Books to Travel with

When I travel somewhere, I try to bring books set in the place I’m going, or at least reflective of the place.  I’m heading to London and Paris in September, so I’m looking for some good British and French novels!  I have a few ideas, but I thought I’d put the question out there for ideas.

A Tale of Two Cities occurred to me as an obviously appropriate choice, except that reading Dickens requires a bit too much effort for a vacation read.

I know I want to read some Sherlock Holmes.  I have a volume of the Complete Stories, but I haven’t actually read all of them.  I won’t be bringing that particular volume (much too heavy for travel!) but I plan to pick up a book of stories from the library.

I want to read something by Agatha Christie, but I’m not sure what yet.  I’ve never read her and I’ve been meaning to for ages.  She’s one of those authors you hear about, and L. M. Montgomery enjoyed reading her, and she shows up in an episode of Doctor Who!

I plan to re-read The Little White Bird by J. M. Barrie, because it’s set in Kensington Gardens and I’m staying two blocks from the Gardens–deliberately, because I’ve read The Little White Bird before.  It’s all rather circular, really.

But that still leaves me woefully short of books for a two-week trip!  Any suggestions?

18 thoughts on “Books to Travel with

  1. Agatha Christie books on audio have become my wife and my go-to choice on driving vacations. They are generally the perfect length for the trips we take and she is just such a fantastic storyteller.

      1. Grace is right, And Then There Were None, is great. I would also recommend the audio version of the short story collection, The Mysterious Mr. Quinn. They are fun stories with a nice undercurrent of the mysterious to them. I’ve also really liked her stories: The 7 Dials and Why Didn’t They Ask Evans and also The Man in the Brown Suit, all on audio read by Emilia Fox. She does an excellent job with the reads and these are all Wodehouse-esque comedy of manners mixed with mystery stories that are so fun to listen to. I imagine they would be fun reads as well.

  2. The Agatha Christie that is specifically set in London is “At Bertram’s Hotel”. “Murder on the Orient Express” would nicely cover both London and Paris (if I remember rightly) and it really is one of her best. Three great (but very different from each other) books about London: “Goodbye Johnny Thunders” by Tania Kindersley; “Seven sisters” by Margaret Drabble and “The Clerkenwell Tales” by Peter Ackroyd. If you are intending to visit the V&A do let me know: I’d be happy to welcome you and, if you are interested, take you on a brief tour of the National Art Library.

  3. I still haven’t read any Agatha Christie either! Never know where to start. For a bit of British humour (and with a slim link to Christie) I recommend the Agatha Raisin series by M C Beaton. Short novels following a bumbling busy-body who ends up solving crimes set in London and the Cotswolds 🙂

  4. “Scaramouche” by Rafael Sabatini is awesome! It ranges all over France in the lead-up to the French revolution. Naturally, a good chunk happens in Paris. If you haven’t read Rafael Sabatini, he was in the early 1900s. He’s a historical fiction writer who writes swashbuckling romances in the sense of adventure as well as relationships. There is also a great deal of wit and humor involved. Many of his works became Errol Flynn movies. I highly recommend it!

    I love “And Then There Were None,” “Crooked House”, and also “Five Little Pigs” by Agatha Christie.

  5. Lily

    For Agatha Christie books: “And Then There Were None” (also published as “Ten Little Indians” and one of my personal favorites), “By the Pricking of My Thumbs”, “Evil Under the Sun”, “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd”, “One, Two, Buckle My Shoe” (also published as “The Patriotic Murders” and “An Overdose of Death”), “Cat Among the Pigeons” (another favorite), “Taken at the Flood”, “Hallowe’en Party”, “Murder on the Orient Express”, and “Towards Zero”. I haven’t read any Paris books that I remember, but other London books include the Harry Potter series.
    And have you considered getting a Kindle or a Nook? You might be one of those people who hate electronic readers–I used to be one of them–but I really like the Nook my mom gave me for Christmas (mostly because this way I can own my own personal library). Just something to think about.
    Enjoy your trip!

  6. I’m going to be very predictable and say Murder on the Orient Express if you want an Agatha Christie book. I actually read it because of Doctor Who! I’m saying this because it is the only Christie book I’ve read, so I can’t recommend any others, but it’s good! Except, it’s not at all set in London, so maybe not what you want.

    And it looks like you’ve got London pretty well covered, but you’re missing Paris. At the risk of starting to sound like a complete raving obsessed lunatic, Victor Hugo in Les Misérables often goes into great length detailing Paris and the streets and shops and places and everything. I think most everything he talks about was real… there are very few fictional places he describes. Of course, this is not light vacation reading and probably too much to pack in a suitcase. Then again, what else are you going to do on the long flights there and back? 😉

    There’s always The Phantom of the Opera, I don’t know if you want to reread. I’m afraid those are the only books I can think of set in Paris. Oh, no, wait. I’ve read The Mystery of the Yellow Room also by Gaston Leroux. Quite mysterious, set not far from Paris, I think. And if you’re going with Sherlock and Christie, might as well make a mystery theme of it!

    1. Don’t worry, you’ve heard me go on far too much about certain things for me to ever decide your fandom is the mark of a lunatic. 🙂 All the same, Les Mis seems like an awfully big commitment to take with me. I’m already planning to find a Chunkster challenge to join in 2013 (after I get through all these series in 2012) and Les Mis is at the top of my list.

      Oh dear, you asked me what I was going to do on the flight. I’ve over-thought this already. I have a Doctor Who audiobook narrated by David Tennant, and I’ve already figured out which Doctor Who episodes I want to load up on my laptop, plus I have a whole assortment of other London or Paris movies I plan to bring, and lots and lots of music. I don’t actually read on planes all that much, though I’m sure I’ll do some of that too…

      I am seriously considering rereading Susan Kay’s Phantom. It’s been…yikes, eight years! It was so good the first time, I’m almost afraid to read it again… But I really should make sure I read something Phantom!

      1. ensign_beedrill

        No, I don’t read on planes, either. I get sick. 😦 I can last longer doing it in a plane than in a car, though.

        Doctor Who audiobook narrated by David Tennant? Yes, please! Hahaha.

        Doctor Who episodes… new series or old series? I’m reading something Phantom right now. Phantom of the Auditorium. It’s a Goosebumps book, haha. You ever read those? I used to love them. I must have read this one before, because I’m pretty sure I read up into the sixties on these books, but I don’t remember it. It’s a little bit painful, to tell the truth… the short, non-complex sentences and simple dialog and silly plot so far. Oh, I’m ruining my childhood.

        1. I get sick reading for too long on planes too…hence all the movie and music plans.

          There are David Tennant-narrated audiobooks available on Amazon. And he’s very good. Just FYI…

          New series Doctor Who episodes. I want something that will reliably hold my attention when I’ve been on a plane for hours, with more time to go. I don’t own any of the series since I streamed it all on Netflix, so I’m buying my favorite episode from each Doctor on iTunes. Just to give me some kind of back-up emergency entertainment (see what I mean about over-thinking?)

          And…I have read Phantom of the Auditorium. I’ve never read any others. I actually had this thing against the Goosebumps books as a kid, partially because they were very popular and I was being contrary, and partially because I thought they’d be gross or creepy. So my younger self vowed never to read Goosebumps, and then my older self broke the vow in favor of finding all possible Phantom versions. This is a, er, LOOSE retelling, but I did enjoy the few recognizable elements–like the writing in red ink. I thought it was sort of like reading the story through a kalidescope, some of the right elements, but all shaken into different places.

  7. I recently read Code Name Verity, a WWII novel set in Britain and France, and I enjoyed it. I love the Jeeves and Wooster series by P.G. Wodehouse (London in the 20’s)–fabulous, very British humor. Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky is an amazing look into WWII France, thought it was tragically not finished, as she was taken to a concentration camp; even unfinished it is an amazing read.

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