Hodge Podge: Fiction For the Armchair Traveler

IMG_6466The kids recently entered a contest by building a multi-featured island clubhouse out of Legos. Grand prize? A trip to Legoland in Denmark. Although I knew in my heart of hearts that the chances of winning were nil, I still experienced a moment of panic when I realized that if they DID win, we would have a hard time traveling on expired or non-existent passports. What a relief when some British child won, cutting short my panicked research into the hazards of procuring expedited passports from Chicago.

Although a trip to the hygge-ligt peninsula is out for the forseeable future for a variety of reasons including-but-not-limited-to my aforementioned expired passport, I do still enjoy the sensation of traveling vicariously. Hence this week’s hodge-podge, which is dedicated to international settings.

For Grown-ups:

A Gentleman in Moscow – This delightful book about a Russian aristocrat consigned to life under house arrest in a hotel touches on so many fascinating themes–from how little events can change the trajectory of a life to being gracious with your fate to the importance of respect for people as persons–the constrained setting actually opens up a world of thought and inquiry. I found myself thinking quite a bit about the main character’s approach to change, his past, and his shifting circumstances. “For as it turns out, one can revisit the past quite pleasantly, as long as one does so expecting nearly every aspect of it to have changed.” I highly recommend this novel, and think it would be a great choice for a book club.

And Then There Were None – This fun, romping mystery set on a British island is a fast read with surprising twists. If you’re a mystery fan, or looking for something fairly light and quick, this would be a great choice.

Einstein’s Dreams – I bought this book thinking I was going to a book signing with the author, but the fates conspired to change my plans (which is an elegant way of saying we double booked and I was too tired anyway). Given my investment, I read it anyway. Fortunately, it was short, because I thought it was so-so. While there are some intriguing topics as to time and purpose and how we live our lives, it wasn’t a stand-out overall.

Everyone Brave is Forgiven – I read a lot of World War II fiction, and this was one of the better selections in that genre. The author struck an excellent tone, with a perfect balance of humor, cleverness, and respect. If you’re a fan of the genre, definitely read this one. Even if WWII novels aren’t generally your thing, I suggest it as a particularly worthwhile choice.

Salt to the Sea – In need of still more World War II? This book highlights a lesser-known event–the sinking of the Gustloff–which I found interesting.

For Kids:

Around the World in 80 Days – Having grown up watching the excellent mini-series starring Pierce Brosnan, it was a delight to read this book with my kids. The book, as is so often the case, is far more detailed than the series, and I so enjoyed getting even more of the adventures of the stuffy English gentleman and his hapless French manservant.

Have Space Suit, Will Travel – Out of nowhere, this sci-fi classic became a favorite. I’m not certain it’s a kids book per se, but the main characters are kids, and it’s good, clean fun so I can recommend it. We listened to the book on audio and thought the dramatized (but unabridged) version was excellent.

If you were to suddenly win a trip overseas, is your passport at the ready? And where would you hope to go?


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6 thoughts on “Hodge Podge: Fiction For the Armchair Traveler

  1. I need to read Salt to the Sea! I loved the author’s first book — especially because I have several Lithuanian friends and it helps me to understand and appreciate their heritage! We are finishing our year of world geography reading Around the World in 80 Days right now!!
    Blackberry Rambles recently posted..Mondays are for Grace

  2. I have been having anxiety dreams about the similar expired-or-nonexistent state of our passports. Really should get on that, just in case. 🙂

    1. I printed out all the forms and instructions for renewing my and my husband’s passports and getting them for the children. Which is not the same thing as doing it, yet, but it’s the first step!

  3. My passport recently expired, too. I was surprised at the uneasy feeling it gave me, like a when-the-phone-is-dead-and-you-don’t-need-to-call-anyone-but-what-if-you-DID-need-to-call-someone sort of feeling. None of my kids have ever had passports, and when I think of the cost and hassle of passporting them all (just in case), I’m disinclined. We’ll have to choose our Lego competitions carefully 😉

    1. Yes, that’s the feeling exactly. Maybe I read too much World War II literature, but I often feel like maybe we should have passports just in case. And I also spend time thinking about things like if I had to leave suddenly, what would I take with me? It usually runs to mental exercises in how to pack the van. I would take the painting my great grandmother painted of her house, the silver flatware, a decanter that was my great-great-great grandmother’s, and books. We can buy socks and underwear anywhere we wind up, but it might be hard to source sterling or school books from a remote outpost in the Andes.

      1. I used to (still occasionally do) have horrific nightmares about our house burning down, and the way to calm myself back to sleep was run through just that sort of plan: ok, so the house is on fire, what do I grab? How do I get to the pets and the kids? And walk through it in my mind. I think about that for tornadoes and the zombie apocalypse, also, and I finally did pack at least a storm go-bag.

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