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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: 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: New Zealand

New Zealand: Hiker’s Paradise, Land of Kiwi Birds and Kiwi Smoothies. Let’s take a look into what makes NZ tick:

Alexander Elder.Straying from the Flock: Travels in New Zealand. Love ir or hate it, a great travel memoir about New Zealand.

Scott Cook. NZ Frenzy: New Zealand South Island. An off-the-beaten-path guide to New Zealand’s south island.

Kate Llewellyn. Lilies, Feathers and Frangipani. A short book written in journal-style, revealing odds and ends about NZ culture.

Joe Bennett. A Land of Two Halves. The amusing account of Bennett’s hitchhiking and wandering in the countryside.

Keri Hulme. The Bone People: A Novel. One of the best-known NZ novels, this is the story of a half-Maori artist and her journey into culture clashes, mystery, and love.

Katherine Mansfield. New Zealand Stories. A collection from one of the finest kiwi authors.

Andrew Stevenson. Kiwi Tracks: A New Zealand Journey. One traveler’s journey into the primeval forests, glaciers, beaches of NZ armed with only a rucksack.

Polly Evans. Kiwis Might Fly. A motorcyclist’s account through the landscapes of NZ.

Witi Ihimaera. Whale Rider. A bittersweet story about a Maori girl and her destiny, against the backdrop of heavy subjects such as seixism, tradition, faith.

Michael Cooper and John McDermott. Wine Atlas of New Zealand. A guide to navigate through Pinots, Savs, and Rieslings of the Hawkes Bay region.

Gregor Paul. Redemption: How the All Blacks Defied History to Win the World Cup. The story of NZ’s All Black rugby team and their victory in worldwide soccer. 

Alexander Stewart. New Zealand—The Great Walks. As is to be expected in a land of stunning natural beauty, there are some amazing walks and trails to explore in New Zealand. Here’s a comprehensive guide from the Milford Track to lesser known walks.

Almost all of our agents have traveled Australia and/or New Zealand. Call for more information about these gorgeous destinations at 800.821.0401 or email info@wittravel.com.

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Reading List: Thailand

Thailand: Realm of backpackers, massages, rides with elephants. But exactly how much do we now about the Land of the Smiles? Read these informative and intriguing pieces for insight into the country and culture.

David Wyatt. Thailand: A Short History. A detailed account of the region, from prehistory to modern day.

Carol Hollinger. Mai Pen Rai Means Never Mind. An amusing, brilliant depiction of Thai people from the perspective of an American who lived there for five years.

Karen Connelly. Touch the Dragon: A Thai Journal. A Canadian’s take on everyday life in rural Thailand.

Larry Habegger. Travelers’ Tales Thailand: True Stories. Personal narratives of travelers with an intimate touch.

Botan. Letters from Thailand. One of Thailand’s most enduring novels, this book, first published in 1969, is one of the few portrayals of immigrant Chinese life in the country.

Susan Fulop Kepner. The Lioness in Bloom: Modern Thai Fiction about Women. An https://i1.wp.com/www.ucpress.edu/img/covers/isbn13/9780520089037.jpganthology on about various feminist topics—from sexuality and loneliness to injustice and oppression.

Thongchai Winichakul. Siam Mapped: A History of the Geo-Body of a Nation. A unique perspective of Thailand’s history and politics as shaped by its geography.

Kay Halsey. Food of Thailand. A collection of delicious Thai dishes brought to print by an award-winning food author.

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Reading List: Costa Rica

Costa Rica has been a popular destination for Central American travelers for centuries. We encourage travelers to read before they go, for inspiration and in anticipation.


https://i2.wp.com/img2.imagesbn.com/images/101750000/101756880.jpgCarroll L. Henderson. Field Guide to the Wildlife of Costa Rica. Standard guide to the fauna of the country.

Richard Garrigues. The Birds of Costa Rica: A Field Guide. Standard, portable guide to the birds, complete with pictures and maps.

Barbara Ras and Oscar Arias. Costa Rica: A Traveler’s Literary Companion. Read about the gorgeous savannas and jungles from the best of Costa Rica’s local writers.

Harvey Haber. Costa Rica’s Stories: Tales from the Hot Tropics. A treasure trove of stories about the people and lifestyle of the country.

Enrique Jaramillo Levi. When New Flowers Bloomed: Short Stories by Women Writers from Costa Rica and Panama. Self-explanatory, a great collection of stories. 

J.R. Eagle. Costa Rica: The Wild West of Surfing. Suspenseful and addicting story of an American surfer—part romance, part mystery, part survival tale.

https://i2.wp.com/photo.goodreads.com/books/1223619749l/1958749.jpgTatiana Lobo. Assault on Paradise. A sweeping depiction of swashbuckling adventure set against the dark backdrop of Conquistadores and Church in the early 1700s.

Carmen Lyra. Cuentos de mi Tía Panchita. A collection of folktales, published in 1920.




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Reading List: Argentina

As autumn in the northern hemisphere rolls around, travelers are looking to those great southern destinations: Chile, Ecuador, Peru. But there’s one locale that will never lose the charm of its pervading nostalgia, sultry dance, succulent wine, and captivating, diverse landscape. Here’s a reading list to delve into before your trip to Argentina.

Chatwin, Bruce. In Patagonia. Chatwin’s tale of his journey through the Patagonia territory that encompasses 900,000 km of Argentina and Chile.

Dereck Foster and Richard Tripp. Food and Drink in Argentina. A well-written guide to the gastronomy and vineyards of Argentina.

Manuel Puig. Kiss of the Spider Woman. A fantastic narrative of two political prisoners in a jail cell, with elements of magic realism.

Jorge Luis Borges. Labyrinths: Selected Stories and Other Writings. Standard introduction to one of the masters of fantastical narrative.

Uki Goni. The Real Odessa. The true chronicle of the smuggling of major Nazi war criminals—Eichmann, Mengele, Priebke and others—to Argentina.

Brian Winter. Long After Midnight at the Nino Bien: A Yanqui’s Missteps in Argentina. The emotional, quirky, informative account of a young American’s reporter into the dark and dramatic crevices of Buenos Aires.

Nicholas Fraser and Marysa Navarro. Evita: The Real Life of Eva Peron. The biography of Eva Peron, paper, actress, president’s wife. Set against the backdrop of the tumultuous postwar Argentina.

Horacio Quiroga. The Decapitated Chicken and Other Stories. Macabre short stories that are Argentina’s answer to the Gothic genre.

Edited by Gabriela Nouzeilles and Graciela Montaldo. The Argentine Reader: History, Culture, Politics. A diverse collection of essays, poems, songs, and comic strips from Argentines such as Juan Peron, Jose San Martin, Ricardo Piglia, Che Guevara, National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons, and others.

Jon Lee Anderson. Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life. The New York Times “Notable Book of the Year,” a thorough biography of Che and his revolution.

Various. An Argentine Passion: Maria Luisa Bemberg and her Films. Tells the little known story of one of Latin America’s popular filmmakers.

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Hawaii: A Reading List

Aloha! Think you know Hawaii? Planning a trip down to the islands or just fascinated with their incredible history and legends?

Here are eleven items that we recommend go on your reading list before you head over! Wailana, our newest agent and native to the islands, has pulled these classics off her very shelf.

Vonnie Lyons. Keikilani: The Kona Nightingale. A children’s book that recounts the tale of a singing donkey on her travels through the Big Island. 

James C. Mohr. Plague and Fire: Battling Black Death and the 1900 Burning of Honolulu’s Chinatown. The gripping tale of the bubonic plague arriving on the shores of Hawaii. Told through the eyes of doctors, businessmen, journalists, among others.

Gavan Daws. Shoal of Time: A History of the Hawaiian Islands. An accessible history of Hawaii that covers topics from the arrival of Cook in 1778 to the creation of the state in 1959.

Don Blanding. Vagabond’s House. Poetry of Hawaii from the popular “Poet Laureate” of the islands.

Rick Carroll. Chicken Skin: True Spooky Stories of Hawaii. A classic collection of ghost stories from the islands.

Gregory Kaufman. Hawaii’s Humpback Whales. An informative and illustrated guide to the humpbacks of Hawaii. Includes descriptions on behavior and social patterns, and practical details such as where and how to spot the majestic creatures.

Douglas Simonson. Pidgin to Da Max. A half-serious list of Pidgin English phrases.

Kaili’ohe Kame’ekua. Tales from the Night Rainbow. Legends and stories from the oral traditions of the islands, as told by a native of Molokai.

Alan Brennert. Moloka’i and Honolulu. Historical novels focusing on Hawaiians and immigrants almost a century ago.

John Tayman. The Colony. The untold saga of the leprosy colony on Molokai, recounting the story of nearly 90,000 exiles and volunteers and their struggle in the face of adversity and prejudice.

Martha Warren Beckwith. Hawaiian Mythology. A comprehensive narrative of ancient Hawaiian myths. Read accounts of adventurous gods, romantic heroes and doomed lovers in this classic.

John P. Hoover. Hawaii’s Fishes: A Guide for Snorkelers and Divers. A self-explanatory guide to the underwater treasures of the islands. It includes fantastic photographs of fish in their natural environment and is sure to tempt the diver and snorkeler alike.

Paul Wood. Flowers and Plants of Hawaii. A pocket guide for the flora lovers out there. This is a comprehensive introduction to island vegetation, complete with detailed information and gorgeous photographs.

Mark Twain. Mark Twain’s Letters from Hawaii. As a young journalist, Mark Twain settled in Maui before he made his mark as a major American writer and wit. This is an affectionate account of 19th century Maui and real treat for lovers of literature and history.

James Michener. Hawaii. One of the numerous epics Michener published over the years, this book recounts the stories of the islands through the eyes of those that shaped it. This fictional narrative is a great depiction of island life over the centuries. 

Kathy Morey. Hawaii Trails: Walks, Strolls & Treks on the Big Island. A spectacular introduction to the diversity of the Big Island, a land made for trekking. Explore vast landscapes of Volcanoes National Park, discover black sand beaches, and journey to sea turtle coves on the coast of Kona.

Thinking about a vacation in Hawaii? Let Willamette Intl Travel help! Call 800.821-0401 or email info@wittravel.com to inquire.

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