Reading On Location: Great Books Set In Top Travel Locations, by Luisa Moncada and Scala Quin
Neither part of the subtitle of this book is strictly accurate. Not all of the books included are great books—some are chosen as fairly ordinary genre efforts, and some are chosen because they fit the authors’ love of deviant sexuality and a tendency to glorify the corrupt aspects of contemporary and historical societies. Nor are all the locations chosen top travel locations—few people would consider Angola or Albania to be particularly top travel locations, and the authors manage to not include any books, fiction or nonfiction, about Oregon despite including books about almost every other state and most of the countries of the world, even half a dozen books about Greenland. To be sure, this is an interesting book about books  that is designed for readers who enjoy travel, have broad-ranging tastes that include the genres of mystery, romance, travel writing, as well as classical literature in all sense of the word, ranging from the epic national poems like the Illiad, Odessey, Anneid, among others, to the writings of Waugh, Austen, Greene, Tolstoy, and many others who are considered part of the Great Books canon, along with many works that are not, but that are pleasant reads. The authors even include a couple of plays, although they feel the need to explain those choices, since few people apparently enjoy reading plays .
In terms of its contents, the authors take a geographical and topical approach, dividing the world into several continental or subcontinental areas: Africa, The Americas, Asia, Australasia, Europe, and the Middle East, then dividing up those regions into most of their countries (or, in the case of the Pacific Islands, groups of small countries together), and then regions like Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom are divided into smaller provinces or metropolitan areas, and then within these books are divided by being fictional or nonfictional in nature. Those writers that are considered to be especially noteworthy and important, like Anne Frank or Jane Austen or Charles Dickens, or more obscure choices like Halldor Laxness (a noted Icelandic author) are given feature boxes. Beneath the books references to other similar books or film or television adaptations of the material are included. The authors are continually making comments comparing some obscure writer as the next Le Carre or the natural son of Le Carre which makes this sort of book a self-referential type of book that is probably best for people who read a lot and who care both about genre fiction as well as about Booker and Nobel prizes.
When reading a book like this, it is important to appreciate the obvious love of books and reading that these authors have, as well as the fact that it represents their own personal and highly biased opinion. Within fairly broad confines, this book has several consistent sorts of books that the authors tend to like the most. They appreciate classic works of obvious and lasting value. They appreciate the sorts of books that aspire to classic status that are often made requiring reading in high school or college, many of which I happened to read as required readings in my own schooling, like Kate Chopin’s Awakening or Allende’s House Of The Spirits, to give two examples included here. In addition to that, the authors have a special fondness for spy novels, detective novels, mysteries, as well as novels about sexuality, and novels that are in general controversial in some fashion, whether for offending moral or political sensibilities. There are some books that any well-read person are likely to be familiar with , some that they may want to become better familiar with, and some that they will have no interest reading. Fortunately, at only about 260 pages of material itself, this is a book about books that opens up new vistas and makes the reader familiar with many other books, whether or not one chooses to take up the invitation and read the books mentioned here, which would take years and years, even at my pace, or even travel to some of these places on tours, which would be costly and time-consuming as well, but also likely entertaining and worthwhile.
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