Sit down and take a trip to France

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One of the most fascinating aspects of traveling is learning another society's cultural references and self-perceptions—think the L.A. of James Ellroy or the archetype of the American detective in Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon. That's why, when I heard that Whereabouts Press was publishing more literary compilations about countries and cities written by top local authors, I wanted to spread the word.

Books on France and Vienna are the most recent additions to Whereabout's A Traveler's Literary Companion series. Editions based on South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Turkey, and India are coming next year. The series currently represents over 16 regions, from Costa Rica to Vietnam. Pieces—short stories, excerpts, and essays ranging from the classic to the contemporary—are organized by the region they're set in, say, "Paris and its Suburbs." Best of all, every selection comes with a quick biography of the author to give you context about who wrote the story and the time frame during which it was written. Did you know, for instance, that France had its answer to Hammett in Georges Simenon? His Inspector Maigret, however, smoked a pipe.


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