If you can't travel this summer, there's no better way to experience another land or culture better than through a book. There are so many great pieces of fiction out there, you owe it to yourself to skip the fluff this summer and read the books that will make you stop, think, and maybe laugh or cry along the way. Now presenting The Paper Airplane's list of summer reads that explore new places, cultures, and ideas. What's on your reading list this summer?
The Paper Airplane Summer Reading List
1. "A Thousand Splendid Suns" by Khaled Hosseini
Setting: Kabul, Afghanistan
In a few words: In his second novel, Hosseini tells the story of Miriam and Laila, two women who become unlikely allies in a war-torn Afghanistan. "The Kite Runner," Hosseini's first novel, is one of the best (and most important) books that I've read in the past year. Hosseini's writing is beautiful, raw, and exposes a lot of truth about life in a country that is so different from life here in America.
2. "A Walk in the Woods" by Bill Bryson
Setting: The Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia, USA
In a few words: Hilarious travel writer Bryson rediscovers America by thru-hiking the Appalachian trail from Maine to Georgia. Hiking the Appalachian Trail is near the top on my "must-do before age 30 list" and I'm told that, "[I'll] die (of laughter presumably)" from the accounts of odd characters Bryson meets along the way.
3. "Big Sur" by Jack Kerouac
Setting: Big Sur, California, USA
In a few words: Falling off the high from the success of his first novel, Jack Duluoz-- the Jack Kerouac personality-- doesn't know how to deal with his fame and seeks out to sequester himself in Big Sur. Having just road tripped to Big Sur and City Lights in San Francisco, one of Kerouac's old haunts mentioned in the opening of the book, I'm interested in reading about the places from his point of view.
4. "The Sun Also Rises" by Ernest Hemingway
Setting: Paris, France and Paloma, Spain in the 1920s
In a few words: "The Sun Also Rises" details Left Bank Paris, gory bullfights in Paloma, the angst of The Lost Generation, and since this is Hemingway we're talking about, I'm assuming copious amounts of booze and ego as well.
Past Favorite Summer Reads
"The Offshore Pirate" by F. Scott Fitzgerald
I love Fitzgerald because he knows how to write a strong, well-rounded heroine. Ardita is just the opposite as the anti-herione in this short story. She's a brat, to be blunt, and yet this story is funny, mischievous, and charming all at once. In true Fitzgerald fashion, the story opens with the young heiress lounging on a yacht somewhere off the coast of Florida in the 1920s. Enter the oddly sentimental, jazz-playing pirate Carlyle and a commandeering of the yacht ensues.
"A Good Man is Hard to Find" by Flannery O'Connor
If you haven't read this Southern Gothic short story yet, it's an absolute classic and the suspense will kill you. It's set on the road in between Atlanta and the Florida state line in the dead of summer... and, well, I won't give anything away. Just read it. Or listen to this rare 1959 recording of Flannery O'Connor reading the story herself at Vanderbilt University.
"The Best American Travel Writing" series compiled by various editors
An anthology of the best travel writing published throughout the year, The Best American Travel Writing series includes articles that are smart and poignant while also funny and light. Topics range from agriculture to politics to culture to travels gone wrong from publications of the likes of National Geographic, The New Yorker, Condé Nast Traveler and everywhere in between. It's hard to pick, but my favorite edition would have to be 2011 by editor Sloane Crosley. (Pro tip: You can almost always find a past edition on sale at Powell's.)