Reading the world

The Christmas when I was 12, my uncle gave my mother the audiobook tapes of “Angela’s Ashes” by Frank McCourt as a gift in our family exchange. She may have listened to the first tape once, but otherwise I don’t think she ever heard them, because I stole them away almost immediately. I began listening endlessly, popping in tapes during the day, listening to them as I fell asleep at night (rewinding to the last point I remembered the following day), and ultimately re-listening to this work multiple times. Beyond narrating his memoir, McCourt sang songs and used his storyteller’s talent (and that great Irish accent) to transport and immerse me utterly, although I may have been a little younger than the audience he envisioned. 

The slums of mid-20th century New York and Limerick might seem an unusual place to armchair travel, but there is an undeniable thrill in letting a book bring you somewhere new, or back to an old familiar spot. This pandemic may have canceled or changed your travel plans, but books can help get you where you want to go, whether you’re in the car or on your couch.

If you’re planning to venture forth (or planning ahead), we have travel guides for that! You can find recent additions to our travel section here, or you can use one of our targeted staff-created lists to practice safe social distancing while exploring the great outdoors or gathering the kids for some family fun. We also have guides to help you take advantage of local treasures, and you can find more to explore in Princeton on our website.

If you’re keeping yourself a little closer to home, I recommend starting your reading journey with a work in translation. August marks Women in Translation month, celebrating works written by women that have been translated into English. If you don’t read in another language, or even if you do, this is a great opportunity to experience the wide range and high quality of literature being published around the world as you get an insider’s view of a place or culture.

Start browsing this list for some recently translated works and for links to more works from previous years. A fan of Iceland from an impromptu 24-hour layover, I just read “Miss Iceland” by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir, translated from the Icelandic by Brian Fitzgibbon. I’m eager to follow up this tale of a female writer in the 1960s trying to find where she fits with some recent travel writing: “The Museum of Whales You Will Never See and Other Excursions to Iceland’s Most Unusual Museums” by A. Kendra Greene.

There are many ways to get away from it all using your library card. (Prefer to learn a place through its food? Start with James Beard Award winners and see where they take you.) Whether you prefer beaches, mountains, lakes, deserts, cliffs, forests, cities, or villages, we have something for you here. Time to immerse yourself!

Photo by Kelsey Knight on Unsplash

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