Remember that book you were planning to read during vacation? Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, you may finally get around to it — and have time to thumb through a few more. We’ve asked some of the savviest travelers on earth what titles they’d recommend for armchair sightseeing. Let them be your guide. The world awaits.
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Theroux is an award-winning author of more than 50 books, both fiction and non-fiction. His latest is "On the Plain of Snakes: A Mexican Journey."
He recommends: "The Worst Journey in the World," by Apsley Cherry-Garrard.
What it’s about: One of only three men to survive a notorious journey to study penguin eggs for an evolutionary link between birds and reptiles, the author recounts the hardships of the expedition to the South Pole during the winter season.
He says: "Reading made me a traveler; travel kept me reading. My earliest reading was of adventures in Africa and wilderness journeys. With a daunting name, this detailed, very human account — personal scientific, courageous — becomes the chronicle of Cherry-Garrard’s ordeal. He was just 22 years old when he joined Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s expedition to reach the South Pole. By the way, ‘the worst journey’ is not the dash to the Pole; it is the six-week trip in utter darkness and terrible cold to find the rookeries of the emperor penguins. This brilliant book will remind anyone who reads it that there are people who have been through much worse than what we are enduring now. It's a big, long book — perfect for the lockdown."
Schultz is the author of the bestsellers "1000 Places to See Before You Die" and "1000 Places to See in the USA & Canada Before You Die."
She recommends: "The Agony and the Ecstasy," by Irving Stone.
What it’s about: This biographical novel about Michelangelo unveils the unbridled times of the Renaissance, from princes to poisonings, including love and genius. Those passionate about Italy and art will immerse in the creator of David and the painter of the Sistine Chapel, gaining a portal to what motivated him and a sense of his era.
She says: "I rarely read books a second time, but I recently dusted off an old tome of Irving Stone's ’The Agony and the Ecstasy.’ I love that it promised a cast of great historical characters (Michelangelo and his peers) set in a period of time that has always fascinated me. I remember the first time I read Stone's autobiographical novel while living in Florence during my gap years after university and it is bringing back a flood of those special memories — of afternoons spent wandering the cobbled back alleys of Florence's Centro Storico, still redolent of centuries past, and my tiny appartamentino on Via Buonarroti, just off the Piazza Santa Croce and steps from where the artist grew up. As a writer, I appreciate the volume of research that Stone must have undertaken — leading us through the intrigue of the Church's tangle of politics (some things never change) and the lucrative industry of the marble quarries of Carrara: Stone spent many years in Italy and even apprenticed as a marble sculptor. That's dedication. I couldn't imagine that the film adaptation that followed could possibly be better (its accolades tell me I'm wrong), so I stayed away."
Kaplan is the president of New Jersey/New York for United Airlines.
She recommends: "Beneath a Scarlet Sky," by Mark T. Sullivan.
What it’s about: Prime for fans of historical fiction, this novel addresses the Nazi era in Italy. Based on a true story, soon to be a major motion picture, this book is both a love story and a tale of adventure.
She says: "This is a beautiful and moving true story about an Italian family who helped Jews flee Italy to escape the Holocaust. It’s particularly powerful to me because right before New Year’s we visited two towns in the epicenter of COVID-19 — Crema and Bergamo, where we stayed. Like so much of Italy, focus on family was felt throughout our entire stay, and when I think back and look at photos from that time and how those families are now likely destroyed, quarantine is nothing in the big picture because I’m fortunate to be with my family."
McCurry is an award-winning photographer, famous for his work including "Afghan Girl."
He recommends: "A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush," by Eric Newby.
What it’s about: Considered an icon of travel literature, this book chronicles the eye-opening, soul-searching adventure lived by swank Londoner Eric Newby when he went off unprepared to one of the most far-flung spots. A kind of picaresque memoir, the story shows the traveler’s many failures and successes, and how he gains wisdom as he goes.
He says: "This is a wonderful travel book about one of my favorite countries — Afghanistan. The author walks through parts of Nuristan and the Panjshir Valley, where I spent a considerable amount of time during the war. It's delightful, inspiring and humorous."
Tan is the chief executive officer of the Singapore Tourism Board.
He recommends: "A Book of Luminous Things: An International Anthology of Poetry," edited by Polish-American poet Czeslaw Milosz.
What it’s about: A collection of 300 poems from writers around the world, selected and edited by Nobel laureate Czeslaw Milosz.
He says: "Milosz’s personal selection of poems from the past and present is a testament to the stunning varieties of human experience, offered up so that we may see the myriad ways that experience can be shared in words and images. Miosz provides a preface to each of these poems, divided into thematic (and often beguiling) sections, such as ’Travel,’ ’History’ and ’The Secret of a Thing,’ that make the reading as instructional as it is inspirational and remind us how powerfully poetry can touch our minds and hearts."
Pinto is the managing director of Micato Safaris.
He recommends: "The Flame Trees of Thika," by Elspeth Huxley.
What it’s about: A memoir in which the author recollects her childhood as European pioneers in Kenya.
He says: "This is a magical book, which I practically insist lovers of Africa read. She writes with great skill from the point of view of her growing self, a rambunctious, madly curious young woman enraptured by Africa."
Hostettler is the president and group managing director of Ocean House Management and president of Relais & Chateaux, North America.
He recommends: "Finding Mrs. Ford," by Deborah Goodrich Royce.
What it’s about: A summer favorite last year, this mystery evokes the privileged summer lifestyle in New England as it shows the main character’s perfect life disrupted by a visit from the FBI, questioning her about her past — and a man she knew from Iraq in the summer of 1979. Set in Watch Hill, a stunning coastal vacationer’s village in Rhode Island, the book displays the lifestyle of tony residents and vacationers who summer there.
He says: "As many of us are at home and contemplating what summer may look like in the future, this novel speaks to the famous summer season in Watch Hill, Rhode Island — a well-known destination. Set in current time, the thriller paints a picture of life in this seaside village with wonderful sense of place."
Muckermann is the chief marketing officer of Silversea Cruises.
She recommends: "The Art of Travel," by Alain de Botton.
What it’s about: De Botton, a philosopher, uses an essay-like format to explore the internal rewards of travel. He asks and answers the questions about how and why we travel and poses thoughts about the way it enriches us while including input from literary and celebrity fellow travelers, from Baudelaire to Van Gogh.
She says: "This book captures the essence of the concept that traveling is more about a state of mind than a destination. With this luxury to reflect on why we love to travel, this book instills that pleasure of anticipation. In the first chapter, the author recounts a moment of a vacation in Barbados where he realizes he has brought himself — his conscious mind — and all his troubles with him from home. It is emblematic of the book’s theme: Do you actually need to leave home to travel?"
O’Rourke is the chief marketing officer of Xanterra Travel Collection, a global travel and hospitality company that owns Windstar cruises, tour companies and hotels and is the largest concessioner of national parks.
She recommends: "The Da Vinci Code," by Dan Brown, and "Travels," by Michael Crichton.
What they’re about: The book that introduced Harvard symbology professor Robert Langdon to readers, "The Da Vinci Code" follows a rollicking trail of clues in search of a secret society and its mysteries. "Travels" shows Jurassic Park author Michael Crichton on a real-life ramble around the world. Full of insights and curiosities, the memoir includes such adventures as swimming with mud sharks.
She says: "A favorite work of fiction, ’The Da Vinci Code’ by Dan Brown transports readers to many iconic places in Europe. But I also love ’Travels’ by Michael Crichton. It relates all those personal experiences that give travel value, that change us when we travel — meeting people, experiencing cultures that are so different from our own, and expanding our mind from these experiences."