Recommendations for books which will give me a sense of "place"
March 11, 2015 8:14 PM   Subscribe

I really enjoy books which give me a very strong sense of place. Mystery series like Dana Stabenow's Kate Shugak mysteries for Alaska and Nevada Barr who brings U.S. National Parks to life. I'm going to Montenegro, Croatia, Turkey, Greece and Italy this spring. Can you recommend some books?

I'm specifically going to be in Venice, Italy; Pula, Croatia; Dubrovnik, Croatia; Kotor, Montenegro; Santorini, Greece; Athens, Greece; Ephesus, Turkey and Istanbul, Turkey.

It is going to be an amazing trip! I particularly like fun, engaging mysteries, adventure novels and even the odd romance novel. Thanks for any recommendations!
posted by stewiethegreat to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
 
The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt for Venice.
posted by seesom at 8:27 PM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Donna Leon for Venice.
posted by sebastienbailard at 8:27 PM on March 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


The Museum of Innocemce by Orhan Pamuk. It is a wonderfully written novel set in 1970s Istanbul. The author also has another book titled Istanbul: Memories and the City, which is non-fiction.
posted by kaybdc at 8:33 PM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere and Hav, by Jan Morris. The former is of course about Trieste, the beautiful in-between city of Italo-Slav Austro-Hungarian extraction. The latter is a wonderful travel work about a fictional Balkan country.

The Coming, by Andrej Nikolaidis, for Montenegro. Terrific writing.

Black Lamb and Grey Falcon by Rebecca West, for pre-Tito Yugoslavia, generally.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:48 PM on March 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


Definitely Donna Leon for Venice, if you like mysteries. Acqua Alta is my favorite. I've been finding that her earlier books are much better than the later ones.
posted by jaguar at 8:58 PM on March 11, 2015


It's not set in Venice, but Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter beautifully captures a small Italian coastal town.
posted by kbar1 at 9:15 PM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also not Venice, but Andrea Camilleri's Inspector Montalbano books are beautiful and lyrical. A bit more fun, Iain Pear's Jonathan Argyll series is mainly focused in Rome, but travels everywhere.
posted by jetlagaddict at 9:45 PM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's not fiction, but Rebecca West's Black Lamb and Grey Falcon conveys an essential sense of history and place of many parts of the former Yugoslavia.

It's also essentially awesome.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 10:12 PM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Henning Mankell's Wallander Series have a deeply strong sense of Scandinavia, specifically Sweden with a bit of Latvia thrown in. I've read 6 of the 7 or 8 books and I feel like I've lived there.
posted by knolan at 10:18 PM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Nthing Black Lamb and Grey Falcon. Everybody should read this book no matter what. :-)
posted by Sheydem-tants at 5:27 AM on March 12, 2015


I typically recommend anything by James A. Michener when people are looking for immersion in place.....
posted by HuronBob at 5:31 AM on March 12, 2015


The Sunday Philosophy Club series is kind of light on mystery but heavy on Edinburgh; you really get a sense of being a local and having grown up there in a privileged family.
posted by chocotaco at 7:20 AM on March 12, 2015


The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo trilogy almost (emphasis almost) made me long to spend time in Sweden in the winter.
Read Under the Sheltering Sky and hang out in the North African desert.
posted by elf27 at 11:02 AM on March 12, 2015


Response by poster: Particularly interested in books that speak to my planned itinerary (or adjacent in the neighborhood) including Venice, Italy; Pula, Croatia; Dubrovnik, Croatia; Kotor, Montenegro; Santorini, Greece; Athens, Greece; Ephesus, Turkey and Istanbul, Turkey.

Thanks!
posted by stewiethegreat at 11:53 AM on March 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim, set in Portofino, Italy. It's physcially painful to think I can't go there after reading it.

Journey By Moonlight by Antal Szerb takes place all over Italy in the 1930s, and is about a Hungarian man who is obsessed with its culture and beauty. It also features incredible descriptions of his home town of Budapest.

I see your itinerary doesn't take you directly to France, but if a Mediterranean setting will do (and you're into beautifully written, the plot is almost beside the point, hard-boiled crime fiction) Jean-Claude Izzo's Marseilles Trilogy will treat you well. In order, Total Chaos, Chuormo, Solea.
posted by moons in june at 3:28 PM on March 12, 2015


Particularly interested in books that speak to my planned itinerary (or adjacent in the neighborhood) including Venice, Italy; Pula, Croatia; Dubrovnik, Croatia; Kotor, Montenegro; Santorini, Greece; Athens, Greece; Ephesus, Turkey and Istanbul, Turkey.

You've got to read Hav. It's written like travel literature, and even though Hav is fictional, Hav is all of those cities. It's been mentioned above, and I think it's perfect for you; Hav is a description of a balkans-ish country before and after an extremist revolution. It's about how ancient cities with messy histories adapt to modernity, and adapt to becoming tourist destinations. It's about whether a place can ever be understood, or even described. It's also about how telling stories about a place is always a political act. It's a mystery novel where the narrator attempts to find out what the mystery is, exactly. It's very short, very weird, and very clever. It makes Hav feel like a very real place. I just finished reading it and I loved it.
posted by Rinku at 1:39 AM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


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