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Fodor’s Holiday Gift Guide 2018: Books

Aren’t books the most transportive vehicle of all? Spark your inspiration for traveling in 2019 with this year’s best stories of sojourns and settings.

In 2018, a variety of novels, memoirs, stories, and essays all fueled our wanderlust and provided new insight on destinations and exploration. Capturing the magic of travel and place through literary devices is only second to the actual experience. So whether you’re riding the subway or curled up in bed, you can always wander the world with a good book–and maybe even incite trip planning.

INSIDER TIPYou’ve been good this year, so buy an extra copy for yourself, too.

 

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PHOTO: Riverhead Books
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FLORIDA by Lauren Groff

No state is as confounding as Florida: wild yet residential, sprawling yet sparse, catering to the youth and the elderly. Groff’s hilarious story collection unearths the irony, the beauty, and the madness of the Sunshine State.

Where to read it: Within a screened-in porch in Key West.

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PHOTO: Riverhead Books
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THE STORIED CITY by Charlie English

A place so famous it spurred its own mythology, The Storied City weaves truths of Timbuktu’s past and present into a surprisingly captivating non-fiction work that starts with history and ends with archivists’ and historians’ race to preserve it.

Where to read it: On your lunchbreak daydreaming of faraway lands.

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PHOTO: Penguin Random House
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THE IMMORTALISTS by Chloe Benjamin

Four siblings scatter across the country after a psychic reveals the exact date on which each of them will die. Follow the Gold children in their quests to tempt fate.

Where to read it: Right before you go to a show in Vegas.

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PHOTO: Circe
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GRIST MILL ROAD by Christopher J Yates

A multiple-perspective thriller that will have you wondering who the real villain is until the end, this dark read will take you through the craggy ranges and woodlands of childhood exploration to the glass and steel towers of adult urban living.

Where to read it: On a porch swing in upstate New York.

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PHOTO: Riverhead Books
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FLIGHTS by Olga Tokarczuk

Dive in beyond physical place to the mind of the traveler in this experimental collection of interwoven stories, essays, and musings as delightfully meandering as wanderlust itself.

Where to read it: Backpacking through Europe.

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PHOTO: Penguin Random House
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THE LOST CAROUSEL OF PROVENCE by Juliet Blackwell

Get swept away in the evocative setting of the south of France during in the time of World War II, in a chateau, no less, with an American reporter exploring the history and demise of a dilapidated carousel and the family who have served as its creators and caretakers. Between the lavender scent and merry-go-round music instilled in your mind, you’ll be booking flights to France.

Where to read it: In a hotel room in a robe and slippers.

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PHOTO: Harper Collins
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THIS WILL BE MY UNDOING: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (White) America by Morgan Jerkins

Allow yourself to inhibit the doubly disenfranchised experience of Jerkins point of view, from street harassment in Harlem to being a black traveler in Russia.

Where to read it: On public transportation, in line at stores, anywhere where people might ask you what you’re reading.

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PHOTO: Penguin Random House
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THE IMMEASURABLE WORLD: Journeys in Desert Places by William Atkins

Deserts are the new beach. From Australia to China to Egypt to Southwest US, William Atkins, in the travel writing stylings of Bruce Chatwin, takes readers through the world’s deserts on a quest to understand our exotic perspective of and often exploitative relationship with the driest places on earth.

Where to read it: At a spa in Sedona.

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PHOTO: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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SEVERANCE by Ling Ma

A millennial capitalist cog realizes her job can’t save her after the Shen Fever epidemic wipes out New York City. This cheeky dystopian novel is a whip-smart deadpan.

Where to read it: On a couch in the suburbs after holiday shopping.

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PHOTO: Grove Atlantic
10 OF 23

AYITI by Roxane Gay

A brand-new republishing (plus two new stories) of inimitable Roxane Gay’s debut collection, these short stories will take you to Haiti and across its sons’ and daughters’ diaspora experience.

Where to read it: Juxtapose your reading experience from a nice home in the Midwest, not unlike how Gay spent her formative years.

11 OF 23

THIS IS (NOT) LA by Jen Bilik with Kate Sullivan

To people who don’t live there, Los Angeles is endlessly mystifying–yet compelling, too, like the psychic reader who your Angeleno bestie swears by. The mythos surrounding everything from the glamour of Hollywood to the woo-woo vibe is just too grandiose to buy, so Jen Bilik gives you a local’s perspective on what you’ll find under the facelift.

Where to read it: Before your New Year’s Trip to Palm Springs.

Related: Downtown Los Angeles is on Fodor’s 2019 Go List!

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PHOTO: Simon & Schuster
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THE FAVORITE SISTER by Jessica Knoll

From page one, you’ll race to uncover the plot twists and juicy drama that somehow makes this novel on reality television a high-brow ethnography of class, race, and celebrity.

Where to read it: Poolside in the Hamptons.

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PHOTO: Penguin Random House
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BELLA FIGURA by Kamin Mohammadi

If you’ve ever thought about quitting your job, moving to Italy, wearing incredible clothes and eating unbelievable food, here’s your bible.

Where to read it: By a fire with a glass of wine.

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PHOTO: Counterpoint Press
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WELCOME TO LAGOS by Chibundu Onuzo

You can practically feel the buzz, hear the traffic, and smell the redolence of Lagos as you follow a band of five runaways making their way through contemporary Nigeria as semi-accidental squatters, kidnappers, and philanthropists.

Where to read it: Before heading out to a nightclub in Ikoyi, an island in the city.

Related: Lagos is on Fodor’s 2019 Go List! 

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PHOTO: Riverhead Books
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REFUGE by Dina Nayeri

Exile, diaspora, transience, immigration–while the book tackles many heavy themes, unraveling such ideas via a separated father-daughter relationship brings the reader to the places between time and space and resonates deep in the heart.

Where to read it: On a train ride through Europe.

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PHOTO: Image courtesy of Knopf
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ELSEY COME HOME by Susan Conley

The story of an ex-pat in Beijing striving to balance parenthood, marriage, and artistry explored through the lens of womanhood. Conley’s prose exudes purpose and rhythm, an unusually lovely combination, creating a rich mood and atmosphere that will have you craving a trip to China.

Where to read it: On a transpacific flight.

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PHOTO: Penguin Random House
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HOW TO LOVE A JAMAICAN by Alexia Arthurs

This story collection brings us the moments of culture, nostalgia, and modern-day life of Jamaicans and their far-flung immigrant diaspora.

Where to read it: Lounging on a warm beach.

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PHOTO: Hachette Book Group
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SO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT RACE by Ijeoma Oluo

Are you an American living in 2018? Time to read this insightful and conversational approach to facing the realities of white supremacy in this country, and figuring out how to do better.

Where to read it: On a road trip across America.

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PHOTO: Penguin Random House
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ONE DAY IN DECEMBER by Josie Silver

If Love Actually met Sliding Doors and became a novel influenced by Jojo Myers, you’d have One Day in December. There’s just something about Christmas and the UK that’s a recipe for modern rom-coms that will have you running for the mistletoe.

Where to read it: On your flight home for the holidays.

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PHOTO: Suzi Siegel
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TINY NEW YORK by Suzi Siegel

An “undersized coffee table book about the smallest things in the biggest city,” this adorable and surprisingly substantial book may have actually found an undiscovered angle of New York.

Where to read it: On the Metro-North.

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PHOTO: Penguin Random House
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TOO CLOSE TO BREATHE by Olivia Kiernan

There are so many good mystery and thriller writers coming out of Ireland, but Kiernan turns a tired trope on its head to deliver a female protagonist detective with brains and bravery.

Where to read it: On the grounds of Trinity College.

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PHOTO: Penguin Random House
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OFF THE RAILS by Beppe Severgnini

Nostalgic for the glamorous days of Murder on the Orient Express, minus the murder? Severgnini writes part-memoir, part-love letter to travel via rail line.

Where to read it: Crossing Canada under the glass dome on the Rocky Mountaineer.

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PHOTO: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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CALL ME ZEBRA by Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi

Hop on board with anarchist, atheist, and autodidact Zebra as she bounds on her hilarious and frenetic adventure through literature and across the globe, always in search of deeper connection.

Where to read it: A long weekend exploring Barcelona.