Eight Books to Escape the Cold
When the winter blues set in, we love reading that transports you to another world (maybe a sunnier, more tropical world). Here are some great books that paint exquisite pictures of faraway lands to help you forget dropping temperatures and dreary forecasts.
by Jess Walter
Set in part in the Cinque Terre region in Italy, this book's evocation of the landscape is gorgeous, but that’s not the only reason to read it. There are star-crossed lovers, an inside and very funny look at the movie business, asides on the horrors of cosmetic surgery, a cameo appearance by Richard Burton, and, on top of it all, Walter’s prose is a pleasure to read.
Beneath The Lion’s Gaze
by Maaza Mengiste
Set in the author’s native Ethiopia in 1974 just before the revolution, and with Haile Selassie as a pivotal character, this novel explores the impact of the military coup on three characters—the physician Hailu and his sons, Yonas and Dawit. The novel not only gives insight into that tumultuous period, it is a compelling, heart-wrenching read with wonderful characters.
The Singapore Grip
by J.G. Farrell
The term “Singapore grip” variously denotes a tropical disease, a rattan suitcase, a secret handshake, a special hairpin, a technique of the city's prostitutes, and the British economic hold on Southeast Asia. In this account of two British partners of a Singapore commercial firm, the 572-page novel takes readers on leisurely tours of the night life of Singapore (then perhaps the world's most cosmopolitan city); the rubber plantations (with their exploited work force of Chinese, Indians, and Malays); and the Brits' intricate social world (characterized by the cloying ennui and bitter jealousies engendered by a willfully self-contained community).
On Sal Mal Lane
by Ru Freeman
Sal Mal Lane a quiet street in Sri Lanka disturbed only by the cries of the children whose triumphs and tragedies sustain the families that live there. The children fill their days with cricket matches, romantic crushes, and small rivalries. But the tremors of civil war are mounting, and the conflict threatens to engulf them all. In a heart-rending novel poised between the past and the future, the innocence of the children—a beloved sister and her over-protective siblings, a rejected son and his twin sisters, and two very different brothers—contrasts sharply with the petty prejudices of the adults charged with their care.
by Jhumpa Lahiri
From the Pulitzer Prize-winning, best-selling author of The Namesake comes an extraordinary novel about two brothers bound by tragedy, a fiercely brilliant woman haunted by her past, a country torn by revolution, and a love that lasts long past death. Subhash and Udayan Mitra are inseparable brothers, one often mistaken for the other in the Calcutta neighborhood where they grow up. It is the 1960s, and Udayan finds himself drawn to the Naxalite movement, a rebellion waged to eradicate inequity and poverty. Subhash does not share his brother’s political passion and leaves to pursue a life of scientific research in America. Complications ensue, with a woman at the center.
by Barbara Grizzuti Harrison
If you love Italy, you will love this book, but even if you don’t you’ll fall in love with Harrison as a travel writer. As she journeys through the Italian peninsula, she weaves her impressions of the people and the landscapes into a narrative full of personal reflection and grounded in the history and culture of the region.
Driving Over Lemons:
An Optimist in Andalucía
by Chris Stewart
Chris Stewart was a founder of and drummer for the rock band, Genesis. After an impulsive decision to purchase land in Spain after a visit there, Chris and his wife Ana must learn to come to terms with the terrain, the lifestyle and, of course, the locals. Not to mention a crumbling house with no water!
The Woman Who Lost Her Soul
by Bob Shacochis
This novel opens in the chaotic, corrupt landscape of Haiti in the 1990s, an unpredictable place more or less run (as it still is, in part) by U.N. peacekeepers. This is a country Shacochis knows well; he covered America’s 1994 intervention and occupation and wrote about it in his intelligent nonfiction book The Immaculate Invasion. The locale later moves to Turkey and then to Amsterdam. It’s a hugely ambitious book that is trying to say something about American interests in the world today. It doesn’t always work, but he’s a fine writer and the story is riveting.