Share A 2019 Book-Lovers International Travel List

A 2019 Book-Lovers International Travel List

Sarah Woodruff is an Ed/Lib Marketing Manager at Simon & Schuster. She long ago embraced the art of reading multiple books in a variety of genres at once, and is always eager to talk about them. You can find her at @swoodswords.

At my previous job, I was fortunate enough to travel to international book fairs and visit bookstores. When I travel now for fun, the impulse sticks: find the best local bookstores, and buy at least one book. The list below is based partly on countries I’ve found myself in over the last few years and partly on my destination wish list. Join me in 2019 as I try to discover more foreign authors and beloved books, and hopefully get the opportunity to pack a few bags for some on-site explorations.


The Desert and Its Seed
by Jorge Barón Biza

Translated from Spanish by Camilo Ramirez

I have to start this off by saying that Buenos Aires, where THE DESERT AND ITS SEED is set and where Jorge Barón Biza was from, has its own book fair every April. In 2015, the city was called a “novel oasis” by The Guardian because it has “more bookstores per person than any other city in the world.” Biza’s personal story is as dark and captivating as the book itself, more so once you realize the two are intertwined; self-published three years before he died and then going on to become a fixture both in Buenos Aires’ literary scene and beyond, Biza’s shocking opening with powerfully descriptive language bounces readers along on Eligia’s ride to the hospital with a face full of acid, a consequence of a messy divorce from an abusive husband. The Argentina setting becomes almost a character itself in the months that follow, a backdrop for reconstructing a face, a life, and an identity.

While in Buenos Aires, Argentina, visit El Ateneo Grand Splendid.

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The Desert and Its Seed
Jorge Barón Biza

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MENTIONED IN:

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By Off the Shelf Staff | January 25, 2019

A 2019 Book-Lovers International Travel List

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The Book of Disquiet
by Fernando Pessoa

Translated from Portuguese by Jull Costa

I’m the kind of person who likes to know all of the answers, the origin stories, and the analyses that will run circles around circles until some sort of conclusion is met. Imagine me in today’s climate, and understand why my roommate handed me this book and how much it immediately changed my life. A stream of consciousness construct to be read in sections whenever you need to remember that it’s okay to feel lost or uncertain, Pessoa ruminates on his daily life, his stray thoughts, his confusions, and his compulsion to write. Through his pacing and observations without striving for closure, you emerge with a certain calmness over how you might survive in a world that provides endless complications. Translated from Portuguese, THE BOOK OF DISQUIET is perfect for reading as you travel around Portugal, as the sense of place is reflected strongly in Pessoa’s writing.

While in Porto, Portugal, visit Livraria Lello.

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The Book of Disquiet
Fernando Pessoa

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MENTIONED IN:

A 2019 Book-Lovers International Travel List

By Sarah Woodruff | January 2, 2019

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By Off the Shelf Staff | November 22, 2018

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A Man Called Ove
by Fredrik Backman

Translated from Swedish by Henning Koch

A MAN CALLED OVE is the kind of book laced with the inexplicable optimism that causes you to believe in humanity once again. Picture an older man who lives alone, who shuts his curtains and continuously re-evaluates life without his wife, making frequent journeys to her grave. Add to that new neighbors and a young family next door, who attempt to connect over a flattened mailbox and refuse to balk at the older man’s apparent bite. The unexpected mix of characters ignites a funny and poignant story of friendship, understanding, and survival.

While in Uppsala, Sweden, visit The English Bookshop.

Read the full review of A MAN CALLED OVE.

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A Man Called Ove
Fredrik Backman

“If you like to laugh AND feel moved AND have your heart applaud wildly for fictional characters, you will certainly fall for the grumpy but lovable Ove (it’s pronounced “Oo-vuh,” if you were wondering).”

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MENTIONED IN:

8 Touching Books That Will Make You Cry Like a Baby

By Off the Shelf Staff | September 17, 2019

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By Zoey Cole | August 5, 2019

14 Books You Wish You Could Read for the First Time Again

By Off the Shelf Staff | July 31, 2019

6 Fredrik Backman Books to Fit Your Every Mood

By Ariele Stewart | June 3, 2019

12 Perfectly Bodied Book-and-Wine Pairings

By Sarah Jane Abbott | May 23, 2019

Readers’ Choice: The Top 25 Most Shelved Books of All Time

By Off the Shelf Staff | March 29, 2019

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The History of Bees
by Maja Lunde

Translated from Norwegian

The unique format of THE HISTORY OF BEES is what first attracted me to this book pitched as “The Leftovers, but with honey” (Elle), not to mention the idea of learning more about the endangered bee and pollination crisis within the construct of a fictional novel. Spending time with three different families over three different time periods, you slowly learn not just the timeline of crucial and devastating events involving bees, but also what connects the three stories. Tao’s world in particular, set in a future China in 2098, offers a humbling view of humans’ relationship with nature, and the destructive capabilities of both sides.

While in Oslo, Norway, visit Tronsmo Bokhandel or Sagene Bok og Papir, and take a book with you to read at the Kulturhuset.

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The History of Bees
Maja Lunde

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MENTIONED IN:

A Reader’s Guide to the Impending Apocalypse

By Sarah Woodruff | July 2, 2019

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By Sarah Jane Abbott | May 23, 2019

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By Sarah Jane Abbott | May 20, 2019

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By Off the Shelf Staff | June 21, 2018

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By Off the Shelf Staff | January 16, 2018

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Love in the Time of Cholera
by Gabriel García Márquez

Translated from Spanish by Edith Grossman

There are certain books that have lingered in the zeitgeist long enough to be adored and discussed and declared must-reads hundreds of times over, and yet somehow you feel you’ve missed these moments and will never go back to them. That was LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA for me, until I stumbled upon it on the shelves in my local coffee shop. Out of curiosity, I flipped through the pages and became inexplicably caught up in Florentino Ariza’s great love and persuasive dedication to Femina Daza, as well as how he kept himself busy as he waited.

While in Cartagena, Colombia, visit Abacus Books and Coffee or Librería Wilborada 1047.

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Love in the Time of Cholera
Gabriel García Márquez

“It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love.”

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MENTIONED IN:

11 Historical Novels That Will Enlarge Your Worldview

By Sarah Jane Abbott | March 26, 2019

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By Sarah Woodruff | January 2, 2019

Rain, Snow, or Shine: 9 Books to Read For Any Winter Weather Forecast

By Erin Madison | February 28, 2018

11 Unforgettable First Lines in Literature

By Sarah Jane Abbott | April 2, 2015

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Swann's Way
by Marcel Proust

Translated from French by Lydia Davis

This was one of my favorite books from my college English classes, one I may not have picked up on my own. There’s something indelibly enticing about the combination of settings, time periods, and pacing, creating an immersive experience into characters’ daily lives that I needed to see play out. Maybe it was the fact that the narrator is unnamed, reflecting back on his younger self in a coming-of-age tale, in love with Monsieur Swann’s daughter, Gilberte. Maybe it was the startling prose or the tangible repetitive elements like the madeleine. In any case, consider me a fan.

While in Paris, France, visit Shakespeare & Co.

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Swann's Way
Marcel Proust

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MENTIONED IN:

A 2019 Book-Lovers International Travel List

By Sarah Woodruff | January 2, 2019

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Land of Love and Ruins
by Oddný Eir

Translated from Icelandic by Philip Roughton

I visited Iceland in March 2017 and became fascinated with the landscape and the culture. I love Icelanders’ phrase “Ad ganga med bok I maganum,” meaning “[everyone] has a book in their stomach,” possibly a trademark of both their story-laden past and their designation as a UNESCO City of Literature. LAND OF LOVE AND RUINS highlights the continual debate between preserving Icelandic culture and accepting Western influences, as well as the personal and philosophical journey one takes when confronting emotional life changes. Set after Iceland’s financial crisis, a young author pens a diary of her journey inward to her family’s land and then abroad to other European cities, reexamining her relationship with nature, love, and life.

While in Reykjavik, Iceland, visit Bókakjallarinn, Mál og Menning, or Bókin.

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Land of Love and Ruins
Oddný Eir

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MENTIONED IN:

A 2019 Book-Lovers International Travel List

By Sarah Woodruff | January 2, 2019

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Oneiron
by Laura Lindstedt

Translated from Finnish by Owen Witesman

Novels that push against form and more traditional plot elements are favorites of mine, and ONEIRON is one to remember. Like the shockingly white cover, the setting is a sea of blank space where seven women meet after they die. Memories are fuzzy, time is nonexistent, and no one appears to know one another. What’s left is the chance to make sense of what’s here, what’s left behind, and what we value as both a people and as an individual. The mystery of why these women have been sentenced together propels the novel forward as much as the desire to understand their final moments on earth and how they might find peace.

While in Helsinki, Finland, visit Academic Bookstore.

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Oneiron
Laura Lindstedt

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MENTIONED IN:

A 2019 Book-Lovers International Travel List

By Sarah Woodruff | January 2, 2019

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Memoirs of a Polar Bear
by Yoko Tawada

Translated from German by Susan Bernofsky

Who would guess that so much depth, meaning, and understanding could come from a family of polar bears? Told in alternating perspectives from three generations of bears, MEMOIRS OF A POLAR BEAR covers a son born in a zoo in Germany, a mother and her time in the circus, and a grandmother in the Soviet Union whose autobiography takes the world by storm. On the surface, an inquisitive, inventive novel looking at life in a variety of circumstances; below that, an examination of the human and animal relationship, the nature of love and belonging. The author, Yoko Tawada, was born in Japan but now lives in Germany, writing in both Japanese and German.

While in Tokyo, Japan, visit Tsutaya Books Daikanyama.

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Memoirs of a Polar Bear
Yoko Tawada

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MENTIONED IN:

A 2019 Book-Lovers International Travel List

By Sarah Woodruff | January 2, 2019

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The Red-Haired Woman
by Orhan Pamuk

The title alone spiked my curiosity, an unknown woman worthy of further study living outside of Istanbul. The first line, too, had me wondering what could convince someone to move from passions of the mind to work with their hands: “I had wanted to be a writer. But after the events I am about to describe, I studied engineering geology and became a building contractor.” The narrator goes on to describe the last time he saw his father in his pharmacy, about his father’s disappearances and reappearances over the years, and his summer working at a bookstore. When he finally abandons his own structured life to become an apprentice to a well-digger, he falls for a mysterious young woman in a manner that borders on obsession.

While in Istanbul, Turkey, visit Minoa Books and Coffee or Ensar Kitap.

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The Red-Haired Woman
Orhan Pamuk

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MENTIONED IN:

A 2019 Book-Lovers International Travel List

By Sarah Woodruff | January 2, 2019

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