St. Olaf Faculty and Staff Resource List
One of the hallmarks of St. Olaf Travel programs are resource lists put together by the group leader, with recommendations of books, music, movies, and more that are related to the program’s educational theme or destination.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, St. Olaf faculty, staff, emeriti, and retirees have stepped up to help fill your many hours at home with a general travel-related resource list.
If you’d like to make a contribution to this list, please email us.
David Anderson ’74
A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland, by Samuel Johnson
Published in 1775 by the great 18th-Century literary figure Samuel Johnson. It’s his journal of an 83-day trip through Scotland, focusing on the Hebrides. Lots of great Johnsonian prose. Read it alongside James Boswell’s A Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides. Boswell, Johnson’s biographer, accompanied him on the trip.
Beth Anne Thompson ’88
Associate Director for Alumni Professional Networks and Affinity Groups, Alumni and Parent Relations
If this movie doesn’t make you want to go to Italy immediately, nothing will.
Assistant Director of Student Activities, Office of Student Activities
Somebody Feed Phil
There’s also a season or two under the name I’ll Have What Phil’s Having, as it started as a PBS show. I love it because it’s a very human and enthusiastic look at travel with an undertone of beautiful silliness.
Heidi Quiram P ’21
Director, Alumni & Family Travel
In a Sunburned Country, by Bill Bryson
You’ll get to know the many facets of Australia, and laugh out loud several times. His descriptions of listening to cricket on the radio and escaping a barking dog in a city park are especially enjoyable.
Leslie Moore ’77 P ’19
Director, Piper Center for Vocation and Career
“The Road Not Taken,” by Robert Frost
Life is full of forks in the road. We can only walk one road at a time, and, as Frost says, our choice makes all the difference.
Jodi Malmgren ’92
Director, International and Off-Campus Studies
With Martin Sheen, about the Camino de Santiago, one of the oldest Christian pilgrimages and a UNESCO world heritage site.
Chris George ’94
Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid
Travels, by Michael Crichton
It piqued my curiosity about travelling abroad.
David Wagner ’03
Director of Admissions
Paris to the Moon, by Adam Gopnik
If you can’t travel to Paris right now, at least you can live there vicariously by reading about Adam Gopnik’s experiences.
Also from Dave Wagner
Unfamiliar Fishes, by Sarah Vowell
An engaging read about the complicated history of Hawaii that I couldn’t put down.
Director, TRiO Student Support Services
“Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans,” by Louis Armstrong
This is my favorite travel song, and one of my favorite tunes regardless of theme. I’m an unflagging advocate for NOLA, as I spent a lot of time learning about and living in the Crescent City while working on my dissertation. It’s a lovely song — one that became a siren song for displaced and returning New Orleanians post-Katrina. Regardless of the circumstances or my own mood, Armstrong’s ode to his hometown always makes me feel better, more at ease, and connected to the people and places on the other end of the Mississippi that matter so much to me.
Erik Grell ’05
Assistant Director, Institute for Freedom and Community
A Journey Round My Room (Voyage autour de ma chamber), by Xavier de Maistre
To fully appreciate the parodic quality of this work requires some understanding about the immense popularity of the travelogue in late-eighteenth century Europe. Today, however, this work might offer readers counsel during these times of quarantine.
Jenny Howenstine ’98
Associate Dean of Admissions, Director of International Recruitment
The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Murial Barbery
I love reading contemporary and historical fiction set outside of the US almost as much as I love traveling. Instead of reading books set where I plan to go I prefer those set in places I’ve just returned from so I can extend the trip and picture the places and things I’ve just seen. (This one is set in Paris.)
Professor of Political Science
The Art of Travel, by Alain de Botton
With charm and erudition, de Botton explores our complicated aspirations surrounding travel, our delight in the exotic, our desire to experience the sublime. Yet the art of travel that he promotes turns out to be as much for those stuck at home as for those striding the globe. It involves attending to the beauty that is always already around us, “to notice what we have already seen.”
Professor of French
French Gardens, by Monte Don
TV series (try Netflix or Amazon Prime)
As an avid gardener, I love this series on gardens of various countries. My favorite, of course is this French series, (4 episodes) but there is also a series on Italy, I believe on Japan, and also a very good one on American gardens. They are all extremely good at presenting the historical significance of the gardens within their context, as well as talking about the design elements. And if you really get hooked on Monte Don, you can find about 200 episodes of the long-running British series, Gardeners World, on YouTube! (Not really a travel series, but they do visit various gardens in Great Britain so I think it qualifies.) Another very fun one is Samin Nosrat, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, which is a book but also a Netflix series. It’s about cooking but she visits various locations and tries out her language skills — a good model for students of languages!
Paul Niemisto P ’08
Professor Emeritus, Music
Oodi, the Helsinki City Library
One of the most amazing buildings to be erected in the last decade is the Helsinki City Library. The Library “Oodi” has some virtual tours available online. Nothing quite like it. I was in Helsinki as it was being constructed, but I haven’t been in yet since it’s finished.
Professor of Art and Art History
On the Road, by Jack Kerouac
An oldie but a goodie — the quintessential American travel novel. I have resided in nine very different states and have criss-crossed the US many times. The story goes deeply into the spirit of mid-twentieth-century America but reads like the ribbon of highway itself (as it was written — Kerouac inserted a 120-foot roll of paper into his manual typewriter and finished the first draft in a couple of weeks).
Naurine Lennox ’64
Associate Professor Emerita, Social Work and Family Studies
Ireland Walk Hike Bike
The small company I walk with in Ireland has been posting some virtual hikes and biking adventures while they are shut down. Lovely Irish scenery. Linda Woods is the owner of the company.
Professor of English, Associate Dean of Humanities
“Born to Run,” by Bruce Springsteen
When I’m leaving for a road trip, I like to start things off with this song. The driving beat, which builds up to the line, “Baby we were born to run!” sets the tone for a long drive.
Jane Becker Nelson ’04
Director & Curator, Flaten Art Museum
Drinking French, by David Lebovitz
Traveling is so much about tasting. While we’re staying close to home, I’m finding expansiveness in this new book, which includes both stories about and recipes for iconic French cocktails and aperitifs.
Assistant Professor of Classics
Four Seasons in Rome, by Anthony Doerr
This is a delightful little book with poetic, and loving descriptions of a year spent writing and exploring in the Eternal City. In this charming and poetic memoir, the author, Anthony Doerr together with his wife, Shauna, and their newly born twins (!), move from Boise, Idaho to the American Academy of Rome, where Doerr has just been awarded a prestigious Rome Prize, to spend a year living in the Eternal City and working on his next novel. (Incidentally, the book he struggles with writing in Four Seasons will ultimately become All the Light We Cannot See, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2014). Four Seasons is about family, change, love, death, writing and literature, but the biggest protagonist is the city of Rome itself. I love this book because of the way the Doerr captures the wonder, beauty, and, sometimes, the absurdity of Rome from the perspective of an American traveler. Though clearly a travel memoir, his language is absolutely beautiful and elevates to poetry on many pages. Strongly recommended—this one will speak to your heart.
Brian Borovsky ’94
Professor of Physics
Fantastic Voyage, by Isaac Asimov
I remember reading this book when I was young and being absolutely captivated by the idea that you could travel through the human body. Racing through blood vessels in a microscopic submarine, defending your ship and crew against white blood cells, risking the dangerous vibrations of sound waves in the inner ear, all in an effort to save a person’s life … now that’s an adventure in a totally different world!
Multilingual Student Language Support Specialist, Center for Advising and Academic Support, and Instructor in Writing, Writing Program
“Ithaka”, by Constantine Cavafy
I’ve used this poem in class. It’s “about travel” but I ask students to think about how education is a journey. We pursue the end goal (the degree), but we are also wise to linger, contemplate, absorb, enjoy.
Associate Professor Emeritus, Asian Studies
A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush, by Eric Newby
Eric Newby was working in London’s fashion industry, pushing pins into models, when he decided to give it all up and go climbing in Afghanistan’s outback, the mountains of Nuristan, with an old friend in Britain’s diplomatic service, bound for a posting in Teheran. The two set out after one weekend of rock-climbing training in Wales. A true story told with understated British humor, one which kept me laughing during my two years’ Peace Corps service in Afghanistan.
Professor Emerita of English
News of the World, by Paulette Jiles
I don’t know if it’s my favorite travel related narrative — I have many favorites — but I just finished re-reading it for a book group. It’s well-written. It’s got a strong plot. And it keeps you reading. Enjoy!
Director, Events Management
My favorites are guide books: Rick Steves for Ireland; Italy; Belize, Lonely Planet Guide to India, Moon: Newfoundland and Labrador
Andrea Een P ’12
Professor Emerita, Music
Two for the Road
With luminous performances by Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney about a relationship seen through the prism of trips to Europe over a 20-year span. Funny and poignant. Not told chronologically … watch the cars!
Also from Andrea Een
With Steve Coogan and Rob Bryson: These two comedians improvise male bonding and male competition as they travel to North England as restaurant critics. Their sparring as they try to outdo the other with impressions of Michael Caine and Sean Connery is hilarious. Later series focus on Spain, Italy and Greece.
Professor Emeritus of Religion
Bad Trips: A Sometimes Terrifying, Sometimes Hilarious Collection of Writing on the Perils of the Road, edited by Keith Fraser
It is a good introduction to a lot of compelling travel writers, and each section is a very engaging account of some intensely demanding situation. It’s helpful in keeping your own travel tribulations in perspective!
Professor, Psychology & Computer Science
“The Guest House,” by Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi
When I led term in the Middle East over a decade ago, I read this poem to my students when we arrived in each of the three countries we visited: Turkey, Morocco, and Egypt. But the most memorable time is reading it to them as we sat in the courtyard of Rumi’s mosque and shrine (where he is buried) in Konya, Turkey.
Professor, Composition and Theory, Music Department
A Walk in the Woods, by Bill Bryson
While the movie disappointed, the book never does. I recommend the audiobook with Bryson himself reading. You may not be inspired to complete the Appalachian Trail, but you will have a good laugh.
Bob Entenmann P ’11
Professor Emeritus, History and Asian Studies
Forbidden Journey: From Peking to Cashmir, by Ella Maillart
News from Tartary, by Peter Fleming
In 1935 the Swiss writer Ella Maillart and the British writer Peter Fleming – not as famous as his brother Ian, who created James Bond – travelled overland from Beijing through Inner Asia to Kashmir. Both wrote very engaging books about their seven-month adventure. Both are in print.
Visiting Assistant Professor, Romance Languages – Spanish
“De Usuhuaia a La Quiaca,” by Gustavo Santaolalla
This was an early 1980s project by Léon Gieco and Gustavo Santaolalla to travel 4,500km and collect and record Argentine traditional folk music from Patagonia to the limit with Bolivia. A song inspired by this experience was included in Walter Salles’ “Motorcycle Diaries.” In this video, the song is played by Santaolalla’s band Bajofondo Tango Club.
Assistant Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art
A Small Place, by Jamaica Kincaid
In this searing work of creative nonfiction, Antiguan author Jamaica Kincaid addresses the tourist from the perspective of a local, drawing critical connections between tourism and colonialism that often go unacknowledged by those privileged enough to travel.
Michon Weeks P ’13
Associate Professor of Practice, Department of Art and Art History
The Mosquito Coast, by Paul Theroux
It is a humorous and dark adventure story about an idealistic inventor who takes his family to live in the Honduran jungle to live a purer life.
Dan Franklin ’69 P ’00, ’03
Retired Associate Dean
Through the Back Door, by Rick Steves
We enjoy getting a bit off the normal tourist destinations. Highly recommend checking these out!
Deanna Thompson ’89
Director of the Lutheran Center for Faith, Values, and Community, and Martin E. Mart Regents Chair in Religion and the Academy
Several years ago during one of our deep conversations over a meal with our church dinner group, we got on the topic of walking the Camino de Santiago. One member of the group had walked portions of it and was trying to figure out a way he could walk the entire thing. Our friend’s testimony about his experience led others around the table to talk about how moving they found The Way, a movie about a father’s Camino pilgrimage as he mourns the death of his son. My husband and I immediately rented the video, and now we, too, are plotting when and how we can go and be transformed by the journey so many others have taken.
Rebecca Coates ’74, P ’10
“Oh, Danny Boy,” by Frederic Weatherly
I recommend Irish tenor, Finbar Wright, singing “Oh, Danny Boy” for how it transports me from worries over COVID-19, and into Ireland with all its wondrous beauty and fascination. When travel now isn’t easy or recommended these are the ways we can still “go away.”
Steve Reece P ’09
Professor of Classics
This is a lovely poem by Archibald MacLeish that my English teacher introduced to me in high school. The poem travels from East to West across the Mediterranean, touching down at various sites geographically, but at the same time it conveys the story, metaphorically, of the rise and fall of civilizations – as inevitable as the rising and setting of the sun. No punctuation mark could stop, or even slow down, the inevitable – so, the poet reasons, why even try!
Scott Nesbit P ’12, ’15
Instructor in Exercise Science, Head Women’s Tennis Coach
Website Duolingo podcasts. These are real life stories told in intermediate Spanish. My Spanish is not intermediate yet, but the producer (Maria Castro) comes in several times during the story and helps me understand what is generally going on in the person’s story.
Music The soundtrack from the movie, The Mission, orchestrated by Ennio Morricone. The orchestral music is beautiful. The song called “Gabriel’s Oboe” is one of my all time favorites.
Movie Two documentaries, Academy Award winner Searching for the Sugarman and also Crip Camp (produced by Barak and Michelle Obama).
Poem Wendell Berry’s “What We Need Is Here.” I think about the words to this poem a lot.
Book Paris to the Moon, by Adam Gopnik. This is not your ordinary travel book. The stories helped me better understand the unique Parisian culture.
Retired Assistant Professor, Education
Travels in Canoe Country, by Paul Gruchow
If you love the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, you must read this book by a former Northfield resident and St. Olaf English professor. It is a lovely tribute to the beauty of this place, as Gruchow experiences it by paddling its waters. And the photos by Gerald Brimacombe are exquisite and complement the text very well.
Professor of Computer Science
Here are two groups of readings from the Dordogne and Southwest France. Below those is a group of three books by Peter Mayle, including his classic A Year in Provence which I believe was made into a miniseries. I have read all of these books and they get you into authentic French country life and characters.
Dordogne river valley and surroundings.
Three mystery novels by Michelle Wan with lots of local color of the Dordogne region: Deadly Slipper, Orchid Shroud, and A Twist of Orchards
The following are four more mystery novels set in the countryside of southwest France, by Martin Walker. Lots of local color, literally in the land and villages and figuratively in the personalities of the characters: The Dark Vineyard Mystery of the French Countryside, The Crowed Grave Mystery of the French Countryside, Black Diamond Mystery of the French Countryside, and Bruno, Chief of Police
And here are three “classic” books by Peter Mayle on Provence: A Year in Provence, Encore Provence, and Toujour Provence
Professor Emeritus of Biology
Travel as a Political Act, by Rick Steeves
Title says it all. Travel exposes people to diversity in a way that they come to realize their differences with people in other cultures is minimal. Really addresses why international travel is so important.
Also from Ted:
The Path Between the Seas, by David McCullough
Really good overview of the Panama Canal, its history and political importance.
Hungry Planet: What the World Eats, by Paul Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio
Interesting overview with a lot of great pictures.
Herb Cohrs ’70
Back Water, directed by Jon Cohrs
A travel documentary of sorts of a trip going into the wetlands of New Jersey with an environmental focus.
More from Jenny Howenstine:
UK – Autumn, Winter, Spring, by Ali Smith
Colombia – Fruit of the Drunken Tree, by Ingrid Rojas Contreras
Italy – The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna, by Juliet Grames
Eastern Russia – Disappearing Earth, by Julia Phillips
Iceland – Butterflies in November and other books by Audur Ava Olafsdottir, Yrsa Sigurdadottir mysteries
Korea/Japan – Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee
Turkey – Anything by Elif Shafak
Ghana – Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi
Mumbai – Behind the Beautiful Forevers, byKatherine Boo
Moscow – A Gentleman in Moscow, Amor Towles
Turkey/Greece – Birds Without Wings, by Louis de Bernieres
Japan – Tale for the Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki
Barcelona – Cathedral of the Sea, by Ildefonso Falcones
Lisbon – Night Train to Lisbon, by Pascal Mercier
Nigeria – Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
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