What We're Reading Now

Posted by Jess Moss on January 07, 2009 at 1:09:25 PM EST | Post a Comment

There probably just isn't enough time to hit all the spots on your to-visit list. For that reason, we sorted through some recent books and travelogues to bring you the very best of armchair travel. Beware: these are sure to spark your wanderlust! Fodor's Editor Jess Moss weighs in, below.

MAXIMUM CITY
Bombay Lost and Found
By Suketu Mehta
Vintage, $16.95.

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When Bombay native Suketu Mehta returns to his birth city after more than 20 years in New York, he finds that more changed than just its name (now "Mumbai"). Mehta follows the colorful lives of mafia hit men, exotic dancers, Bollywood actors, and others, leading his readers on a vivid tour of India's largest, most densely populated city. I was equally fascinated by his own experiences—like his grudge against the unhelpful plumber—and the comparison between his very different lives in Bombay, America, and Mumbai. (See the bookstore page)

ISTANBUL
Memories and the City
By Orhan Pamuk
Vintage, $15.95.

Orhan Pamuk's Nobel Prize–winning work is written in a more serious tone than most travel books I've read, but maybe that's because this really isn't a travelogue. Pamuk juxtaposes the story of Istanbul with his own history, which has taken place entirely within the city. The concept of huzun, a collective melancholy embodied by Istanbul and its people, is a central theme here, but don't let this deter you—the beautiful writing and moving description provide a stunning account of the city. (See the bookstore page)

DARK WATER
Flood and Redemption in the City of Masterpieces
By Robert Clark
Doubleday, $26.

Few spots beat Florence when it comes to art and history. But the city's picturesque location on the Arno River means the streets are sometimes awash with more than just tourists. In 1966 over 20 feet of water thundered into the city, threatening the citizens, buildings, and thousands of priceless works of art. Robert Clark's easygoing narrative made me want to hop on the next plane to Italy, and his conversational account of the city's great history and efforts to protect its treasures provides a page-turning depiction of Florence's relationship with rising waters. (See bookstore page)

ROADFOOD
The Coast-to-Coast Guide to 700 of the Best Barbecue Joints, Lobster Shacks, Ice Cream Parlors, Highway Diners, and Much, Much More
By Jane and Michael Stern
Broadway, $21.95.

Planning a road trip, but dreading the prospects of gas station snacks and fast food chains? Jane and Michael Stern have you covered. The 7th edition of their cross-country epicurean guide visits many of the best local spots to eat—whether you're looking for Connecticut's best hot dogs, juicy hamburgers in Minneapolis, or Kosher food in Tuscon—though some regions are more extensively covered than others. It's also a yummy read if you're planning to stay put. (See bookstore page)

LOST ON PLANET CHINA
The Strange and True Story of One Man's Attempt to Understand the World's Most Mystifying Nation (or How He Became Comfortable Eating Live Squid)
By Maarten Troost
Broadway, $14.95.

We all gasped at the incredible spectacle of the Beijing Olympics this summer, but truth be told, China has a lot more to offer than those two weeks were able to show. In his newest book, Maarten Troost, the hilarious author of The Sex Lives of Cannibals, treats us to his (sometimes unorthodox) encounters around the country, from Shanghai to Beijing to Tibet to the Gobi Desert, which are at times crude and sarcastic, but will often have you laughing out loud. (See bookstore page)

–Jess Moss

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