52 Books for 52 Places

The Times’s 52 places to go in 2020 spans the globe, from Washington, D.C., to Mount Kenya to Sabah, Malaysia. Maybe you’re already buying your plane tickets, or maybe you can’t get away anytime soon — but either way, we recommend the books below, which will help you explore on the ground or from your armchair.

No. 1 Washington, D.C.

This novel, which follows an Ethiopian immigrant, Sepha Stephanos, as he makes his way in the U.S. capital, “is about the animate presence of loss, about a man struggling to find traction in his ostensibly current life as proprietor of an ailing Logan Circle grocery store.”

No. 2 British Virgin Islands

After Norman Paperman, a Broadway press agent, suffers a heart attack, he decides to escape the rat race and move to a Caribbean island, planning to buy a hotel. Shenanigans ensue in this “compulsively and clock-racingly readable” novel “with a comic line that moves as fast as a Marx Brothers movie.”

No. 3 rurrenabaque, Bolivia

The 20 stories in this book explore culture and society in Bolivia over the last 50 years, and it includes a range of authors, from the iconic Augusto Cespedes to up-and-comers published in English here for the first time.

No. 4 Greenland

“Any man who dares to write an entire novel from a woman’s point of view should be wary. But Mr. Hoeg succeeds,” crafting a compelling story about a woman determined to find out who murdered her 6-year-old neighbor.

No. 5 kimberley region, australia

This book, in which “Winton gives us an aerial view of humanity’s situation and its effect on those with whom we share the planet,” is as much a memoir as it is a call to arms.

No. 6 paso robles, calif.

A week before Jack plans to marry, he and his friend Miles set off on a weeklong trip across the Santa Ynez wine country, where they encounter mishaps and adventure, and reflect on their lives and friendship.

No. 7 sicily

This novel, about the decline of a family of Sicilian aristocrats, is the “key to Sicily.”

No. 8 salzburg, austria

This play is “a freely imagined account of the Viennese court composer Antonio Salieri’s venomous relationship with the musical prodigy of the age — namely, one Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.”

No. 9 tokyo

A chance meeting between Tsukiko and her former high school teacher, 30 years her senior, turns romantic in this poignant portrait of modern Japan.

No. 10 caesarea, Israel

An Israeli secret agent’s professional resolve is tested when an undercover mission — to befriend an Israeli writer with ties to a Palestinian terrorist leader — is complicated by newfound loyalties.

No. 11 national parks, china

In this book, a biologist with a focus on wild animals recounts his observations in the Tibetan Plateau. Schaller spent several months a year for decades observing the kiang, wild yak and chiru, following an approach based on the belief that natural history “must be learned on the ground, asking questions, observing, listening, taking notes, getting the boots muddy.”

No. 19 grand isle, la.

Chopin’s “great feminist novel of identity and self-consciousness,” recently rereleased more than a century after its original publication, is the story of the protagonist Edna’s awakening to the oppressive patriarchy in which she lives.

No. 20 chow kit, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

In this “madcap, macabre and violently funny” novel by a Malaysian sci-fi writer, readers are introduced to a modern-day version of Kuala Lumpur where “the supernatural is real, hungry and attempting to unionize.” It follows Rupert Wong, a mortal who is asked to investigate a murder, placing him at the center of a brewing war between the gods.

No. 21 jevnaker, Norway

Nearing 70 and settled in an isolated rural cabin, Trond reflects on a fateful summer during his teenage years, when his friend Jon takes him on an adventure that begets a series of losses for them both.


Published posthumously in 1970, this novel follows a summer in the life of an artist named Thomas Hudson, who has settled on the island of Bimini in the Bahamas when his estranged sons come to visit.

No. 33 Tajikistan

This debut novel follows two women as they embark on journeys that challenge societal restrictions and explores “notions of freedom, rootlessness” and “dislocation.”

No. 34 Antakya, turkey

This book chronicles the writer’s trip to Antioch, the ancestral name of Antakya, hoping to follow the movements of early Christians and “write about faith as an action rather than just a set of beliefs.” But when Covington starts taking trips across the border to war-torn Syria, the story broadens to include explorations of violence, faith and history.

No. 35 Leipzig, Germany

Three generations of polar bears tell their stories in this novel, which is “a study of blurred lines: the line between human and animal, the line between one person’s (or creature’s) story and another’s, the line between love and exploitation.”

No. 36 Lima, Peru

“This screwball fantasy — interwoven with a realistic tale of an improbable romance — is the Peruvian novelist Vargas Llosa’s homage to two people who gave shape to his artistic and personal life during his adolescence: an ascetic Bolivian who all day, every day, wrote scripts for radio soap operas, and the author’s Aunt Julia.”

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