When you can’t hop a plane and head to a new destination, what’s the next best thing?
While we’ve been living in Asheville, North Carolina this year, we’ve had a great time exploring the region. Hiking, visiting the Biltmore Estate, discovering the best affordable restaurants, enjoying the fall foliage, and more. But in between these fun little jaunts, what’s a drifter to do?
With no major travel plans on the horizon until mid 2016….lately, I’ve been traveling through books.
I’ve Been to a Wizarding School in the UK
Sigh. Over the past few months, I’ve been rereading the Harry Potter series. What a wonderful set of books. I hadn’t reread the series in its entirety in about 8 years, so it was wonderful to revisit the world of Hogwarts, magic, and letters sent by owl.
I think the Harry Potter books are wonderfully atmospheric. Since I first read them, I felt drawn to attend a wizarding school, preferably a castle, tucked away in the north of England. Going to the UK for the first time in 2011, and then attending university in Scotland a few years later, gives me an extra sense of Rowling’s imagery in the novels (and probably explains why I chose Scotland for grad school). I’ve also been to Harry Potter spots around the UK, including the Elephant House, an Edinburgh cafe that claims to be the place Rowling sat and wrote the first book in the series. It is so easy to see how the city of Edinburgh clearly inspired her, and it brings the books all the more to life for me personally.
I’ve Traveled to Distant Lands
I realize after rereading HP how much I am enjoying the fantasy genre. Unlike realistic fiction, fantasy truly sweeps you away into a new place. It’s a genuine escape from the humdrum of daily life, the depressing images of the news, and the mind-numbing, often superficial debris of social media. Fantasy novels pull you in and make you brand new, and for this reason, especially as the chill of winter sets in, I’ve been drawn to them more than any other books. I just finished The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.
This book was outstanding. I feel as though in some ways it is the first “real” fantasy book I have read. It really delves deep into its world and I felt like I was treated to 5 books in one. I can’t wait to read the next books in the trilogy, and apparently, one has not even been published yet!
I’ve Sailed the High Seas
I really love books about seafaring. Not that I’ve done much of it myself, but my dad was a deep sea fisherman, so perhaps it’s simply in my blood. I read a couple great books recently about ocean voyages. The first was The Voyage of the Narwhal which was about an arctic expedition derailed by pride and perhaps even madness. The second was from the perspective of a wife who longed to adventure beside her captain husband on the high seas. She gets more than she bargained for but makes remarkable discoveries about her relationships and her own strengths. This book is called The Sea Captain’s Wife.
I’ve Journeyed Across America and to China
This year also saw me revisiting some of my favorite books, two of which are very strong in regards to their sense of place: The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan, and On the Road, by Jack Kerouac. I love rereading old classics and having a new experience each time. From rural China to downtown Denver, these books are cultural, sociological, exciting journeys. If you haven’t read them, I suggest you absolutely check them out. You’ll find more information and other suggestions on our list of books to inspire wanderlust.
Where Will I Travel in Literature in 2016?
Inspired by the very well-read Adventurous Kate, I’ve decided to participate in Pop Sugar’s 2016 Reading Challenge! This should help me expand my reading library, and will hopefully encompass some of the pieces I’ve already chosen to read soon. Below are the included categories, plus a few of my own, with my tentative book ideas. Nathan is going to do his own version of the challenge as well! And I can definitely thank his bookworm self for influencing me to read more and more.
Please let me know if you have suggestions of great books for any of the categories. I’d love your input, fellow reader.
Amy’s 2016 Reading Challenge
44 books total
A book based on a fairytale: Enchantment by Orson Scott Card √ READ 1/16
A National Book Award winner: Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
A YA Bestseller:
Graceling by Kristin Cashore Abandoned this book, need a new suggestion!
A book you haven’t read since high school: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
A book set in your home state (Vermont): The Secret History by Donna Tartt √ READ 4/24
A book translated to English: Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl √ READ 1/23
A romance set in the future: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
A book set in Europe: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
A book that’s under 150 pages: Train Dreams by Denis Johnson
A New York Times bestseller: Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay √ READ 1/18
A book that’s becoming a movie this year: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
A book recommended by someone you just met:
A self-improvement book:
A book you can finish in a day: We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
A book written by a celebrity: Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe
A political memoir: Citizens of London: The Americans who Stood with Britain in its Darkest, Finest Hour by Lynne Olson
A book at least 100 years older than you: Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
A book that’s more than 600 pages: The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss (994 pages!) √ READ 2/14
A book from Oprah’s book club: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
A science-fiction novel: A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.
A book recommended by a family member: The Girl With Seven Names by Hyeonseo Lee
A graphic novel: Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
A book published in 2016: Mother Tongue by Christine Gilbert
A book with a protagonist who has your occupation: The Space Merchants by Pohl & Kornbluth
A book that takes place during summer:
A book and its prequel:
A murder mystery: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins √ READ 5/2
A book written by a comedian: Born Standing Up by Steve Martin
A dystopian novel: 1984 by George Orwell. Nope, I have never read it.
A book with a blue cover: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness √ READ 3/6
A book of poetry:
The first book you see in a bookstore:
A classic from the 20th century: Fahrenheit 451
A book from the library: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
An autobiography: The Autobiography of Malcolm X ?
A book about a road trip: Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon
A book about a culture you’re unfamiliar with: The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philip Sendker √ READ 5/21
A satirical book: Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
A book that takes place on an island: The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
A book that’s guaranteed to bring you joy: On the Road by Jack Kerouac
A book set in a place you will travel to in 2016:
A non-fiction book about marriage: The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller √ READ 3/3