52 Books for 52 Places

No. 15 Danang, Vietnam

The narrator of this debut novel is a Vietnamese live-in cook working for Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein in Paris. “He concocts both Vietnamese delicacies and American apple pie, evoking memories for the household with the intensity of Proust’s madeleine and adding an exotic spice for poignancy.”

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No. 16 Costalegre, Mexico

Esquivel, a Mexican novelist, uses magical realism to tell the story of the youngest daughter of the De La Garza family in turn-of-the-century Mexico, who expresses her hopes and sadness through her cooking.

No. 17 Paparoa Track, New Zealand

This first volume of the autobiography of the novelist and poet Janet Frame focuses on her early life in New Zealand. “It is a wistful tale, honestly and believably told, of the puzzling encounters of childhood, the recognitions, the gain and the loss.”

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No. 18 Puglia, Italy

Gray’s 1986 autobiography, “Honey From a Weed,” turned her into a cult figure for her “artful compilation of memories, recipes and traveler’s tales” in Italy. In his biography of Gray, Federman has “created a fully formed character … honoring not only her brilliance but the rough edges that made her human.”

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No. 19 Tatra Mountains, Slovakia

“In ‘Zoli,’ a novel about the Gypsies of Eastern Europe, McCann imagines a deeper, darker watchword for this immemorially wandering and persecuted people: to be understood, even in part, is to be violated and destroyed.”

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No. 20 Calgary, Canada

“Medicine River,” which chronicles the lives of a group of contemporary First Nations in Western Canada, is set in a small town in Alberta that borders a Blackfoot reserve. “This most satisfying novel ends as it should, not in a clash of cymbals, but with the brushes laid quietly against the drums for a beat or so after the music ends.”

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No. 21 Olkhon Island, Lake Baikal, Russia

In this book, Thomson “investigates the biochemistry behind the myth” that Lake Baikal “water purifies itself.” And in so doing, Thomson has created a “superb paean to a unique and bizarre ecosystem.”

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No. 22 Huntsville, Ala.

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