Archive for the ‘Literary Travel Books’ Category
“I was bombarded with self-indulgent whining and a lot of religion that didn’t feel universal enough to be empathized with at all.”
“If I had it to do over again, I’d spend my money on another book.”
“…I was annoyed at her whiny, martyr-like tone.”
Those are all reviews I found on Amazon for the book A Walk with Jane Austen: A Journey into Adventure, Love & Faith by Lori Smith.
I hadn’t read any of those reviews before I picked up the book from my local library. The only thing I had read was the blurb on the back of the book that promised readers they would travel through “landscapes Jane knew and loved-from Bath and Lyme, to London and the Hampshire countryside…”.
But by about page 30 I knew this book wasn’t going to give me what I was looking for. It wasn’t going to live up to that blurb promise.
Instead, it became clear that I would spend the next couple hundred pages learning about the author, not about Jane Austen and her life in England. It was around that time that I realized I wasn’t all that interested in the author and her quest to find a good man. And it was when Lori Smith declared “Christian guys beyond a certain age are weird” that I realized this book just wasn’t for me.
If you still want to read this book, please don’t be put off by this review or any of the others on Amazon. Many people had positive things to say about it, and part of me feels a bit guilty for not giving it a few more pages before returning it to the library. Maybe I would have started to care about Lori’s journey a bit more. And then again, maybe not.
I am, however, still interested in reading Lori Smith’s upcoming book, The Jane Austen Guide to Life: Thoughtful Lessons for the Modern Woman. And I’m still searching for a travel book for Jane Austen’s England, so if you’ve read any good ones please let me know.
It seems like every time I go on Amazon there are a bunch of new literary travel books for me to buy.
Here are just a few of the new literary travel books I’ll be picking up in 2012:
All Roads Lead to Austen: A Year-long Journey with Jane
by Amy Smith
Armed with only a suitcase and dozens of copies of Austen’s novels, professor Amy Elizabeth Smith took to the road and organized book clubs in six different Central and South American countries. Along the way, she battled through a life-threatening illness, discovered friendship and love, and learned more about life-and the power of Austen-than she ever could have imagined. All Roads Lead to Austen celebrates the wisdom of letting go and becoming, no matter what our age.
Walking with the Brontes in West Yorkshire
by Norman and June Buckley
In the style of Walking with Beatrix Potter and Walking with Wordsworth, Walking with the Brontës is a pocket-sized book containing fifteen walking routes, predominantly in West Yorkshire. Each walk is to somewhere associated with one or more of the Brontë family, either in real life or with important characters or places in their novels: for instance the house on which Emily based Thrushcross Grange in Wuthering Heights, or the countryside around Cowan Bridge School which, with its harsh regime, caused the Brontë girls much suffering and became Lowood School in Charlotte’s Jane Eyre.
A Pocket Guide to Dickens’ London
by Daniel Tyler
“…the essence of Paris is lost if seen through the double glazing of a hotel room or from the top of a tour bus. You must be on foot, with chilled hands thrust into your pockets, scarf wrapped round your throat, and thoughts of a hot cafe creme in your imagination. It made the difference between simply being present and being there.”
I had high hopes for this book. I really did.
Unfortunately, The Most Beautiful Walk in the World by John Baxter did not live up to my expectations.
I thought this book would be a memoir and literary walking tour all in one. I thought it would detail inspiring walks I could take on my next visit to Paris, stopping at literary landmarks along the way. And while it did mention a few places the literary tourist in Paris should not miss, it wasn’t really a guide to the off-the-beaten-path heart of Paris as the blurb on the back suggests. It’s just a memoir of a man who lives in Paris with loosely connected chapters and random anecdotes, and a few literary references thrown in every now and again. For example, the author mentions the Brasserie Lipp, where Hemingway was a regular. He points out that Hemingway’s preferred meal was cervelas (a type of boiled sausage) with potato salad and a demi of the house beer. There are also mentions of Hemingway at La Coupole and The Ritz Paris. But the book didn’t have the Hemingway walking tour I had hoped to find. So in the end I decided I would’ve been better off re-reading A Moveable Feast while taking detailed notes and creating my own walking tour.
The Most Beautiful Walk in the World was a quick read and had some great descriptive passages of Paris and all its beauty. And if his collection of first editions as seen in the video below is any indication, John Baxter is probably one hell of a literary tour guide.
A warning about Lunch in Paris: don’t read it if you’re hungry. It won’t end well for you.
The descriptions of food and meals in Paris are definitely the best thing about this book. I’m partial to dessert myself, and the recipes included are all worth trying.
I’ve categorized this as a literary travel book but to be fair it only points out one literary spot in Paris when it briefly mentions La Coupole. Hemingway used to drink there, of course, as did Fitzgerald, Beckett, Sartre, and many other writers and artists. (There is a pretty handy list on their website.)
But Lunch in Paris doesn’t claim to be a literary book. It’s for foodies and general Francophiles. Some of Elizabeth Bard’s descriptions made me want to hop on a plane: “There are very few streets that don’t bear some small imprint of a grander, more gracious time – the swooping curve of a wrought-iron balcony or a fading stencil above the window of a boulangerie.” And there were some interesting observations on architecture, such as this one about Notre-Dame: “It is difficult to imagine that the same imposing towers and jutting gargoyles have been presiding over Paris since before the printing press, or the bubonic plague.”
The last time I wrote about my growing literary travel library I mentioned that I was still searching for a good book about the literary side of Paris. Literary Paris: A Guide by Jessica Powell is exactly what I was looking for.
While I would prefer it in paperback, Literary Paris is a hardcover book with just the right amount of information on 30 writers who have spent time in Paris. Each profile tells you a little bit about the writer and how Paris played an integral part in his or her life. It’s illustrated with photos and paintings and all the sites mentioned include address and visitor information (including Metro stops), but I’d probably double check all that info since the book is now over five years old.
With Literary Paris you can visit the library where Proust worked as an honourary assistant, the home where Mark Twain lived and hosted dinner parties, and the restaurant where Balzac loved to eat.
This book will definitely be coming with me on my next trip to Paris.
While a lot of my travel research is done online, I’ve found that books are still an amazing and important resource.
Here are the books about literary travel that I’ve found the most useful (so far). Keep in mind that my collection is growing and I would love to hear some of your suggestions of any titles that I may have missed:
Toronto: A Literary Guide by Greg Gatenby
After checking this one out from my local library, I realized that it had so much information on writers, both famous and obscure, who have lived in or visited Toronto that I just had to buy it. And since Toronto is where I call home, it’s easy for me to go exploring any of the neighbourhood walks that Gatenby details in the book. I’ll definitely be sharing some of the gems from this book here on Tour the Page.
Literary Landmarks of New York by Bill Morgan
This one was a bit harder to find, but I eventually bought a second hand copy, which is now an important part of my collection.
New York is one of my favourite cities in the world (check out my New York reading list and my favourite New York City souvenirs), and you can be sure that Literary Landmarks of New York will now join me on all my future trips there. From the San Remo to Truman Capote’s last home, this book has an incredible amount of information packed into a light, travel-friendly format.
Novel Destinations by Shannon McKenna Schmidt & Joni Rendon
A definite must-have when it comes to books on literary travel. Novel Destinations has everything you need for planning your trip to author houses and museums, literary festivals and tours, and literary places to drink, eat, and sleep. I will never run out of trip ideas thanks to this book.
A Literary Paris by Jamie Cox Robertson
Paris is full of literary landmarks, and while this book will get you familiar with some of them, I have a feeling that there is another book out there that I still haven’t found that would do a better job at taking me through all the literary sites in Paris. As I said, my book collection is still growing. If you know of a better book about literary travel in Paris, please let me know.
Storybook Travels by Colleen Dunn Bates & Susan La Tempa
While this book may be targeted to parents of young children, I found most of the trips outlined by the authors to be totally suitable for grown ups. I’ve had my own Eloise at The Plaza experience, and I am still kicking myself for having missed out on the Pinocchio Park in Tuscany. Storybook Travels definitely inspires some literary wanderlust, whether you have kids or not.
So, what did I miss?