May 13 2013

Vicarious Journeys: The Next Best Thing

My little sister just informed me that she plans to spend three weeks in Istanbul this summer. It’s not that I resent the well-deserved vacation she’s taking from teaching art to Kindergarten through 6th graders, but I AM  jealous. I’ve  added her trip to the growing list of the many coveted, vicarious journeys I will be making through my friends this summer. Sometimes it can feel like everyone is leaving the country except me. Whenever I start to feel like this–just a little too home-bound–I know it’s time to turn to the next best thing: the bookshelf.

To my sister I recommended Orhan Pamuk’s Istanbul. To the rest of you, I’m going to recommend armchair reading from our destination of the month shelf. And this month, we’re featuring Spain. I happen to have two friends there right now. While they’re traveling through Barcelona, I can read Carlos Luis Zafon’s Shadow of the Wind, a mystery set in post-war Barcelona. Zafon’s most recent work, Prisoner of Heaven, also set in Barcelona, was just released in paperback. Or I could pick up George Orwell’s classic Homage to Catalonia, or Colm Toibin’s Homage to Barcelona, which happens to be available for a limited time as a sale book on our remainder tables at Booksmith!

Aside from novels set in the country we’ve got books that will help you delve into the Spain’s culture, past and present, books like Elizabeth Nash’s Madrid: A Cultural History and Giles Tremlett’s Ghosts of Spain. As Madrid correspondents for The Independent and The Guardian, respectively, Nash and Tremlett share their extensive knowledge of the country, taking their readers deep into the roots of the culture, arts, and politics of Spain. Tremlett in particular explores some of the country’s scars, opening up a conversation about Spain’s unexplored past.

Speaking of the ghosts of Spain, to see a few for yourself, swing by San Jose Cathedral in Madrid, a favorite spot for ghost hunters in the city, according  legend and to our Secret Madrid guide. While we’ve got dozens of guidebooks to Spain on our shelves, the most unique are Secret Madrid and Secret Barcelona. These guides invite you explore the cities’ off-the-track sites, such as the Spy Shop in Barcelona or the unsavory specimens on display at the Museum of Forensic Anthropology in Madrid.

And finally, when you do get to travel to Spain, don’t leave without stuffing our Crumpled City Barcelona map into your back pocket. Check out our new display of these fun, lightweight maps to cities around the world, in our travel aisle at Booksmith!

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2 responses so far

2 Responses to “Vicarious Journeys: The Next Best Thing”

  1. John Fifieldon 26 May 2013 at 2:02 am

    Jodie, I just returned from a month and a half in Europe (Spain as the highlight), and heartily agree with your selections. I read Zafón’s Shadow of the Wind shortly before departing the US and used it as a foundation for my explorations in Barcelona. I was also reading the Orwell until my Kindle broke and have to agree on its applicability, as well. I would like to add Pablo Neruda’s Spain in the Heart, a collection of poetry about the Spanish Civil War in 1936 and ’37, which hit home as an outsider’s perspective of Spain during perhaps her most trying time in a long, rich history. It’s hard to hear friends talk about the current economic hardship that is consuming so much of the country, but it is also a comfort to see the social progress that has occurred in the relatively few years since Franco left power.

  2. Jodieon 26 May 2013 at 5:33 pm

    Hi John! Thanks so much for reading and for your thoughtful response. I’m so glad you had this chance to travel and to enrich your travels with some great literature! And thanks for the Neruda recommendation! Jodie

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