North AmericaResources

Background reading: North America

Pines trees and mountains behind Moraine Lake, Canada
Heading to North America? Here’s a handy list of background reading:

Accordion Crimes by Annie Proulx
The novel follows an accordion from the hands of its maker in Sicily in 1890 until it is flattened by a truck in Florida in 1996. In the intervening century it passes through the hands of a host of unlucky owners and their kin. [United States]

America, Empire of Liberty: A New History by David Reynolds
“Tells the story of America through the voices of those who have lived through its history, from presidents to slaves.” [United States]

And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails by Wayne Curtis
Here are sugar barons and their armies conquering the Caribbean, Paul Revere stopping for a nip during his famous ride, Prohibitionists marching against “demon rum,” Hemingway fattening his liver with Havana daiquiris, and today’s bartenders reviving old favorites like Planter’s Punch.

Bound For Glory by Woody Guthrie
First published in 1943, this autobiography is also a superb portrait of America’s Depression years, by the folk singer, activist, and man who saw it all. [United States]

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
With dazzling energy and insight, Junot Díaz immerses us in the uproarious lives of our hero Oscar, his runaway sister Lola, and their ferocious beauty-queen mother Belicia, and in the epic journey from Santo Domingo to Washington Heights to New Jersey’s Bergenline and back again. [United States]

Coming into the Country by John McPhee
Written with a vividness and clarity which shifts scenes frequently, and yet manages to tie the work into a rewarding whole, McPhee segues from the wilderness to life in urban Alaska to the remote bush country. [United States]

The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland by Jim DeFede
When thirty-eight jetliners bound for the United States were forced to land in Gander, Newfoundland, on September 11, 2001, due to the closing of United States airspace, the citizens of this small community were called upon to come to the aid of more than six thousand displaced travelers. [Canada]

Deep South: Four Seasons on Back Roads by Paul Theroux
An ode to a region, vivid and haunting, full of life and loss alike.” [United States]

The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac
Two ebullient young men search for Truth the Zen way: from marathon wine-drinking bouts, poetry jam sessions, and “yabyum” in San Francisco’s Bohemia to solitude in the high Sierras and a vigil atop Desolation Peak in Washington State.” [United States]

Dispatches from Pluto: Lost and Found in the Mississippi Delta by Richard Grant
Richard Grant and his girlfriend were living in a shoebox apartment in New York City when they decided on a whim to buy an old plantation house in the Mississippi Delta. [United States]

Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien
Master storyteller Madeleine Thien takes us inside an extended family in China, showing us the lives of two successive generations—those who lived through Mao’s Cultural Revolution and their children, who became the students protesting in Tiananmen Square. [Canada, China]

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
“The best chronicle of drug-soaked, addle-brained, rollicking good times ever committed to the printed page. It is also the tale of a long weekend road trip that has gone down in the annals of American pop culture as one of the strangest journeys ever undertaken. [United States]

How to Be a Canadian by Will Ferguson and Ian Ferguson
“[the] ultimate guide to the country’s cultural quirks.” [Canada]

Inside the Dream Palace: The Life and Times of New York’s Legendary Chelsea Hotel by Sherill Tippins
The Chelsea Hotel, since its founding by a visionary French architect in 1884, has been an icon of American invention: a cultural dynamo and haven for the counterculture, all in one astonishing building. [United States]

The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver
Takes us on an epic journey from the Mexico City of artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo to the America of Pearl Harbor, FDR, and J. Edgar Hoover… a poignant story of a man pulled between two nations as they invent their modern identities. [Mexico, United States]

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: A Savannah Story by John Berendt
Voodoo. Decadent socialites packing Lugars. Cotillions. With towns like Savannah, Georgia, who needs Fellini? [United States]