The only thing better than a week in Paris is a week in Paris with Adam Gopnik’s essay collection Paris to the Moon or Diane Johnson’s novel Le Divorce. Or any other engrossing work of literature set in the City of Light. Reading about a destination—about people walking the same streets and drinking the same wine—can enrich your experience of being there. Here’s a list of recent books that do justice to some marvelous cities.
ISTANBUL Novelist Orhan Pamuk’s 2005 autobiographical masterpiece, Istanbul, braids together a portrait of the artist as a young man with a fascinating analysis of the city of "ruins and of end-of-empire melancholy" where he has spent his life.
LAS VEGAS Journalist James McManus played in the 2000 World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, and his raucous, hilarious account, Positively Fifth Street, captures both the town’s vulgarity and its awesome vitality.
SAN FRANCISCO Beth Lisick’s San Francisco is a vibrant young city of poets, Mission District performance artists, and rock bands with names like Ebola Soup. She brings this milieu to life in her fizzy, humorous memoir Everybody into the Pool.
SEATTLE Jonathan Raban’s Waxwings is the British author’s love note to his adopted hometown, which he portrays as a beautiful, complicated city awash in high-tech money and desperate immigrants from the developing world.
VENICE John Berendt immortalized Savannah, Ga., in his 1994 blockbuster Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. He works the same magic on Venice in his new gossipy and delightful City of Falling Angels.
Photography by Craig Maxwell
This article was first published in January 2006. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.