Reads to Soothe (Or Is It Stoke?) the Savage Wanderlust


Oh, I’ve got it bad. Symptoms include itchy feet, a restless mind, inability to concentrate and lots of whining about boredom. I’ve tried mini-medicating — you know, the occasional day trip. No luck. And sure, I’ve also got three-day weekends planned — but mere short-lived placebos, they. Much to my husband’s chagrin, I’ve even suggested moving – anything to liven things up.

And in some sort of subconscious masochism, I’ve been randomly picking up books set in fabulous locales that I simply must experience RIGHT NOW. For those in a similar pickle, in a gracious spirit of infection — er, inclusion — I offer several reading suggestions to help cure what’s ailing you this summer and fall (just please don’t blame me if they end up making it worse).

McCarthy’s Bar, by Pete McCarthy This is the one that made me symptomatic — I didn’t realize I was ill until I read this travel memoir. The author is half Irish/half English and the book tells the tale of his perambulations around Ireland, trying to connect with his roots. It’s got fabulous descriptions of the green, green countryside; interesting tarryings; and great anecdotes regarding the characters he meets along the way. It’s vaguely reminiscent of something by Bill Bryson (one of my personal heroes), if not quite as funny.

Nights of Rain and Stars, by Maeve Binchy The next book I picked up was a spot of fluffy reading to pry my mind away from Ireland. Problem is, now I have to get to Greece. The book is set in the tiny town of Aghia Anna on the island of Nexos, and made me fall in love with the village, its inhabitants and the pace of life (not to mention the sun, sand and cozy cafés). Enjoying a plate of olives and a glass of wine, seaside, watching the sunset? That could cure me.

Japanland, by Karin Muller Last time, I blamed Maeve for my relapse; this choice I blame partly on myself. See, I don’t read book descriptions. They occasionally raise my expectations or give me preconceived notions as to what the book’s going to be about. I prefer to start chapter 1 blindfolded, so to speak. I knew this was a memoir about someone who spent time in Japan. That’s okay; I don’t really want to go to Japan. Until NOW! I’m completely obsessed with the people, their culture and history, and their way of life. Muller made the trip specifically to see if she could unravel these mysteries for herself; and I found the book to be a poignant account of her experiences.

After all that, understandably, I’ve hesitated picking a new book. Pre-illness, I devoured Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns, which though not a travel story per se left me mesmerized by Kabul, Afghanistan. I trace the ultimate source of my malady to my June read of Bruce Chatwin’s The Songlines. His description of the creation myths of Australia’s Aborigines combined with his thoughts on a sedentary vs. nomad lifestyle, and specifically his fascination with nomad-ness may have infected me. Sigh. But next — well, perhaps a nice Agatha Christie…but on second thought, maybe I’ll pass on the twee English villages for now. Maybe I should just go whole hog and overdose with a solid month of Paul Theroux, Frances Mayes and even Homer’s Odyssey. Possibly with a dollop of Rick Steves thrown in as a last-ditch measure.

Wish me luck, people — because swine flu has nothing on wanderlust.