation Books Based On Their Setting?

July 4, 2014 / 5 Comments / Uncategorized

Happy Independence Day to my friends in the States! Today I’m thinking about travelling and reading, and how I choose my books. Do you guys ever decide to go some place on holiday, and then discover that it’s the perfect place to read a certain book? For instance, the setting or concept of the book just perfectly fits the time, the place, the location?

I was just discussing this with Gillian at Writer of Wrongs, and I realized that I am totally a destination reader. There’s nothing better than going for walks and getting lost in a new city, then finding the perfect cafe to rest my feet and enjoy my book du jour. If that book involves the place I’m travelling to, all the better – it’s almost like an extension of the travel experience, and it colours the way I look at both the book and the place forever.

So today, I thought I’d discuss some of my most memorable reading moments while travelling. Check mine out, then please, share your own!

1. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens x Paris

Couldn’t find a photo of the Bastille, this will have to do!

This was the book that sparked this whole post – thanks, Gillian! I chose to read A Tale of Two Cities while traveling in Paris specifically because I knew it was set in London and Paris. Little did I know that I was going to be totally wrecked at the end of the book. The Bastille wasn’t on my list of touristy places to go at all, but after finishing the book in a park in Paris, I immediately ran over there, heart aching. It was like the entire prison was haunted with the ghosts of the characters – creepy and very, very cool. I’ll never forget it.

2. His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman x Oxford

This is actually the bench and tree I sat down on in the Oxford Gardens.

This one is a bit of a cheat because I finished His Dark Materials while on a night train to Italy, but immediately decided, upon my return to Belgium where I was studying abroad, to head up to Oxford the next weekend and read The Amber Spyglass again. I distinctly remember choosing just the right bench in the Oxford Gardens to read the end of the book (no spoilers, but I totally cried on that bench).

3.  North of Beautiful by Justina Chen x Hong Kong and China

Hong Kong in the background.

I saved North of Beautiful to read on my trip to Hong Kong and my mother’s hometown of Jiangmen last winter. NoB features a once-in-a-lifetime trip to China for the MC and her mom, and it’s an amazing emotional journey for them as characters. Even though I didn’t have quite that experience on my own trip (Hong Kong is like my second home, and I’ve been to China a lot of times) having the flavour of China in the book I was reading while being in China and meeting people made me all the more thankful for my own family.

4. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway x Rome and Venice

I totally read at the back of this boat. 

It’s not quite the Cuban sea, but I remember reading this one on boat tours going around Venice, or sitting at the Trevi Fountain in Rome during my first sojourn alone around Europe. Just having that smell of the sea around me while reading about it was enough to make me feel like I was on the boat with old fisherman Santiago. And though the struggles of Santiago to catch his marlin were very different from my personal struggles, I felt a real kinship to him because I was facing up to my own challenges in travelling alone for the first time.

5. Upcoming: Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson x Haliburton, Ontario

This is actually where I’ll be staying next week!

Next week, I’m going on a family vacation to a cabin in Haliburton, Ontario. It’s not far away, but seeing as SCS is set in a cottage during a family vacation, I’m pretty sure it’s the perfect spot. Also, according to Morgan and a ton of bloggers, I’m desperately going to need tissues and hugs from my fam.

Are you guys destination readers? I’d love to hear about your favourite books for reading and travelling, especially if you’ve had moments when places have come alive for you because of the book you’re reading (or vice-versa!). Or if you haven’t travelled a lot, what book x trip would you take? 

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5 responses to “Destination Reading: Do You Choose Vacation Books Based On Their Setting?

  1. I've done this. When I spent a weekend at my parents house, I read Asylum by Madeleine Roux. LOL. I'm kidding. (Yes, my jokes are always this bad.)

    This is a very interesting idea and I loved the post. I'm a mood reader, but maybe this August, on my trip to the beach, I will try to find a beach setting read.

    – Elizabeth @ Book YAbber

  2. Over XMAS before we went to Hong Kong, I re-read James Clavelle, Tai-Pan. Now, before my trip to St. Petersberg, I am halfway through Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie, and I intend to read Peter the Great, same author, before I arrive in St. Pete's. Ages ago when I was in University in Pittsburgh, we often spent weekends hiking in West Virginia, and that's when I read the Middle Earth books which as you know involved lots of hiking by Hobbits, et. al.
    Great Blog!

  3. What a great post! I totally choose my vacation books based on their destination! It helps add an extra spark to the trip! I read The Sunflower when I went to Peru, Rules of Civility when I went to New York, and I always pick a cottage read for when I go up North each summer 🙂

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