Welcome to Travel Readings
Melbourne: The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas
Books, Movies and Beyond…
Books, Movies and Beyond…: Washington, DC and New York
Books, Movies and Beyond…: Rome
Rio de Janeiro: Crimes of August (Agosto) by Rubem Fonseca
Istanbul: The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk
Liège (Belgium): Pedigree by Georges Simenon
Books, Movies and Beyond…: Lisbon
Books, Movies and Beyond…: Cambodia
Hyde Park, Chicago: Ravelstein by Saul Bellow
Paris: Flowers of Ruin and Suspended Sentences by Patrick Modiano
Books, Movies and Beyond…: Naples
Books, Movies and Beyond…: Tanzania
Sri Lanka: Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje
Books, Movies and Beyond… : Venice
Dublin: The Dead by James Joyce
Books, Movies and Beyond: Iran
Santa Cruz, Bolivia: The Matter of Desire (Materia del Deseo) by Edmundo Paz Soldán
Books, Movies and Beyond: Syria
Djibouti: Passage of Tears (Passage des Larmes) by Abdourahman Waberi
Books, Movies and Beyond: Armenia
Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso: The Parachute Drop by Norbert Zongo
Bangkok: Sightseeing by Rattawut Lapcharoensap
Périgord, France: The Caves of Périgord by Martin Walker
Books, Movies and Beyond: Brussels
Naples: The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante
Books, Movies and Beyond: Rio de Janeiro
Tajikistan: Hurramabad by Andrei Volos
New-York: City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg
Israel and Palestine: To the End of the Land by David Grossman and Wild Thorns by Sahar Khalifeh
Books, Movies and Beyond: Bavaria and Southern Germany
Cape Town: Boyhood, Youth and Summertime by J.M. Coetzee
Books, Movies and Beyond: India
Blue Ridge Mountains: Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
Books, Movies and Beyond: Algeria
Austrian Alps: A Whole Life (Ein ganzes Leben) by Robert Seethaler
Books, Movies and Beyond: Africans in America
Zimbabwe: The Last Resort by Douglas Rogers
Books, Movies and Beyond: Colombia
Belgian Ardennes: The All Saints’ Day Lovers by Juan Gabriel Vásquez
Côte d’Ivoire: Aya of Yop City by Marguerite Abouet and Clément Oubrerie
Japan: Haruki Murakami and Amélie Nothomb
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt and The Rope and The Denial of Saint Peter by Charles Baudelaire
Books, Movies and Beyond: Cairo
Vancouver: What is Remembered by Alice Munro
Ghent (Belgium): War and Turpentine by Stefan Hertmans
Haiti: An Aroma of Coffee and Dining with the Dictator by Dany Laferrière and The Comedians by Graham Greene
Iceland: Jar City by Arnaldur Indriðason
Siena and Tuscany : Il Palio delle contrade morte by Fruttero & Lucentini and The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
China : Wild Swans. Three Daughters of China, by Jung Chang
Amsterdam: The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris
Former Soviet Union: The Unwomanly Face of War  by Svetlana Alexievich
Provence: The Horseman on the Roof by Jean Giono, La charrette bleue by René Barjavel, Madame de Sévigné and Ventoux by Bert Wagendorp
Moscow: The House of Government by Yuri Slezkine, The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov and Limonov by Emmanuel Carrère
Books, Movies and Beyond: Vietnam
Books, Movies and Beyond: The Wars in Vietnam

Books, Movies and Beyond…: Washington, DC and New York

I got a request from my sister-in-law as she was preparing her trip to the US. I responded on the blog’s Facebook page. Assuming Americans could be interested by what a Belgian recommends to his fellow Francophones about the US (NYC and DC in particular), I will post it here as well. If you think I am completely off the mark and miss the main points, just let me know and come forward with your own advice.

I started by suggesting « The Son » by Philipp Meyer which I had just finished. I loved that book. It is a novel with three voices telling the story of three generations in Texas (admittedly quite far from the East Coast), starting with raids by and against the Comanche, ending with the oil boom and including the conflicts with the Mexicans.


For New-York, I recommend « The Goldfinch » by Donna Tartt which takes place for a large part in New York’s world of art and antiques (with an eventful visit to the Met), but also in Vegas and a little bit in Amsterdam. A 13 year old boy finds himself in possession of a Dutch masterpiece, on the days his mother dies in a terrorist attack. His coming of age will be intertwined with the fate of that painting.

The Goldfinch, by Carel Fabritius (1654)

The Goldfinch, by Carel Fabritius (1654)

For Washington, DC, I do not really have novels to recommend, which is a little bit of a shame given that I live there. If you have suggestions, don’t hesitate. I found this list, but I haven’t read any of the books.

Reflection pool and Washington Monument, DC.

Reflection pool and Washington Monument, DC.

But a good way to prepare your trip would be to watch some excellent TV series or movies. Of course, there is House of Cards which, even though shot mainly in Baltimore, is an excellent introduction to how the political world in DC works (and deals blows under the belt).


Another series we like a lot is « The Americans ». It takes places during the 80’s in the Virginia suburb of Falls Church, close to where we live. Elizabeth and Phillip have two kids and work for a travel agency. But actually they work deep undercover for the KGB. Nobody knows about it, not their children, not their neighbor Stan who works in counter-intelligence for the KGB. They are in an arranged marriage, but not everything is so black and white during the Cold War.


Finally, a very famous movie, «All the President’s Men » which tells the Watergate story and the investigations led by the Washington Post’s Woodward and Bernstein which will lead to Nixon’s resignation. With Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman.

So I am coming to the end of my suggestions. But it is difficult to resist a short come back to New York. I recommend visiting Washington Square near Greenwich Village and NYU. “Washington Square” is also the title of a novel written by Henry James, which I have not yet read. This square is also mentioned in « Diamonds and Rust » by Joan Baez. It is a song full of nostalgia about the couple that the « Queen of Folk » was forming with Bob Dylan. To me, this is the nicest love song written and interpreted by a woman.

Here are the verses mentioning Washington Square:

Now I see you standing

With brown leaves falling around

And snow in your hair

Now you’re smiling out the window

Of that crummy hotel

Over Washington Square

Our breath comes out white clouds

Mingles and hangs in the air

Speaking strictly for me

We both could have died then and there

And Joan Baez’ song:

United Nations, New-York

United Nations, New-York

For New York, Jamba added some of his own tips: ¾ of Woody Allen’s movies (including “Manhattan” , “Annie Hall” and “Bullets Over Broadway” as well as “New York Stories” by 3 giants : Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola and  Woody Allen. And for novels: Tom Wolfe’s “The Bonfire of the Vanities“, Bret Easton Ellis “American Psycho” , the “New York Trilogy” by Paul Auster and part of “Freedom” by Jonathan Franzen.

And he offered two great ouvertures of Woody Allen’s movies:


Annie Hall:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *