“We read to know we’re not alone.” William Nicholson couldn’t be most spot-on about why reading resonates with so many of us, and I think it’ll ring truer for me this year than it has in a long time. Sure, we’ll be meeting new people daily from all walks of life, and yet, if my traveling experience has taught me before, I’ll never feel more third-culture than when I’m walking that thin line between my host country and that of my passport.

So, I plan to read a lot this next year as we travel. We won’t have much access to Netflix, certainly no DVDs in our packs, and even our music will be in short supply in a few countries (hold me as I ponder that last bit there). We try to dish out screen time in small doses in our real life anyway, but that parenting move will be on hyperdrive for the next year—we simply won’t be able to watch many movies. Literally.

Reading is one of my greatest loves, so I plan to take the timeless ritual and hold it near as a dear friend. I’ve found that years later, the books I’ve read on a trip become companions from that journey. Here’s what I hope to read this next year on our round-the-world trip (all via Kindle, of course).

The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

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What it’s about: In one of the most popular Latin American novels of the twentieth century, Isabel Allende weaves a tapestry of three generations of the Trueba family, revealing both triumphs and tragedies. Its Chilean backdrop serves as a beautiful description of Latin culture.

Why I’m reading it: I want to read more novels this next year—I’ve been filling up on non-fiction the past few years, which is great, but I’m ready to get lost in a story. And I’ve heard good things about this one.

Where I’m reading it this next year: South America

Overrated by Eugene Cho

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What it’s about: People today love to talk about justice, but are they living justly? They want to change the world, but are they being changed themselves? Eugene Cho confesses that he likes to talk about changing the world but he doesn’t really like to do what it takes. He doesn’t doubt the sincerity of those who want to change the world, but he fears that today’s wealth of resources and opportunities could be creating “the most overrated generation in history. We have access to so much but end up doing so little.”

Why I’m reading it: I heard him speak at my church our last week in Oregon, and I was really moved by his message. This idea of good intentions but little action has been percolating in my mind for some time now.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo

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What it’s about: An Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of a treasure buried in the Pyramids. Along the way he meets a Gypsy woman, a man who calls himself king, and an alchemist, all of whom point Santiago in the direction of his quest. No one knows what the treasure is, or if Santiago will be able to surmount the obstacles along the way, but what begins as a journey to find worldly goods turns into a discovery of inner treasure.

Why I’m reading it: This is one of those books I feel like I should have read already, with so many people I trust raving about it. I love getting lost in a good story… I think my daughter and I will read this together.

Where I’m reading it this next year: Europe

Chasing Francis by Ian Morgan Cron

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What it’s about: When his elders tell him to take some time away from his church, broken pastor Chase Falson crosses the Atlantic to Italy to visit his uncle, a Franciscan priest. There he is introduced to the revolutionary teachings of Saint Francis of Assisi and finds an old, but new way of following Jesus that heals and inspires. The main character’s spiritual discontent mirrors the feelings of a growing number of Christians who walk out of church asking, Is this all there is? They are weary of celebrity pastors and empty calorie teaching.

Why I’m reading it: My literary agent and friend recommended it to me, and she’s got great taste. Plus, let’s just say this work of fiction sounds a little non-fictional in my own life at the moment.

Where I’m reading it this next year: Europe

The Writing Life by Annie Dillard

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What it’s about: This short book by renowned novelist Annie Dillard explores her perspective on the practice of being a writer. Commentary on the craft of writing is juxtaposed with narration of the author’s personal experiences, all of which are grounded in the extended metaphor that creating a literary work is, essentially, following “a line of words.” The themes of the book are also grounded in that metaphor, specifically in their investigation of the contrasting natures of that line and the simultaneous effortlessness and hard work that go into following it truthfully.

Why I’m reading it: This book is quoted all over the place, and again, it’s one of those books I feel like I should have already read, as a writer myself. I hear I should plan on pretty much highlighting the entire dang thing.

Pilgrim Principles by Lacy Clark Ellman

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What it’s about: Pilgrimage is a sacred journey, and it speaks to our longing for something more and our search for answers to life’s deepest questions: Who am I? Who is God? What makes me come alive? Though ancient in its roots, the practice of pilgrimage is alive and well today, calling seekers to journey beyond the edge of daily life into terrains of mystery, wonder, revelation, delight, acceptance, and transformation.

Why I’m reading it: About the book, Ellman says you don’t have to leave home to begin living like a pilgrim. But well, I’ve left home for a year, so I figure this would be a good time to read this new-to-me book.

The Beach by Alex Garland

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What it’s about: The Beach, as main character Richard has come to learn, is the subject of a legend among young travelers in Asia: a lagoon hidden from the sea, with white sand and coral gardens, freshwater falls surrounded by jungle, plants untouched for a thousand years. There, it is rumored, a carefully selected international few have settled in a communal Eden. He sets off with a young French couple to an island hidden away in an archipelago forbidden to tourists, yet over time it’s clear that Beach culture, as Richard calls it, has troubling undercurrents.

Why I’m reading it: I’ve heard the movie doesn’t even compare to the book, and though I’m not usually the thriller type, it sounds like a fun read while we’re in Thailand for awhile.

Where I’m reading it this next year: Southeast Asia

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

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What it’s about: A poignant look at the disillusionment and angst of the post-World War I generation, the novel introduces two of Hemingway’s most unforgettable characters as they journey from the wild nightlife of 1920s Paris to the brutal bullfighting rings of Spain with a motley group of expatriates. It is an age of moral bankruptcy, spiritual dissolution, unrealized love, and vanishing illusions.

Why I’m reading it: When we were in Tuscany, the subject of favorite books circled the group, and Seth Haines quickly named this one as his. I’m impressed that anyone can name their favorite book as confidently and rapidly as he did, and I trust his taste, so this book was added to my queue.

Where I’m reading it this next year: Europe

A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle

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What it’s about: In this memoir, Peter Mayle tells what it is like to realize a long-cherished dream and actually move into a 200-year-old stone farmhouse in the remote country of the Lubéron with his wife and two large dogs. He endures January’s frosty mistral as it comes howling down the Rhône Valley, discovers the secrets of goat racing through the middle of town, and delights in the glorious regional cuisine. It transports readers into all the earthy pleasures of Provençal life and lets us live vicariously at a tempo governed by seasons, not by days.

Why I’m reading it: We might slow down and park a bit in Provence, so this seems like obvious reading during our time there.

Where I’m reading it this next year: Europe

The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor

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What it’s about: Thirty-one O’Connor stories, including twelve that do not appear in the only two story collections she together in her short lifetime, completes this collection. Taken together, these stories reveal a lively, penetrating talent that has given us some of the most powerful and disturbing fiction of the twentieth century.

Why I’m reading it this next year: The best reading recommendations come from fellow readers I trust. And this collection comes recommended enough for me to believe them and try it out myself.

Eat This Book by Eugene Peterson

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What it’s about: The second part of Peterson’s momentous five-volume work on spiritual theology, he offers greatly needed, down-to-earth counsel on spiritual reading by challenging us to read the Scriptures on their own terms, as God’s revelation, and to live them as we read them. In these pages he draws readers into a fascinating conversation on the nature of language, the ancient practice of lectio divina, and the role of Scripture translations.

Why I’m reading it: I’ve loved everything I’ve read by Peterson, so I anticipate the same for this one. I like the idea of down-to-earth counsel on spiritual reading in my life.

The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner

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What it’s about: Part foreign affairs discourse, part humor, and part twisted self-help guide, this book travels from America to Iceland to India in search of happiness, or, in the crabby author’s case, moments of “un-unhappiness.” It investigates not what happiness is, but where it is. Are people in Switzerland happier because it is the most democratic country in the world? Do citizens of Qatar, awash in petrodollars, find joy in all that cash? Is the King of Bhutan a visionary for his initiative to calculate Gross National Happiness? Why is Asheville, North Carolina so damn happy?

Why I’m reading it: I’m terribly fascinated by the idea of happiness and different cultures’ definitions of it—and it serves as research for the book I’ll start working on during this trip. Looking forward to this one.

Where I’m reading it this next year: All over the place

The Sacred Year by Michael Yankoski

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What it’s about: Frustrated and disillusioned with his life as a motivational speaker, Michael Yankoski was determined to stop merely talking about living a life of faith and start experiencing it. The result was a year of focused engagement with spiritual practices–both ancient and modern–that fundamentally reshaped and revived his life. By contemplating apples for an hour before tasting them (attentiveness), eating on just $2.00 a day (simplicity), or writing letters of thanks (gratitude), he discovered a whole new vitality and depth through the intentional life.

Why I’m reading it: I heard Michael speak at our church a few weeks ago and was profoundly moved by his short message. His year of discovery sounded eerily like a prophetic word for our upcoming year on the road—in fact, Kyle and I have called it a sacred year previous to this new book’s release. I pre-ordered it on my Kindle while he was still speaking. Really excited about digging in deep.

Where I’m reading it this next year: All over the place, slowly

We read to know we're not alone. -William Nicholson

This isn’t comprehensive, of course—I tend to add books and take them away as I find inspiration. But this is my plan as of now. Here’s to another year of reading!

What are your reading plans from now till next summer?

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