Spring Travel Titles

Like many travelers, we’re already looking ahead to spring. Whether plotting your travels or simply hoping for a good armchair vacation, here are some titles to watch for as the weather warms.

Why the Dutch are Different. Mingling history with travelogue, English expat Ben Coates speaks to why the Netherlands is such a fascinating country, significant beyond its size. His probing narrative explains the importance of the color orange, the ongoing battle to keep water out, the Dutch love affairs with milk and beer, their attitudes toward nature, their world-famous culture of tolerance and why there are many “nether lands.”

In Other Words. In this complex memoir of longing and self-reflection, Jhumpa Lahiri immerses herself in Italian and moves to Rome with her family, where she reinvents herself in the foreign culture. Her dual-language book chronicles her courtship with the language, her interactions with the Italians and the difficulties of linguistic exile. Lahiri also wrote Interpreter of Maladies and The Lowland and has won both the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Hemingway Award.

Elephant Complex. This exuberant travelogue by an award-winning writer takes stock of Sri Lanka, from the capital city of Colombo through the remotest interior. In his eye-opening journey, John Gimlette visits elephants, forts, tea plantations, devil-dancers, tribesmen, expats, an ex-president and much more. He mixes his narrative with colonial history (Portuguese, British, Dutch and Danish) and plenty of lucid observations.

In Europe’s Shadow. Established journalist and prolific writer Kaplan first visited Romania in the 1970s after identifying it as an important piece of the Cold War overlooked by most Westerners. He has returned periodically since and here collects his impressions of the country, which he argues is key to understanding the current Russian threat to Europe as a whole. Kaplan’s previous works include Balkan Ghosts and Asia’s Cauldron.

The Greeks, An Illustrated History.This accessible photographic history of ancient Greece pays special attention to Greek innovations: great literature and architecture, war tactics, democracy, the Olympics, the philosophy of Socrates and much more. Cline laces the gripping story of the Greek Empire with discoveries like the Uluburun shipwreck, the earliest writing found in Europe and buried Greek palaces. A well-illustrated tribute to the foundations of Western civilization.

The Geography of Madness. This collection of scientific travel stories by award-winning author Frank Bures focuses on “culture-bound” syndromes. The phenomenon: strange beliefs that seem like pure madness but are caused by epidemics of physiology and psychiatry. Bures’ weird, wild anecdotes include a community of men who believed that their penises had been stolen.

The Gilded Chalet. Full of history and scandal, this amusing guide profiles 200 years of outstanding literary works and the places in Switzerland where they were written. From the mischief of Romantic poets to the extended holidays of Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Nabokov to the invention of “Swiss Noir,” Rooney shows that Switzerland (land of luxury hotels, nude sunbathing, fresh milk and fresh air) has had a strong influence on great literature.