Whether its on an airplane or simply relaxing on deck while your ship is at sea, there’s no denying a great book is an excellent addition to any vacation.  So what to read on your next trip?  Here’s some of our destination-specific favorites.

Arctic / Northern Europe – The Terror by Dan Simmons
2007; Little, Brown & Co.  784 Pages.

For almost two centuries, the question of the fate that befell the Franklin Expedition of 1845 has mystified researchers.  Under the command of Sir John Franklin, Britain’s mighty HMS Terror and Erebus set out in search of the fabled Northwest Passage.  Aside from three graves on Beechy Island, little is known what happened during the intervening three years.  We know Sir John Franklin died in 1847, and that the ships were abandoned in 1848 – three years after setting out from England, and after enduring two consecutive winters locked in the ice.

All of the above was reported in a single note hidden in a cairn.  The first passage is written with a steady hand, stating in early 1847 that all is well.  The next passage is written in April 1848 by a man clearly freezing to death.  How did things go so wrong?

Fiction master Dan Simmons turns his attention to this question in The Terror.  While a work of fiction, the book stays on the known facts, weaving fictional elements in the gaps where history does not record what happened.  What he has created is an almost 800-page tome that presents a plausible – and horrifying – imagining of the ordeal endured by Franklin and his men.

Panama Canal – The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal – David McCullough
1978; Simon & Schuster.  698 Pages.

The building of the Panama Canal is arguably one of the greatest technological achievements of all time.  Author David McCullough details the unbelievably messy, dangerous and downright disastrous construction period that spanned almost 34 years from the first attempt to final completion in 1914.  At the end, more than 21,000 workers had been killed in the initial French attempt to build a canal in 1880, and a further 5,600 in the successful 1904-1914 attempt.  
This is a non-fiction book that reads like a thriller; the fact that the canal was even built, requiring a collaboration between Panama and the United States, is nothing short of a miracle.  An absolute must-read for those transiting the canal this winter.
The Mediterranean – The Tourist – Olen Steinhauer
2010; Minotaur Books. 432 Pages.
Set in Venice, Italy and soon to be a major motion picture starring Johnny Depp, The Tourist follows CIA “tourist” Milo Weaver – a special agent with no true identity who’s trying to leave the profession for good.  
Starting in 2001 and continuing in 2007, the book chronicles Milo’s search for a hit man known only as “The Tiger” – a journey that will take him from Venice to New York to Paris and back again.  An uncommonly intelligent thriller, this is one spy novel you don’t want to miss and will help that long-haul flight go by just a little faster.

Caribbean – The Girl Who Played With Fire – Steig Larsson
2010; Penguin Publishing.  724 pages.

The second novel in the late Steig Larsson’s master trilogy opens on the sunny shores of St. Georges, Grenada.  Hacker-genius Lisbeth Salander is semi-permanently vacationing on the island, dividing her time between the comfort of her resort and the white sand of Grand Anse beach.  Upon her return to Sweden, she finds herself accused of three brutal murders.  Now, journalist and friend Mikael Blomkvist has to help Salander prove her innocence – before time runs out.

If you’ve never read the first book in the series, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, pick it up.  Together, these are some of the most addictive, page-turning, sleepless-night inducing novels you’re likely to read.  Sadly, Larsson died in 2004 shortly after he delivered the manuscripts for his trilogy to the publisher.  An Editor-in-Chief of a major Swedish magazine himself, Larsson has crafted stories and characters so interesting you’ll think they were real. 

 While not all of the book takes place in Grenada, it’s sufficiently central to the plot to warrant putting it here.  By the time she goes back to Sweden, you’ll be hooked anyway.  Just don’t read this one ashore without setting your watch to remind you to head back to the ship; it’s easy to loose an afternoon in this novel.

Antarctica – Return to Antarctica Adrian Raeside
2009; J. Wiley & Sons.  336 pages.

In June of 1910, Robert Falcon Scott embarked on what would prove to be a disastrous expedition to the South Pole.  Not only would he lose the pole to Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, but he and four others would die in their efforts to claim the pole for England.

Fortunately for history, key expedition member Charles Seymour “Silas” Wright kept a diary that spanned their initial departure from New Zealand to the miserable winters endured in total darkness.  Silas himself
came within a hair’s breadth of being picked to accompany Scott to the South Pole.

One hundred years later, grandson Adrian Raeside, author of The Other Coast comic strip and regular political cartoonist for The Victoria-Times Colonist chronicles the adventures of his grandfather, following in his footsteps to Antarctica, where the huts his grandfather wintered in a century before still stand, almost untouched by time. 

What follows is a remarkable tale of survival in some of the harshest conditions imaginable – a kind of journey modern travelers can only dream of.  Do yourself a favor and read this book.


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