Category Archives: Reading Lists

Reading List: Peru

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It’s time for a reading list! We haven’t had one of those in a while, but let’s take a look this week at Books to Read before you travel to Peru!

Macchi Picchu has been a popular destination for decades, attracting some of the top tour operators and adventure enthusiasts, like G Adventures and more. Read more about operators who travel in Peru:

The 7 Best Countries for History Buffs

Day Trips from Lima, Peru

Peru Feature: Machu Picchu

Peru Feature: The Mountain City of Cuzco


Lost City of the Incas, The Story of Machu Picchu and its Builders, by Hiram Bingham. 

This classic account is a gripping story of exploration, archaeology and natural history — and still an outstanding overview of the site itself. With original expedition photographs. Originally published in 1952, the book is still an excellent account, not only of the expedition but also of the site itself.


Death in the Andes, by Mario Vargas Llosa. 

The first man of the Peruvian literature, Mario Vargas Llosa wrote dozens of stories set in Peru. In his novels, he comments on the difficult Peruvian reality, complicated history and the country’s quirks. Death in the Andes is a gripping page-turner that brings the readers back to the times the 1980s. 

The Heights of Macchu Picchu, by Pablo Neruda. 

Chilean poet Pablo Neruda composed this long-form poem after visiting the famous Incan ruins of Machu Picchu. With complex, evocative imagery and a strong sense of spirituality throughout, this is one of Neruda’s best and most well-known poems.

The Incas, People of the Sun, by Carmen Bernard.

This jewel of a book features hundreds of archival drawings and photographs, a chronology and long excerpts from the journals of early explorers. It’s a guide to the ancient monuments, daily life of the Incas, and history of exploration.


Turn Right at Machu Picchu, by Mark Adams. 

You can’t find any list on Peru-related reading without several stories about Machu Picchu and the Inca heritage. Turn Right at Machu Picchu is one of the more popular books. Mark Adams did a remarkable job, first researching thoroughly the Inca history, and then tracing the steps of Hiram Bingham, the legendary discoverer of Machu Picchu.

Trail of Feathers: In Search of the Birdmen of Peru, by Tahir Shah. 

Obsessed with a Spanish monk’s report of Incas who could “fly like birds,” Tahir Shah set out on a journey across Peru in search of these titular “birdmen.” The result of his quest is this wonderfully weird travelogue, tracing his journey through jungle, mountain and desert. This book is perfect for travelers with an appreciation for mysticism and the surreal.

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Reading List: Spain

España! One of the top destinations of Europe this year, Spain is generous to its visitors, with everything from sunny beaches on the Costa del Sol to world-class museums in the metropolis maze of Madrid. Its economic stability and safety continues to attract tourists from Europe, North America, and even Russia this year.

Check out our Recommend Reads for España: (besides the obvious must-read Don Quixote)


Tim Moore, Spanish Steps. Travel writer Tim Moore and his donkey Shinto hilariously navigate the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.

Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, Barcelona: A Thousand Years of the City’s Past. An account of Barcelona, its history and art, in relation to the rest of Spain.

Antony Beevor, The Battle for Spain. Prize-winning overview of the Spanish civil war.

Chris Stewart, Driving Over Lemons. Expat and ex-drummer Stewart’s account of a new life in Spain with his family.

Giles Tremlett, Ghosts of Spain. A superb historical overview of a country torn between modernity and nostalgia. 51bp3W+hKiL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

Arturo Barea, The Forging of a Rebel. A fascinating memoir during the Spanish Civil War, published in three volumes.

Carlos Pardo, Life of Pardo. A young man’s account of modern Spain, part autobiography, part fiction.

Context Travel, superb guides throughout the world, offer small group tours for the intellectually curious traveler. Ask us about tours, car rentals, hotels, and cruises in and around Spain. Thinking about Mallorca? Let us book your vacation! Call 503-224-0180 or email to chat with one of our agents.

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Reading List: Germany

Thinking of a Christmas Trip to Germany? Call Willamette Intl Travel to discuss your options for an independent trip, escorted tour, or river cruise through Germany to check out their lovely Christmas markets.

And Plus! Read before you go!


Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad (1880). A literary classic with witty observations about Germany 111during the 1880s. Probably most famous for its postscript “The Awful German Language.”

Christopher Isherwood, Mr. Norris Changes Trains (1935) and Goodbye to Berlin (1939). Books that chronicle the Weimar years (1919-1933), and whose stories inspired the movie Cabaret.

Michael Gorra, The Bells in their Silence: Travels Through Germany (2004). A modern travelogue by an American literature professor who traveled around Germany during the 1990s.


Patrick Leigh Fermor, A Time of Gifts (1977). Beautifully composed, a fascinating account of the author’s journey on foot from Holland to Turkey in the years before WWII.

113Erich Maria Remarque. All Quiet on the Western Front (1929). A harsh novel about the extreme conditions of World War I.

Bernhard Schlink. The Reader (1997). The story of a young man, the woman he thinks he knows, and their separate love and secrets in postwar Germany.



Our agents have traveled throughout Germany for years and would love to share our knowledge and expertise with you! Give us a call at 503-224-0180 or email

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Reading List: Russia!

Read before you go! Russia has always been a mysterious draw for Americans, enjoying a steady popularity among travelers, artists and journalists alike. Check out some of our favorite literature from the area:

Peter Waldron. Russia of the Tsars. Waldron recounts the exploits of Peter the Great, the Tsars and the splendor of their capital city, St. Petersburg, in this lively, well-illustrated and compact overview of the largest and most diverse empire of its day.

Masha Gessen. The Man Without a Face, The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin. A Russian-American journalist living in Moscow, Masha wp2Gessen demolishes the many myths and legends surrounding Vladimir Putin and his transformation from unexceptional KGB bureaucrat to the most powerful man in Russia. No fan of the man, who she calls a “hoodlum turned iron-handed ruler,” Gessen is brave — and optimistic that his time will soon come.

Robert Chandler. Russian Short Stories. This fine collection of tales captures the sweep and soul of Russian literature, including works by Pushkin, Gogol, Dostoevsky, Chekhov and Tolstoy along with lesser-known greats.


wp5David Remnick. Lenin’s Tomb. A gripping eyewitness tale of the collapse of the Soviet Union. Remnick, the Washington Post reporter on the scene, combines fine historical scholarship with great storytelling.

Clifford Gaddy. Mr. Putin, Operative in the Kremlin. Drawing on a range of sources, including their own personal encounters, two fellows at the Brookings Institution describe six of Putin’s most essential idetities: the Statist, the History Man, the Survivalist, the Outsider, the Free Marketeer, and the Case Officer.

Orlando Figes. Natasha’s Dance, A Cultural History of Russia. In this lively cultural history, Figes looks at both the great works by Russian masters and longstanding folk traditions. The title is drawn from a scene of Tolstoy’s War and Peace in which a European-educated countess performs a peasant dance.

Michael Farquhar. Secret Lives of the Tsars, Three Centuries of Autocracy, Debauchery, Betrayal, Murder, and Madness from Romanov Russia. A scandalous tell-all about Russia’s ruling class. Farquhar skips over the dryer parts of history to deliver the jaw-dropping morsels about Catherine the Great’s affinity for young lovers and Peter the Great’s proclivity for beheading his subjects.

W. Bruce Lincoln. Sunlight at Midnight: St. Petersburg and the Rise of Modern Russia. A wonderfully written, informative portrait of St. Petersburg, focusing on the city’s development in the 18th and 19th centuries as Russia’s “window on the West.” Highly recommended for travelers with an interest in the character and significance of the city and its monuments.

Patricia Herlihy. Vodka, A Global History. A professor of history at Brown, Herlihy tracks wp3our fascination with this most versatile of spirits from its mysterious 14th-century Slavic origins to today’s global dominance in this brief yet thoroughly entertaining, erudite and illustrated history. A volume in the lively Edible History Series.

George Hamilton/Judith Gordon. The Art and Architecture of Russia. An elegantly written introduction to the art and architecture of Russia. Published in 1954, it’s a good handbook for the traveler that goes beyond Moscow and St. Petersburg. Includes 314 black-and-white illustrations.

Olegs Yakovlevichs Neverov. The Hermitage Collections. This sumptous visual survey celebrates the museum, its history and collections.

Robert Massie. Peter the Great, His Life and World. In this Pulitzer Prize-winning biography, Massie portrays the giant of history who transformed Russia from backwater tsardom into a major empire.

Robert Massie. Catherine the Great. Eager readers of Massie’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Peter the Great will not be disappointed by this latest, an old-fashioned tale of politics, power and 18th-century Europe, drawing effectively from the ambitious Catherine’s own memoirs.

wp1Vladimir Nabokov. Speak, Memory. Nabokov’s richly imagined memoir wonderfully evokes cultural life among the well-to-do in turn-of-the-century St. Petersburg. Nabokov called his childhood home, now a museum off St Isaac’s Square, “the only house in the world.”

Aleksandr Sergeevich Pushkin. The Captain’s Daughter and Other Stories. This collection of short stories from the Russian poet and master storyteller opens with his famous novella, The Captain’s Daughter, set against the events of the Pugachov uprising during the reign of Catherine the Great, and contains eight additional tales, all rendered in Pushkin’s simple, elegant prose and beautifully evocative of the caprices of Tsarist Russia.

Debra Dean. The Madonnas of Leningrad. Dean effortlessly interweaves two epochs of a woman’s life — Marina’s wartime experiences as a young guide at the Hermitage during the Siege of Leningrad and her life as an 82-year-old Seattle resident struggling with Alzheimer’s. A remarkable debut novel.

Boris Akunin/Andrew Bromfield. The Winter Queen. Akunin sets a suspected murder among the glitterati of late 19th-century Moscow in this first book in the series of clever detective novels starring the rascal Erast Fandorin, wildly popular in Russia.

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Reading List: Montreal

Today WIT Agent is heading out to Montreal, “The Europe of the North.” Stay tuned until next week for some of her insights and tips, and photos from the trip! For now, let’s take a look at some of the great and gritty literature for which Montreal is renowned:

Gabrielle Roy. The Tin Flute. A Montreal classic chronicles the life of a young woman and her  family in the neighborhood of St. Henri.

Kristian and John David Gravenor. Montreal: The Unknown City. A fascinating resource of some of the more saucy and scintillating gems of Montreal’s culture and past.

Melissa Graham. Trans-Canada Rail Guide. A guide to traveling with Canada’s national train network VIA Rail from coast to coast. From Halifax to Vancouver, the guide is complete with routes, maps, transport tips and city guides. (WIT Agent Wailana is a certified expert in Canadian rail. Ask her about the best way and times to travel!)

William Weintraub. City Unique: Montreal Days and Nights in the 1940s and 1950s. A vivid depiction of the vibrant city of Montreal.

 We at Wittravel have booked countless clients on their personalized trips throughout Canada. Rail travel is a beautiful and unforgettable way to traverse the country, admire stunning lakes and mountains, and visit some of the great cultural stops along the way, from Vancouver to Quebec City. Call us or email for more information. 

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Reading List: Iceland

512KGZ548AL._SY300_Iceland: Land of the Sagas by David Roberts and Jon Krakauer. An examination of the rich Icelandic heritage through its literary tradition. Introduces sagas amidst the country’s dramatic landscapes. Encounter horses, monks, outlaws, trolls and witches in a tale blending evocative narrative and photography.

  The Windows of Brimnes: An American in Iceland by Bill Holm. The personal account of an Icelandic-American who decided to visit the island of his ancestors. He eventually bought a house called Brimnes in the northern fjord village of Hofsos. Holm writes: “When Americans ask me to describe my little house, I tell then, not entirely disingenuously, that it a series of magical windows with a few simple boards to hold them up, to protect your head from rain while you stare out at the sea.”

 The Far Traveler: Voyages of a Viking Woman by Nancy Marie Brown. Brown chronicles the history of Gudrid, a Viking woman who sailed to the New World five centuries before Columbus. In 2001, a team of archaeologists discovered her possible last house, located where the sagas suggested. Discover this incredible millennium-old mystery of one of the most legendary North American expeditions ever made.

Good Horse Has No Color A Good Horse Has No Color by Nancy Marie Brown. Brown returns to Iceland, finding inspiration in Iceland horses. She visits horse farms, meets skillful writers, and discovers what makes these animals so unique among the race.

Moon Country by Simon Armitage. A collection of poems on Iceland’s history and topography from a Professor of Poetry.

Egil’s Saga by Anonymous. Even if medieval literature is not your thing, Iceland culture is rampant with tales of heroes, mythological creatures and mischievous outlaws. If you do read one, read Egil’s Saga—a colorful saga of an ugly skald (poet/warrior) and his struggles with the law.

Angels of the Universe by Einar Mar Gudmundsson. A beautifully written, humorous tale of one man’s dark descent into madness.

laxness-independent-peopleIndependent People by Halldor Laxness. Dubbed the father of modern Icelandic literature, Laxness won the Nobel Prize for Literature for this stark tale of the sheep farmer Bjartur.

Letters from Iceland By WH Auden and Louis MacNeice. Two poets partnered up in 1936 and traversed this landscape.

Gunnloth’s Tale. Svava Jakobsdottir. A compelling novel that mixes Norse mythology with modern mystery.

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Reading List: India

Read before you go! Willamette Intl Travel agents share their favorite fiction from India.

William Dalrymple. City of Djinns. A sparkling account of Delhi’s history, with a collection of memorable characters from Moguls to eunuchs.

Rudyard Kipling. Indian Stories. A collection of short stories set in India from one of the our favorite expats.

Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. Heat and Dust. The story of a bored English colonial wife in the 1920s who is drawn inexorably into the political intrigues of an Indian prince.

Jhumpa Lahiri. The Namesake: A Novel. The story of a family that moves from a traditional life in Calcutta to Massachusetts.

Rudyard Kipling. Kim. The classic tale of an orphan who is involved in a secret mission for the British. 

Aravind Adiga. The White Tiger: A Novel. A poor Indian villager’s ambition leads him deep into the world of Bangalore business culture.

Jawaharlal Nehru. The Discovery of India. Written by one of India’s most famous statesman.

Arundhati Roy. The God of Small Things. The story of an affluent Indian family that is at once a powerful family saga, political drama, and forbidden romance.

E.M. Forster. A Passage to India. Colonialism and the clash of culture in British India.

Rohinton Mistry. A Fine Balance. A magnificent novel of corruption and heroism in 1975 India.

Interested in booking a trip to India? Call us for more details, 503.224.0180 or email

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