Sunday, March 11, 2012 at 12:54PM
The New York Times picked 45 places you should go in 2012. We've selected a novel you can pack for each destination. Below is Part 1 of our fiction pairing series for the New York Times picks.
- Panama - The Tailor of Panama by John LeCarre
The legendary Panama Canal is about to undergo a multibillion-dollar expansion, to be completed for its 100-year anniversary in 2014. If you want to see the famous waterway as it was originally designed, now is the time. If you want to see the classic, we suggest you pack a classic, John LeCarre's The Tailor of Panama. The great spy novelist and author of Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy penned a viciously funny satire where voiding the Panama Treaty is the central plot point.
- Helsinki, Finland - Helsinki White by James Thompson
The art of design is at the center of the current zeitgeist and Helsinki is at the center of design. Designated as the World Design Capital for 2012 by the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design, the city boasts a "Design District" with nearly 200 "design-minded businesses". They're accompanied by hip new restaurants and hotels and the new Helsinki Music Center. If you travel to Helsinki, we suggest you pick up a copy of Helsinki White by James Thompson, a high-octane thriller about a black ops unit in Helsinki tackling organized crime in the midst of political turmoil.
- Myanmar - The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh
The New York Times suggests travelers consider Myanmar now that its political circumstances have changed, with free elections in 2010 and the release of the pro-democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Myanmar's historic isolation means that it has been "undiluted by mass tourism" and much of its coastline remains pristine. We recommend The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh, which chronicles the story of a poor Burmese boy during the British invasion of 1885 who goes on to create an empire. His story echoes the struggles throughout the region.
- London - The London Train by Tessa Hadley
London has everything to offer in 2012: the Olympics, the Diamond Jubilee celebration of the Queen's 60th year on the throne and Charles Dickens' 200th. You can tour the classics, like the Charles Dickens Museum, or the modern, including the Harry Potter studios tour recently added to the Warner Brothers Tour, or survey the new stadiums, public spaces and shopping centers emerging everywhere. There is no end of novels from every era set in London, but we suggest the recently acclaimed The London Train by Tessa Hadley, which explores the complexities of ordinary lives and the consequences of difficult choices.
- Oakland, California - Humpty Dumpty in Oakland by Philip K. Dick
Since the historic Fox Theater reopened as one of the Bay Area's top music venues, sophisticated restaurants and upscale cocktail bars have transformed Oakland's gritty image. While you enjoy the new scene, you may let Philip K. Dick's Humpty Dumpty in Oakland take you back to Oakland in the 1950's and small-time, individual struggles. As the owner of a garage plans to retire, his mechanic and best customer spar over which is trying to fleece him.
- Tokyo, Japan - Naomi by Junichiro Tanizaki
Given Tokyo's proximity to the site of the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, travelers have been reluctant to make the trek, leaving Tokyo substantially less crowded than is typical. The city is "crackling with energy" and last-minute reservations at world-class restaurants and hotels are now possible. If you head to the great city, we suggest that you read Naomi by Junichiro Tanizaki, one of Japan's greatest novelists. An engineer falls hard for a teenaged cafe waitress in post-World War I Tokyo and his torment evokes the country's cultural confusion.
- Tanzania - The Book of Secrets by M.G. Vassanji
The Times heralds Tanzania as "coming into its own as an upscale safari destination." There's always been Mount Kilimanjaro, but a variety of big game destinations, as well as a more developed tourist infrastructure, are beginning to emerge. We suggest that you read The Book of Secrets by M.G.Vassanji, winner of Canada's esteemed Giller Prize. Set in the racial melting pot of Tanzania and other parts of East Africa, this complex novel is a story of the British Empire in Africa. A retired history teacher discovers a diary written by an English counsul stationed in East Africa who falls in love with his young local housekeeper, causing the history teacher to re-examine his own immigrant life.
- Chilean Patagonia - Tierra del Fuego by Francisco Coloane
The emergence of rugged luxury lodges offer new polish to this long-standing adventure hot spot, whether you go for the snowy peaks, the pristine rain forest or the network of virgin national park. If you go, we suggest you download Tierra del Fuego by Francisco Coloane. Southern Chile is the main character in each of these stories, which follow explorers, fortune hunters, revolutionaries, seafarers and smugglers as they explore the region.
- Lhasa, Tibet - Lost Horizon by James Hilton
For the first time, Tibet now offers luxury hotel accommodations and high-end amenities. As you might expect, new business districts and shopping malls have followed. Although many are concerned that these developments exploit a sacred land, they do make travel far more comfortable. If you decide to take advantage of the new wave of luxury, consider packing a copy of Lost Horizon by James Hilton, the 1930's classic about survivors of an airplane crash who find shelter in a monastery in Tibet.
- Havana, Cuba - Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene
Although Cuban beach vacations remain prohibited, the Obama administration has widened the types of travel allowed, including with organizations like National Geographic Expeditions and the Center for Cuban Studies. As a condition of travel, Americans often are expected to interact with Cubans about the country's rich culture and traditions. We suggest that you pair your trip to Havana with Graham Greene's classic, Our Man in Havana, an espionage thriller published in 1959 that still resonates today.
- Moscow, Russia - Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith
There's always been much to see in Moscow, but with the extravagant renovation of the Bolshoi Theater and the opening of the Russian Icon Museum, 2012 is a very good year to make the trip. If you go and you aren't inclined to immerse yourself in Tolstoy, we suggest Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith. The honest chief homicide investigator must battle the KGB, FBI and New York City police as he tries to solve a triple murder in Moscow, all while falling hard for a headstrong dissident.