Introducing the CGIS Study Abroad Book Club

Follow along with literary travelers to prepare for your study abroad adventure!

Watch your inbox every other week for our newsletter that will link to recommendations of books, short stories, and essays carefully selected by CGIS staff to inspire, provoke, and encourage you on your own travels.

Grab one or more of these texts for your plane, train, or bus ride and let your imagination take flight.

Too busy to read through a full book on your journey? We recommend reading local news in your destination country and seeking out inspiration from music and visual art.


Image courtesy of Google Books. Italy in Mind: An Anthology by Alice Leccese Powers, Editor (1997)

Italy in Mind: An Anthology by Alice Leccese Powers, Editor (1997)

  • “Comprised of short stories, novel excerpts, essays, poetry journals and letters, this work will delight anyone who loves Italy or great travel writing. Pieces include Barbara Grizzuti Harrison marveling at baroque Sicilian confections, Mary McCarthy celebrating Venice's threadbare dignity, and Henry James's Isabel Archer succumbing to the treacherous antiquities of Florence.” (source)

    • Reflection questions: Which piece did you find most engaging, and why? How do setting and time period shape each text?

Tweet us your thoughts or make your own suggestions!

Week of November 19, 2017

A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid (2000)

"A brilliant look at colonialism and its effects in Antigua...Lyrical, sardonic, and forthright by turns, in a Swiftian mode, A Small Place cannot help but amplify our vision of one small place and all that it signifies."

After you read: What does Kincaid have to say about the toll of travel on local life? How can you keep her insights in mind on your own journey?

Week of December 11, 2017

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (1979) 

"Seconds before the Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor."

After you read: What do the travelers learn and gain in their exploration of the galaxy?

Week of December 25, 2017

CGIS Book Club: Howard Tsai (GCC Peru - Cusco)

We sat down with Howard Tsai, Lecturer in Latin American and Caribbean Studies and program leader for Global Course Connections (GCC) in Cusco, Peru (Indigenous Communities and Globalization), to discuss several fascinating texts on the ancient city of Cusco!

Follow the links below to read for yourself, and join the discussion with us on twitter @cgisumich!

Watch our interview on YouTube here

Rowe, John Howland. “WHAT KIND OF A SETTLEMENT WAS INCA CUZCO?” Ñawpa Pacha: Journal of Andean Archaeology, no. 5, 1967, pp. 59–76. JSTOR, JSTOR,

Bauer, Brian S. “Ritual Pathways of the Inca: An Analysis of the Collasuyu Ceques in Cuzco.” Latin American Antiquity, vol. 3, no. 3, 1992, pp. 183–205. JSTOR, JSTOR,

Week of January 8, 2018

Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

"In a garden sit the aged Kublai Khan and the young Marco Polo — Mongol emperor and Venetian traveler. Kublai Khan has sensed the end of his empire coming soon. Marco Polo diverts his host with stories of the cities he has seen in his travels around the empire: cities and memory, cities and desire, cities and designs, cities and the dead, cities and the sky, trading cities, hidden cities. As Marco Polo unspools his tales, the emperor detects these fantastic places are more than they appear."

After you read: Calvino’s cities represent possible ways of thinking and living more than actual places; which of his cities do you find intriguing, and why?

Week of February 5, 2018

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (1988)

"Combining magic, mysticism, wisdom and wonder into an inspiring tale of self-discovery, The Alchemist has become a modern classic, selling millions of copies around the world and transforming the lives of countless readers across generations. Paulo Coelho's masterpiece tells the mystical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure. His quest will lead him to riches far different—and far more satisfying—than he ever imagined. Santiago's journey teaches us about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, of recognizing opportunity and learning to read the omens strewn along life's path, and, most importantly, to follow our dreams."

After you read: What is your “personal legend”? Having read the book, what inner resources do you need to continue your journey?

Week of February 19, 2018

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

Widely celebrated and debated by critics and readers everywhere, A Moveable Feast brilliantly evokes the exuberant mood of Paris after World War I and the unbridled creativity and unquenchable enthusiasm that Hemingway himself epitomized.

After you read: What does Hemingway feel about the Paris of his youth? What other emotions color his description of the place, besides nostalgia?

Week of March 5, 2018

The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World by Eric Weiner (2008)

"Part travel memoir, part humor, and part twisted self-help guide, The Geography of Bliss takes the reader across the globe to investigate not what happiness is, but WHERE it is."After you read: What conclusion does Weiner come to on the source of happiness? How do we measure and experience happiness, especially when immersed in an unfamiliar environment?

After you read: What conclusion does Weiner come to on the source of happiness? How do we measure and experience happiness, especially when immersed in an unfamiliar environment?

Week of March 12, 2018

Losing North: Essays on Cultural Exile by Nancy Huston (2002)

“Named for the French expression meaning “to lose track or lose control,” Losing North is the author’s own reflections of her vanishing Canadian identity, and her emerging one as a citizen of the world.” (source)

After you read: Huston discusses how one’s language instantly and irreversibly identifies them to others. How does that dynamic change when one speaks multiple languages? What does it mean to be counted in multiple groups at the same time?
Tweet us your thoughts!

Week of March 26, 2018

A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit (2006)

“Written as a series of autobiographical essays, A Field Guide to Getting Lost draws on emblematic moments and relationships in Rebecca Solnit's life to explore issues of uncertainty, trust, loss, memory, desire, and place. Solnit is interested in the stories we use to navigate our way through the world, and the places we traverse, from wilderness to cities, in finding ourselves, or losing ourselves. While deeply personal, her own stories link up to larger stories, from captivity narratives of early Americans to the use of the color blue in Renaissance painting, not to mention encounters with tortoises, monks, punk rockers, mountains, deserts, and the movie Vertigo. The result is a distinctive, stimulating voyage of discovery."

From the Trade Paperback edition.

After you read: Solnit takes the reader through the experience of being lost in many different mediums—in the wild, in emotion, in love. How are these experiences connected to each other and to the themes of travel and setting?

Week of April 9, 2018

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

“"The Little Prince" was published in 1943 by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. It is a poetic tale in which a pilot strands in the desert and meets a young prince fallen to Earth from a tiny asteroid. The story is philosophical and includes social criticism, remarking on the strangeness of the adult world. While it looks like a children's book, it targets adult relationships with deep thoughts on how adults perceive life and each other."

After you read: This book emphasizes reaching understanding through firsthand experience. What does the narrator take away from the journey?

Week of April 22, 2018

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

“Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West. Beautiful, self-assured Ifemelu heads for America, where despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple with what it means to be black for the first time. Quiet, thoughtful Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post-9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Fifteen years later, they reunite in a newly democratic Nigeria, and reignite their passion—for each other and for their homeland."

After you read: How do Ifemelu's experiences of crossing cultures, for example, taking on an American accent (and feeling both triumphant and ashamed about it, in turn) resonate for you? 


Week of April 29, 2018

All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes by Maya Angelou 

"In 1962 the poet, musician, and performer Maya Angelou claimed another piece of her identity by moving to Ghana, joining a community of "Revolutionist Returnees" inspired by the promise of pan-Africanism. All God's Children Need Walking Shoes is her lyrical and acutely perceptive exploration of what it means to be an African American on the mother continent, where color no longer matters but where American-ness keeps asserting itself in ways both puzzling and heartbreaking. As it builds on the personal narrative of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Gather Together in My Name, this book confirms Maya Angelou’s stature as one of the most gifted autobiographers of our time."

After you read: How does Angelou approach the concept of “home,” and what does “home” mean to you?

Week of September 2, 2018

Walden by Henry David Thoreau (1854)

  • “Walden by noted transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau, is a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings. The work is part personal declaration of independence, social experiment, voyage of spiritual discovery, satire, and manual for self-reliance. First published in 1854, it details Thoreau's experiences over the course of two years, two months, and two days in a cabin he built near Walden Pond, amidst woodland owned by his friend and mentor Ralph Waldo Emerson, near Concord, Massachusetts. The book compresses the time into a single calendar year and uses passages of four seasons to symbolize human development. By immersing himself in nature, Thoreau hoped to gain a more objective understanding of society through personal introspection. Simple living and self-sufficiency were Thoreau's other goals, and the whole project was inspired by transcendentalist philosophy, a central theme of the American Romantic Period. As Thoreau made clear in his book, his cabin was not in wilderness but at the edge of town, about two miles (3 km) from his family home.”

Week of September 16, 2018

Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin 

“James Baldwin, who would have turned 90 this year, is one of the great American essayists. His first nonfiction book, Notes of a Native Son, grapples with the darker side of travel, of being an outsider, both at home and abroad. The book's moving final essay, "Stranger in the Village," recounts his experience in a small Swiss village, where he's the first black man the townspeople had ever seen.” 

After you read: How does Baldwin compare his experiences of identity and race in the U.S. and abroad?

Week of September 30, 2018

The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pene du Bois (1986)

  • “Professor William Waterman Sherman intends to fly across the Pacific Ocean. But through a twist of fate, he lands on Krakatoa, and discovers a world of unimaginable wealth, eccentric inhabitants, and incredible balloon inventions.”

    • Reflection question: How does Professor Sherman interact with the island’s inhabitants? What do the illustrations and other children’s lit-style features of the book add to the story?

Week of October 14, 2018

Daisy Miller and Other Stories by Henry James (1878)

The tale of Daisy's irruption into staid European society enjoyed, as did Daisy herself, a succès de scandale; and it has remained one of James’s most popular short stories. Like the others collected here—'Pandora,' 'The Patagonia,' and 'Four Meetings'—it describes a confrontation between different values in a changing world. Is the new independent American girl enchanting in her spontaneity, alarming in her unpredictability, or merely vulnerable in her ignorance of social codes? Hung about with male admirers who seek, uncertainly, to grasp the new phenomenon, Daisy marches on undiscourageable, to her triumphant—or tragic—destiny.

Reflection question: What is the role of setting in this story? How successfully or unsuccessfully does Daisy navigate life as an American abroad, and what cultural conflicts does she find herself in?