Literary Travel: Sweden

Place: Sweden. As I write this, it’s 37 degrees in Stockholm, Sweden. I am SO jealous. If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I am a winter girl. I blame it on the fact that I was born in January (coldest month of the year) in one of the worst storms of the decade in the Chicago area (the snow was above our garage). It doesn’t hurt that I was raised in Illinois and Colorado – both places where I got my dearly beloved cold weather in spades. Not so much here in California where I have to pretend it’s cold by reading about it… or possibly scouring the Weather Channel’s website for cold places and pretending I’m traveling there sometime soon. Let’s have a go at Sweden shall we?

What to Pack:

7 Days in Sweden
I’m one of those annoying light packers. If I’m going to be traveling to more than one city, I want to be taking a carry on. It’s not fun to struggle with your bag while jumping on trains and planes, and even less so in bulky coats and mittens. Above I’ve included enough clothes for a week or a week and a half (and then, honestly, once you’ve got a week’s worth of clothes – you can be gone for as long as you want thanks to a brilliant invention called a washing machine). For those of you who groan about clothes without color, I added  scarves and earrings (and nail polish if you really want an extra pop of color). I try to keep things mix-and-matchable when traveling, and neutrals are easiest for that. The hard part about going to cold weather? The bulk of the clothes and needing multiple pairs of shoes (one is bound to get wet and be uncomfortable if it’s raining or snowing). How’d I do? What could you NOT live without that I forgot (of course, I’m assuming you’d add your undergarments and toiletries)?

What to Do: I’ve never been to Sweden, so I can’t give you any personal recommendations. However, I love the New York Times travel section and boy do they have space dedicated to Sweden on their website! It makes me want to go even more than I already wanted to. Sigh and swoon!

What to Read: 

Have you been to Sweden? Any recommendations for my future dream trip? Favorite books or authors from there (or books set there)?

Literary Travel :: Paris

Place: Paris, France. Love of my life. Flower of my soul. Cream in my coffee. I’m slightly obsessed with Paris. (I know… original, aren’t I?)

What to Pack: It depends on which time of year you are going; summers are hot, winters are chilly. As for style there is one key factor no matter which arrondissement you are in, minimalism. Parisian women seem to have taken Coco Chanel to heart when she said, “simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance.” After entering a Sephora in Paris for the first time and noticing that they had less than half the make-up selection of the American stores and more than twice the perfume selection (along with an area, in the center of the store, where you could customize a perfume), I asked one of the saleswomen why this was the case. She explained that in America, women care about make-up and how that plays into fashion. In Paris, they care very little for (and sell relatively small amounts) of make-up, but Parisian women look at perfume as an absolute must.

Moral of the story: keep it simple. And bring perfume.

(Click on the picture below for more details.)


What to Do: Stay at Hotel Le Six. Get a metro map and use it (the public transportation in Paris is wonderful). Also use Rick Steves’  Paris Guidebook. He writes the best guide books, in my opinion. There is so much to do that it would be ridiculous for me to tell you any tips other than where to stay (a fantastic, relatively affordable hotel in the heart of what used to be the literary district and is walking distance from so many places related to the Lost Generation), and to make sure you visit Shakespeare and Company. (Oh, and if you have time – Versailles is a favorite of mine… and only an easy 30 minute train ride from Paris.)

What to Read:
  • Paris 2012 by Rick Steves :: You thought I was kidding above, but I wasn’t. He packs a lot of good information into this book. Mostly it’s the stuff you want to know about before you go see certain sites. And then, once you’ve seen the sites and are just exploring the city for fun – he gives great tips on where to go so you can avoid the touristy areas and get an idea of what it’s like to live in a certain city. I read his books (when they’re available) before I go on any trip.
  • A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway :: Read this before you go, not while you are there. You’ll get so much more out of the trip because you will have been able to mark down streets and areas that you’d like to look at before you get there. He mentions, in detail, places that people used to live and cafes they all used to frequent.
  • Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran :: Not only is this a great story that will keep you entertained, it’s packed with real information about what happened in Paris leading up to (and during) the French Revolution. I read this before my last trip to Paris and was really surprised by how much greater my understanding of the city was. Knowing a city’s history makes traveling more fun (in my opinion), especially when the history has defined the culture and the area. This is a fictional book, so, of course, not everything is truth, but it is obvious that Moran did her research and looking into the facts as you read along is part of the fun for francophiles.
  • The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery :: This novel takes place in Paris, and is one of my favorites regardless. I absolutely devoured this story and I thought the reader (I listened to it on audio) was amazing. Thoughtful, sharp, and cleanly written; it’s a wonderful novel to either read before, during, or after a trip to Paris.

Have you read these titles? What are your absolute must-reads about Paris?

Literary Travel :: Salem

Place: Salem, Massachusetts. I LOVE this city. It is so much fun and is a very short trip from Boston.

What to Pack: If you’re going in the fall, think warm. Salem is right on the water and it can get chilly there, especially at night. The leaves on the trees are amazing colors (worth bringing your camera), and the town is incredibly walkable.
(Click below for more details about the items.)

Fall - Site seeing

What to Do: Stay at The Morning Glory Bed & Breakfast. Take the trolley tour (it’s worth it). Visit Nathaniel Hawthorne’s house, which is included in the tour of the house with the seven gables. Visit the oldest candy shop in America, Ye Olde Pepper Candy Companie.

What to Read:
  • The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe: Fun, magical, historical fiction and current times all rolled into one. This was a page-turning easy read. 
  • The Lace Reader and The Map of True Places by Brunonia Barry: Barry is from Salem and writes current novels set there. Not only are the stories good, she incorporates a lot of real places (and sometimes people) in them – so it make delightful reading when you are visiting!
  • The House of Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne: I haven’t read this yet, but I’ve toured the house which inspired it and kick myself for not buying a copy there. It’s on my to be read list – possibly this fall?

Have you read these titles? 

Literary Travel :: To New England

I can’t quite describe what pulls me to New England, I’m not from there – nor is any of my family – but I love it. I love to visit, to read about it, and to watch films from there. Maybe it’s the relaxed preppy vibe, the history, or even the cool blue Atlantic that could tell a thousand stories about the journeys that have taken place across it.

Place: New England. Lobsters, sailing, islands, whale printed pants, history, and so much more!

What to Pack: Preppy casual with a jacket for cool evenings. Boat shoes that you can slide in and out of (and not worry about getting dirty), and a small purse will make things easier. A sailor striped e-reader case and nautical-knot necklace are too cute not to bring! (Click below for more details about the items.)

New England : To Pack

What to Do:

Boston: There is so much to see in this historic, beautiful town. Favorite bookstore? Harvard Bookstore. This is a privately owned bookstore with a very friendly staff, and wonderful selection tables. I also enjoy Salem, and a trip to Massachusetts without a visit to Concord would be sacrilege for a bookworm! Martha’s Vineyard is accessible by bus and ferry – and is worth a trip!

New Hampshire: Portsmouth is such a sweet town. Stay at The Governor’s House. It has a wonderful library and it’s a short distance from the main drag of town (Congress Street), eat at Friendly Toast (because it’s cute… andy yummy), and make sure you stop by River Run Bookstore and say hi to Liberty (aka The Demon Bookseller of Fleet Street, and also my colleague at BookRiot)… take a chance and buy whichever book she recommends; russian roulette for book geeks!

Maine: Kennebunkport… Anywhere you go in this picturesque town is going to thrill you. It’s quintessential coastal Maine. Make sure you try the blueberry pie at Bartley’s Dockside Restaurant. It’s a hole in the wall, but yummy nonetheless!

What to Read:
  • Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead: Preppy wedding on a preppy island combining two preppy families. Mixes humor and depth in a well-written story.
  • Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan: The story of a New England family told through the eyes of three generations of its women. A wonderful, intricate story about family, traditions, and the significance of being a woman. This is a fantastic read.
  • Here if You Need Me by Kate Braestrup: Amazing non-fiction about an atheist Unitarian chaplain of the Maine Game Warden Service. Incredibly wise, poignant, and breathtaking – it’s a testament to the fact that we humans all have a common thread, no matter where we live or what we believe. You might not want to go backpacking through the Maine wilderness after reading it, but you’ll always remember it from the stories in this book. (One of my favorite books of all time.)

Have you read these titles? What other ones would be New England-y?

Literary Travel :: To the Pool

There are so many trips I could plan (and I will) since I love choosing where to go, what to do, what to pack, and (most importantly, but of course) what to read. But today we’re starting somewhere simple…

Place: The Pool. Be it in your backyard, a friend’s apartment building, or a city pool – let’s face it, some of us aren’t going very far for vacation this year. That doesn’t mean we can’t make the most of it. Though I’m not a sunbather, I do enjoy being outside and reading – so give me a chaise-lounge, an umbrella, some books, and a pool to cool down in and I’m set.

What to Pack: Comfy clothes, SPF (& a hat), and a soft towel all go in my bag. (Click below for more details about the items.)

Pool Time

What to Do: Apply sunscreen, read, drink water, jump in pool. Repeat. Be sure to “oooh” and “ahhh” so your pool-mates ask you what you’re reading and you can tell them all about it.

What to Read: When it comes to sitting for hours in one place (especially in the heat), I need to be distracted. That means I want a book that will keep me from thinking about the fact that I just jumped in the pool 10 minutes ago and already feel like I need to take another dip (I don’t know about you – but it’s been very warm where I live lately); the type where you’ll not notice that your leg is stuck to the plastic pool chair because the plot is oh-so-good. Tuck these three titles into your bag – they’ll keep you from going bonkers in the heat.
  • Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer :: A fascinating look at fundamentalist Mormonism by one of the leading non-fiction writers of our time. This book does not berate the religion, but rather educated us about the vast differences between the modern day LDS and the fundamentalists with whom they often get lumped together.
  • Holly’s Inbox by Holly Denham :: A funny British rom-com written in the form of e-mails and texts. Very charming, very quick read.
  • One Thousand White Women: The Journals of Mary Dodd by Jim Fergus :: A fantastic story that is highly rated yet not well known. This is the fictional story of what may have happened if the 1854 proposal by a Cheyenne chief to the US government to exchange 1000 white women for 1000 horses had come to fruition.

Have you read these titles? What other ones would be pool-worthy?

Posts From Paris!

I have missed you all! It has been very hard to keep up with the blog while I’ve been gone… but in case you haven’t had a chance to check out some of what I’ve been writing for Book Riot — here are my posts from Paris. The most recent is up today, but thanks to jet lag, finally finishing moving out of LA, and just being oh-so-tired… I forgot to get the link to post today’s article here. So head over to Book Riot and see what I have to say about my last day in Paris!!

Here are some you may have missed:

Chasing Literary Ghosts in Paris

Oscar Wilde… Offended by a Kiss?

Help Book Riot Create the Ultimate List for What to Read on the Airplane!

Have any great books that keep you occupied while flying? Help create the ultimate list! Click through to Book Riot using the link below and add your suggestion to our list. We’ll publish the final list once we have everyone’s great suggestions, and you can use it next time your looking for that ultimate distract-me-from-sitting-in-an-airplane-chair-for-5-hours feeling!

What to Read on the Airplane? Help Book Riot Create a List!

A Bientôt! (See you soon!)

Will let you know if I have any moments in Paris a la Carrie Bradshaw!

Dear Lovely Readers,

I’m heading to Paris as previously talked about here and here. I’m doubtful that I’ll be able to keep from sharing some of the great things I’m seeing (especially in such a literature rich city), so I imagine I’ll be around with check-ins, but other than my posts for BookRiot (Mondays and Wednesdays) and the Read-a-Long on Fridays, there is nothing else “officially” scheduled here on Unputdownables for the next couple of weeks. Knowing me, that could mean that I am here posting every single day of my trip — but it could also mean that I won’t be posting regularly until late December (I’ll be back in full swing the week before Christmas).

I do hope you’ll keep stopping by and maybe catch up on some older posts that you haven’t had a chance to read yet )or even hop over and  read the articles I’ve been writing on BookRiot)!

I have a list of historical literary places that I’m going to try to get to – basically cafes and restaurants frequented by the writers of the 20’s and (of course) Shakespeare & Co. (even though I know it’s not the original). Do you have any favorite literary gems I should know about (i.e. in the vein of “Stein lived at such and such address — you can see her apartments from the street”)???

I hope to also be on Twitter a little here and there, so maybe I’ll catch you there. Otherwise — I’ll see you in a few weeks!

A bientôt!

A Reading List for Paris

Thank you all SO much for the great recommendations for books to read about Paris. I’m posting the full list because I know I am not the only one obsessed with the French (not just Parisians, as Flo has taught me that Parisian and French can often be very different!). I’m excited to be going back soon (though sad I won’t have a chance to visit the rest of the country this time… I really loved my time in the south of France when I was there a few years ago, and my goal is to visit EACH region!)

I am currently reading The Elegance of the Hedgehog and LOVING it. It may end up being one of my favorites. Though by a French author, I really wouldn’t recommend it primarily as a book having to do with France (or Paris). It does take place in Paris, but could be anywhere, honestly. Instead, I would recommend it for a person, or group, who would like to have some really wonderful philosophical ideas thrown at them. This book is like a philosophy course — but fun! (I say that having a brother who is about to have his PhD in Philosophy… he thinks all philosophy is fun.)

Below are the suggestions from readers. Each title represents a recommendation, and each *  by that title represents a ditto (i.e. another person recommending the same book). Onto the good stuff…

Books Recommended:

The Ladies’ Paradise by Emile Zola *
The Belly of Paris by Emile Zola
Pot-Bouille by Emile Zola
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway***
Perfume: the Story of a Murder by Patrick Suskind
Underground Time by Delphine de Vigan
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbary *
Time Was Soft There: A Paris Sojourn at Shakespeare & Co. (also titled: Books, Baguettes, and Bedbugs) by Jeremy Mercer **
Lunch in Paris: A Love Story by Elizabeth Bard *
My Life in France by Julia Child **
The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan
Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik *
Eiffel’s Tower: And the World’s Fair Where Buffalo Bill Beguiled Paris, the Artists Quarreled, and Thomas Edison Became a Count by Jill Jonnes
The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
Blue Lantern by Colette
My Mother’s House by Colette
Sido by Colette
Almost French by Sarah Turnball *
Le Divorce by Diane Johnson
Bad Marie by Marcy Demansky
French Milk by Lucy Knisley
Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman by Alice Steinbach
Petite Anglaise by Catherine Sanderson
The Beat Hotel by Barry Miles

Other authors recommended:

Henry Miller
Anais Nin

Poets Recommended:

Apollinaire and Baudelaire