Let a Book Take You Away

Reading and traveling naturally go hand in hand. Before you depart on a vacation, you read up on the place you will visit—learning the history, determining what sights to see, researching the foods and culture, finding out how best to acclimate to local customs. You will likely also read to kill time while getting to and from your destination, be it by plane, train, bus, or automobile.

You might also be inspired to select a travel destination simply because you have read about it and it grabbed your attention in some way. The opposite is also true—you may very well be inspired by a place you’ve visited and want to read more. It’s always fun to encounter in a book a neighborhood or attraction with which you are familiar.

And even if you don’t have the time, money, or ability to travel to a faraway (or nearby) land, reading about a destination allows you to escape your present location, providing an armchair travel experience that can be almost as satisfying as the real thing.

Nancy Pearl’s latest in the Book Lust series, Book Lust To Go, can satisfy all of these reading/traveling scenarios: you can consult it before leaving to read up on your chosen destination; you can read it en route to pass the time and plot out future reading/traveling experiences; you will undoubtedly be inspired to travel as well as happily reflect on your trip afterward; and you will also find recommendations for those out-of-reach locales.

Certainly Eat, Pray, Love is the most timely and well-known example of a book that glorifies the destinations nearly as often as it devotes pages to the author’s internal reflection and exploration. And like most readers, the descriptions and delights of Italy, Mumbai, and Bali intrigued me. Perhaps a visit is somewhere in my future, but until then, I will relish in what I’ve experienced through the narrative.

Reading The Devil in the White City before visiting Chicago enhanced my understanding of how the city developed and some of the key players in making it the city it is today. Visiting the Chicago History Museum was an even more rounded experience with that extra knowledge. I’ve read countless novels and nonfiction set in New York at various points in history—The History of Love. Motherless Brooklyn. The Tenth Muse. The Best of Everything. My familiarity with the city is enhanced when I read these books and I can mentally reference what I’ve absorbed about the city every time I visit.

I’ve also found escape or insight into a faraway place that I may never see: A favorite novel of mine, The Shadow of the Wind, portrays a mysterious and romanticized postwar Barcelona. The Poisonwood Bible describes a tragic, conflict-filled African village in the 1960s. My Life in France provides a charming memoir that is just as much an ode to Paris. The Crimson Petal and the White offers a glimpse of Victorian London.

Nancy Pearl recommends more than a thousand titles that provide compelling, revealing, invigorating, and sometimes distressing senses of place. She covers the globe with selections for everywhere from Afghanistan to Canada, Corsica to Holland, Hong Kong to Miami, New Guinea to Scotland, and Siberia to Zimbabwe. Book Lust To Go will satiate even the most ravenous traveler (actual or armchair!).

Read a book, book a trip, and expand your world through literature. Where do you want to escape to next?


Nikki McClure Cooks the Perfect Day

I am highly pleased to publish a number of Nikki McClure’s inspiring journals, including The First 1000 Days, Remember: A Seasonal Record, and Things to Make and Do. Her latest book, How to Cook a Perfect Day (available just in time for the busy holiday season) harkens back to Nikki’s early days as a paper-cut artist. Not only is it a pleasure to peruse, it also reminds us to take the time to breathe and savor the little moments.

The holidays are a notoriously hectic time full of bad-sweater-themed holiday parties, last-minute trips to the grocery store, and calendar pop-up reminders to DVR A Charlie Brown Christmas. Yet in this time of hustle and bustle, it has never been more important to have a moment of repose. Looking through How to Cook a Perfect Day, I found myself inspired to take a trip down memory lane and to consider: What would my perfect day taste like?

According to Nikki, everyone has a list of recipes that creates his or her very own perfect day. Mine would start off with my grandmother’s homemade challah bread French toast. There truly is nothing more comforting than thick slices of that fluffy, sweet, egg-battered bread.

Next would be a cup of strongly steeped Earl Grey tea with a tiny drop of cream and two spoonfuls of sugar, followed by a midday roasting of fresh pumpkin seeds with Cajun seasoning. The next item in my perfect day would be my secret recipe for spicy marinara sauce, a combination that leaves the air thick with the smells of Italy. (I just might take this sacred sauce recipe to the grave.) I would prepare jars of sauce for use on unexpectedly chilly nights.

For dinner, there would be a traditional Polish holiday feast (in my family, this is truly the most gluttonous meal of the year): fresh handmade Pierogi stuffed with onion, mashed potato, and farmer’s cheese, as well as the staple of any truly Polish household, Kapusta, a mild sauerkraut slowly cooked with bacon, fennel seed, and onion, and last but not least, smoked Kielbasa. Yum.

To finish off my perfect day I’d make Red, White, and Blue Parfaits with fresh strawberries from the garden, foraged wild blueberries, and perfectly sweetened whipped cream.

The wonderful thing about food is that it has the remarkable ability to bring us back to a moment. For me, these recipes are less about eating than they are about moments in my life that I treasure, just as each recipe in Nikki McClure’s How to Cook a Perfect Day is a genuine reflection of her life. She covers all of her favorites, from Lovely Gingerbread Cake to Nettle Soup, and each recipe carries with it a memory. This gem of a book truly inspires us to recall the meals that make life grand and encourages us to savor the taste of every perfect day.


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