Immersing oneself in a foreign country can be tough, especially on a short trip - so why not give yourself a headstart? Pick up a book by a local author before you go (or as vacation reading!) to help you understand the culture and enhance your trip! Here are some suggestions to get you started:
#2 Peru: Red April by Santiago Roncagliolo
Peru has a complicated political history and that complexity is brought to life in this thrilling mystery that centers around the 2000 elections in Peru.
#3 UK: White Teeth by Zadie Smith
The racing plot in this story of an immigrant family assimilating in London is belied by its thought-provoking themes. The book explores how different populations coexist in the UK and raises questions about race and identity that are extremely relevant in British society today.
#4 Turkey: Snow by Orhan Pamuk
Few authors are able to encapsulate so much history in such a riveting story, but Orhan Pamuk always delivers (probably why he’s a Nobel-prize winner). This epic love story set amid terrorism and a suicide epidemic (based on true events), will give you a history lesson and a strong cultural foundation that will surely enrich your travels.
#5 France: The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
No book will bring to life Medieval Paris and the construction of the Notre Dame Cathedral better than Victor Hugo’s classic. Keep in mind, this book is much darker than the Disney movie of the same name (which is definitely worth watching!), but it will make the experience of visiting the Cathedral and walking through the cobblestone streets even more magical.
#6 Canada: Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
Widely known for her dystopian novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood is one of the most respected living writers. Each of her books are different, and this work of historical fiction reads more like a mystery - it tells the story of a servant accused of murdering her employer in Northern Canada, brilliantly balancing the historical elements about 19th century society in Canada and the murder mystery plotline.
#7 Argentina: Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges
Borges is a big deal in Argentina. A Big Deal. His mind-bending short stories have, for years, helped start important conversations in Argentina about society and government. His quote that is currently on the facade of the Kirchner Cultural Center in Buenos Aires, “No one is the fatherland, but we all are,” serves as an important reminder of the importance of peace and democracy.
#8 Ireland: Translations by Brian Friel
Set in the small fictional town of Baile Beag in the 19th century, this play humanizes many issues that have plagued Irish society for centuries, such as language barriers and cultural imperialism. This play will give you an appreciation for Irish culture and a better understanding of how hard people have fought to preserve that culture. Also: Try to take in a play at one of the famous theaters in downtown Dublin - from Oscar Wilde to Samuel Beckett, Ireland has been home to some of the greatest playwrights to ever live. Take advantage of it while you’re there!
#9 Colombia: Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a Nobel-prize winner, is known as the father of magical realism, a literary style in which most elements of the story are realistic, with unexpected touches of magic or fantasy. The style makes sense once you see the mythical landscape of Colombia - for example, the Cocora Valley, in which everything looks normal, except the 200-foot palm trees sprouting from the ground. His work also gives readers important insight into machismo culture and political struggles Colombians have faced. Garcia Marquez is a national hero - it almost doesn’t matter which one you read (One Hundred Years of Solitude, Death in the Time of Cholera, Autumn of the Patriarch), but make sure you pick up one of his books before you go!
#10 Italy: Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino
In this fictional travel narrative, Calvino draws on inspiration from Italy. Calvino is no traditional writer, so if it’s not your cup of tea, there are plenty of great Italian writers - going all the way back to Dante’s Divine Comedy to Primo Levi and the current rage, Elena Ferrante. Italy has a long literary tradition - so get reading!
If you liked this check out 10 Travel Books that Will Sweep you Away