A book set in a place you would like to visit and have never been to

Where have you been and where do you wish to go? That was sort of the theme here. Places you’d already been were to be left behind, and a place you’d actually like to go to, not merely have never been to, was the setting. Some mad person chose the United States, but I will grant you the national parks are very nice.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
by Stieg Larsson
Place: Sweden
I still really hate the way the titles of these books were “translated”, because now we are stuck with every book about a female protagonist being a “girl”. Lisbeth isn’t even a girl, she’s a grown-ass woman.

Possible Other Categories
A book with an adaptation you enjoyed (or not) first
A book about feminism
A book with an ugly cover (some editions)
A book about a modern problem
A book featuring a profession you are unfamiliar with
A book with a yellow spine
A book about a difficult topic

The Girl Who Played With Fire
by Stieg Larsson
Place: Sweden
This is the only book that got a literal translation for the title. I spent awhile in the GoodReads reviews just because, and it seems to have inspired the longest stream-of-consciousness mostly unrelated “review” I’ve seen yet. Also, someone commented that changing your hair from black to blond would attract attention rather than avoid it, except the book is set in Sweden, where 50-80% of the population is fair-haired (depends on where you are). So, uh, actually, black hair would be more noticeable.

Possible Other Categories
The next book in a series
A book with an adaptation you enjoyed (or not) first
A book about a villain or anti-hero (Lisbeth is not the nicest person in the world)
A book with a queer/quiltbag/lgbt+ protagonist
A book about feminism (Larsson is as subtle as a hammer)
A book featuring a profession you are unfamiliar with
A book involving a fire
A book about a difficult topic

The Woman on the Orient Express
by Lindsay Jayne Ashford
Place: a really fancy and famous train
A fictional take on what a particular episode of Agatha Christie’s life might have been like, and by extension, Katherine Woolley’s. Some reviewers make oblique references to their disdain regarding “uncouth” speculation on certain people’s “sexuality”. Ya’ll, I got news for you: being intersex is not a matter of sexuality. And yes, we’ll never know for sure if Katherine was intersex (oh hey, there’s limits to what bones can tell us about gender! Surprise!), but we have better than usual evidence that she was.

Possible Other Categories
A book based on a real person
A book about death or grief (well, there’s a widow involved, at least)
A book with a queer/quiltbag/lgbt+ protagonist (for Katherine Woolley)

The Shunned House
by H. P. Lovecraft
Place: USA
This mid-career, widely considered “inferior” work seems to be a really good intro to Lovecraft’s brand of horror. Maybe it’s because it lacks a significant amount of his more… problematic views.

Possible Other Categories
A book you can read in a day
A book about mental health
A book published before you were born (fairly likely)
A book involving a mythical creature

The Janus Stone
by Elly Griffiths
Place: Norwich
I can’t really complain that the modern mystery-thriller with a female lead seems to invariably include romantic entanglements, since the same holds true for the entire thriller genre as a whole. At least in this sub-sub-genre, those romantic engagements are explored as actual relationships, rather than being the requisite victory sex trophy.

Possible Other Categories
The next book in a series
A book featuring a profession you are unfamiliar with (forensic anthropologist/pathologist)

The Guest Cat
by Takashi Hiraide
Place: Japan
It’s a perfectly good novel in the Japanese style, by an acclaimed Japanese poet. The cat, naturally, is not as important as you might think, and “plot” is an afterthought. Also, pet peeve here: all of Japanese poetry is not, in fact, haiku. Also, most English attempts at haiku are dreadful, largely because the only bit they get right is the obvious syllable structure and none of the other elements that make haiku what it is. It’s a lot like if everyone decided all of Irish poetry consisted of the limerick, and then proceeded to always leave off the final verse whenever trying to replicate the form.

Possible Other Categories
A book with an animal in the title
A book you can read in a day (in the West, this would probably classed as a novella, but the Japanese novel tends to be shorter, preferring to break up a lengthy story into two or more volumes)
A book of or about poetry or poets (in Japanese, at least, this is closer to a haibun than a solely prose novel)
A book by an Asian author
A book set in the city

The Core of the Sun
by Johanna Sinisalo
Place: Finland (not, in fact, Sol)
Take The Handmaid’s Tale, The Time Machine, and Brave New World, put them in a blender, and set it to “Finnish”. Leave to process for the duration of a Finnish New Wave film, then season liberally with Scotch Bonnet Chilies because why not?

Possible Other Categories
A book set in a country that you are unfamiliar with (if Scandinavia and the World is anything to go by, no one gets the Finns except themselves)
A book about feminism
A book about a modern problem (worrying about the Scandinavian welfare society turning into a misogynist dystopia is… really modern)

Planetary vol 1
by Warren Ellis
Place: Hong Kong
This one is going to come up again later this year. Random personal fact: the only Warren Ellis comic I’ve ever read through was Freakangels, which is excellent if flawed. The hilarious thing is that at the time, I didn’t know who Warren Ellis was and had no idea it was a professionally published comic (goes to show you what kind of quality webcomic I tend to read).

Possible Other Categories
A book with pictures
A book you can read in a day

Murder in G Major
by Alexia Gordon
Place: Ireland
I have to admit, bringing the supernatural in tends to lend better credibility to why the hell amateur detectives get involved in the first place. “Because if I don’t solve this murder, this ghost will never leave me alone” is great motivation for gallivanting into unfamiliar territory while entirely unqualified. No, really. Much better than “because I’m nosy,” which is the usual reason.

Possible Other Categories
A book featuring a profession you are unfamiliar with (concert musician; oddly, I don’t think I get to have this one – my college roommate was a violist in the college symphony)

Moon Over Soho
by Ben Aaronovitch
Place: London
Note this is the original London Soho and not the New York City Soho. Nor the one in Ireland, Florida, Hong Kong, Tasmania, Argentina, nor even the West Midlands. It also doesn’t refer to either the Aussie or the Kiwi television networks. Or a band, magazine, publisher, real-estate firm, building, or a spacecraft. Nope, just London.

Possible Other Categories
The next book in a series
A book involving a mythical creature
A book set in the city
A book featuring a profession you are unfamiliar with (cop, wizard, wizard-cop)

Macbeth
by William Shakespeare
Place: Scotland
I tried to look up who has played both the Scottish laird and the Danish prince, and randomly found a list of people who played the former that mentioned Toshiro Mifune’s turn in Throne of Blood, except they used a still from what I’m fairly certain is Stray Dog. The latter film is a very early Mifune, in all his raw, untrained glory, and a tense experiment in noir by Kurosawa. It’s one of those films that reminds you of how much greater both talents were together, as a rule.

Possible Other Categories
A book with an adaptation you enjoyed (or not) first
A book that is also performed on stage
A book you can read in a day
A book with a character’s name in the title
A book involving a mythical creature
A book published before you were born
A book about a villain or anti-hero
A book about mental health
A book based on a real person

Island
by Alistair MacLeod
Place: Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia
Is it me, or does having a single word title make one think that it’s going to be some kind of horror novel? Or a weird thriller about a marooned dude, based on the cover? In any case, this isn’t a charming collection about a tropical paradise, but instead a mournful pseudo-recollection of a hardscrabble frozen bit of rock.

Possible Other Categories
A book with water in the cover art
A book with a subtitle
A book about death or grief (some stories)
A book set at sea (partially)
A book featuring a profession you are unfamiliar with (fisherman, miner, homemaker)

Hogfather
by Terry Pratchett
Place: Discworld
Wait, the Discworld is fictional (so far as we know). This is a little bit cheaty. Although wanting to go there is fair enough. Anyway, while all Discworld books can technically be read in any order, I do think this one, and Death’s appearance in particular, benefits greatly from some prior familiarity.

Possible Other Categories
The next book in a series
A book with an adaptation you enjoyed (or not) first (the film is actually pretty good)
A book involving a heist or theft
A book with a character’s name in the title
A book involving a mythical creature
A book with an animal in the title
A book featuring a profession you are unfamiliar with (governess)
A book set in the city (sometimes)

Dream a Little Dream
by many people
Place: where-ever
Partial lyrics from a 80ish year old jazz standard are, unsurprisingly, incredibly popular as book titles. The vast majority are hetero romances followed by fantasy novels. No surprise there.

Possible Other Categories
A book with song lyrics in the title

Deja Dead
by Kathy Reichs
Place: Canada
As a Canadian, I am always mildly surprised that anyone wants to go to Canada. I’ve been to many of the obvious places to visit, like Vancouver and Banff. And yet, I still can’t imagine someone in Europe going “I’ve always wanted to go to Canada!” with starry eyes.

Possible Other Categories
A book with a two-word title
A book based on a real person (loosely based on the author)
A book involving real scientific knowledge
A book featuring a profession you are unfamiliar with (there’s only 100 of them in North America, so probably!)
A book set in the city

Death by Water
by Kerry Greenwood
Place: Australia
Australia is one of those places one always feels two ways about visiting. On the one hand, it has some neat stuff and the allure of incredibly weird animals. On the other hand, the entire continent is basically trying to kill you.

Possible Other Categories
The next book in a series
A book with water in the cover art
A book you can read in a day (pushing it, but Miss Fisher is light reading)
A book involving a theft or heist
A book set at sea

Toward the Sea of Freedom
by Sarah Lark
Place: New Zealand
New Zealand: As cool and exotic as Australia, minus all the things trying to murder you. Bonus, it’s less racist! Downside, it’s more capitalist/libertarian. I mean, no place can be perfect.

Possible Other Categories
A book with water in the cover art
A book set at sea (partially)
A book involving a heist or theft
A book set in a country you are unfamiliar with (no, seeing Lord of the Rings does not count)

Burial Rites
by Hannah Kent
Place: Iceland
Do you remember that author from awhile back, who’d written a book set in Ireland and probably shouldn’t have done? This was her debut, which was set in Iceland, a much safer choice. Iceland is on everyone’s to-visit list, right? Right?!

Possible Other Categories
A book based on a real person
A book about true crime
A book about a villain or anti-hero
A book about death or grief
A book with a two-word title

Big Little Lies
by Liane Moriarty
Place: Australia
This is a bad case of the summary/blurb not at all selling the book to anyone who has no interest in “mommy drama”. There’s a murder mystery for gods’ sakes and they don’t even mention it!

Possible Other Categories
A book about a difficult topic (content warning for bullying and domestic violence)
A book with characters who are twins
A book with an adaptation you enjoyed (or not) first

After You
by Jojo Moyes
Place: England
Personally, I want to visit Scotland and Wales, but the actual England bit of that island has never appealed to me all that much. Too much Midsomer Murders, perhaps?

Possible Other Categories
The next book in a series
A book with a two-word title
A book about death or grief

Swiss Secrets
by Carolyn Keene
Place: Switzerland
Ah, Switzerland, where we all wish we had a bank account. Also known for clocks, chocolate, yodeling, and stupendously tall mountains that people actually live on.

Possible Other Categories
A book with a two-word title
The next book in a series
A book with water in the cover art (Lake Geneva, apparently)

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