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It’s that time of year again. That time when the Travel section of the library starts to look a little picked over. When I took over the Travel Books section three years or so ago, I immediately weeded out everything that was more than three years old. That just makes good clean sense. The last thing I want is to be disseminating out-of-date information, after all. After that I moved it to a separate location (on the East side of the second floor of the Main branch, in case you’ve never seen it) to give it some breathing room, and then I started to build it up. Over the last few years, I’ve learned a couple things about travel books and Evanstonians:

Aside from the usual suspects (France, Italy, etc.) Evanstonians love Canada. They really do. I can’t get enough books about Montreal on my shelves. Who knew?

Not every place in the world gets a travel book. That makes sense when you’re talking about lesser-known countries like, say, Nauru, but far less sense when you’re talking about states like Ohio, Indiana, or Wisconsin. Aside from some biking and hiking books, travel books for these states simply do not exist. Crazy, right?

Rick Steves is like a god. All hail, Rick Steves!

Look in the Travel section now and you’ll see titles from 2015 there. I can’t really help that. Though old, it’s useful to have lots of copies of books in Travel for desperate incipient tourists. But what if you want a book that isn’t a travel guide? What if you want to actually (gasp!) understand something about the people you’re visiting? Recently the language learning app Babbel asked foreign ambassadors to the U.S. to pick the book they believe first-time visitors to their country should read before they arrive.

Reserve your copies today! And check out the full list of ambassadorial recommendations at

Here is a smattering of their selections youl find in our own collections:

AzerbaijanH.E. Elin Suleymanov recommends “Ali and Nino,” written in 1937 by Kurban Said, which tells the love story of a Muslim Azerbaijani boy and Christian Georgian girl in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku from 1918 to 1920. Or you could watch the film that came out last year. We have both!Belgium“War and Turpentine” by Stefan Hertmans is a book about three generations of Belgians, focusing on the legacy of WWI and Belgium’s exceptional painters. ColombiaH.E. Juan Carlos Pinzón recommends 1967’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel García Márquez, which tells the multi-generational story of the Buendía family.Denmark “Smilla’s Sense of Snow” by Peter Hoeg is a fictional mystery set in Copenhagen. It is a book that touches on issues such as Danish culture versus Greenlandic and the related issues of language and identity.Estonia“The Man Who Spoke Snakish” by Andrus Kivirahk is an exploration of alternative history by a well-loved contemporary author.”