Bits & Bobs We ♥: Travel Reading

by Andrea on August 29, 2011

One of my all time favorite things to do when getting ready for a trip is to READ! And with my upcoming trip to Beijing (oh yes, I plan to accomplish #32 in less than two months!), I have lots of reading ahead of me.

I organize my travel reading into four categories: guide books, humorous travel memoirs, historical non-fiction, and novels.

I start out with guide books.  Two of my favorite series are Lonely Planet with its oodles of information and DK Eyewitness Travel Guides with its photos and illustrated walks.  These help to narrow done what I want to see and do during my trip.

After getting my bearings, I like to pick up humorous travel memoirs typically written by a long-term tourist or expat.  The third book in my collection, Lost on Planet China, is written by a Dutch man, living in California with his family.  It captures his pitfalls and successes as he goes on a scouting mission to see if the family with little kids should relocate to China.

Next I like to read up on the history and background on where I’m going.  This step is incredibly helpful to help you understand why the locals are doing the really weird things they are doing.  It provides the cultural context to make sense of what your experiencing.  For this trip, I picked up Beijing Time and Beijing: From Imperial City to Olympic City.

The last step, and probably my favorite, I ♥ reading novels set in the location.  Novels provide you with a sense of connection, familiarity, and access that is hard to get through the non-fiction reading.  For this trip, I’m reading kitchen chinese about a Chinese-American who gives up  on her post-scandal life in the states and goes to try something new in Beijing.  Then for me, it’s all mysteries.   Boy, do I love me some mysteries.  I’ll be reading The Eye of Jade, The Chinese Alchemist, and The Fourth Sacrifice.  With all of the other types of books, I make sure to read those prior to departure.  However, I always pack a few of the novels along for the plane rides, jet lag induced insomnia, and train trips. It’s pretty rad reading a novel set in the location that you are walking, breathing, touching, tasting, and experiencing!

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