For now I have a different kind of post. I read so many great books while in Europe I thought I would share. I found overwhelmingly that reading books set in the place you were traveling truly made the experience that much more fulfilling.
The first book I read, Lord of the Flies, by William Golding, did not follow this logic. I read it in Sardinia, and while it was a very interesting read, I found it to be distracting from my overall experience. I recommend reading this disturbing comment on the animal character of human nature during a rainy day at home.
The next book I read was one of two Hemingway novels completed during the trip. This posthumously published unfinished novel, The Garden of Eden was loaned to me from a friend in Chicago, and when I read the back I was not looking forward to it. A man caught between passion for is eccentric wife, and the love of a woman who his wife has also fallen in love with. Sounds pretty twisted. But it was a great book, with interesting relationships and perspectives on the writing process. The best part for me was the continual traveling thorough Europe. Hemingway is so good at capturing that feeling; driving from town to town, sitting at a local cafe enjoying the spectacular food and drink. Even though it was set in the coastal regions of France and Spain, it seemed to really elevate my experience in Cinque Terre.
The third book, Marie Antoinette: The Journey, by Antonia Fraser, was another great setting book. This fairly dense biography taught me a great deal about the French Revolution, late 18th century French culture, and made my visit to Versailles and Paris like a Marie Antoinette pilgrimage. And considering I read it over Bastille Day, it was very relevant.
Then I read The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. Again, not fitting for the European experience, but a quick and entertaining read.
Finally I read A Moveable Feast. This was a book I picked up at the Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Paris. I had wanted to read another Hemingway book, and when flipping through it at this quaint english store, I saw pictures in the back of the book of the very place I was standing. Apparently when Hemingway was living in Paris he frequented this bookstore, as well as many other expatriate writers. So naturally I bought it, had it stamped by the store, and felt very cool. The book was short essays about his time on Paris and his experience with the city and the writers living there. Such a a wonderful book to read in the city of lights. Paris seemed very much unchanged in many ways from when Hemingway lived there, and you could just sink into a cafe and be there with him. I loved it and would recommend it to anyone. Hemingway is so good at those simple yet powerful one liners.