Books That Will Move You
Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven
By Susan Jane Gilman (Grand Central, $24)
The memoir looks back on the post-college backpacking jaunt Gilman took with a girlfriend in China, which had just opened its borders. You'll laugh and cringe at their cultural faux pas.
China: For a more relaxed initiation to the Far East, take a 15-day Yangtze River trip from Pacific Delight Tours (pacificdelighttours.com, from $2,199).
Hungry Woman in Paris
By Josefina López (Grand Central, $13)
L.A. journalist Canela has a crisis, runs off to the City of Light, and finds solace in enrolling at a prestigious culinary school.
Paris: The book's school is based on legendary Le Cordon Bleu. For laid-back lessons, head to La Cuisine de Marie-Blanche—in other words, Marie-Blanche's kitchen (cuisinemb.com, weeklong courses from $808).
Hot House Flower and the 9 Plants of Desire
By Margot Berwin (Pantheon Books, $24)
After a life-changing encounter at her local farmers market, New York City advertising exec Lila treks to the Yucatán Peninsula in search of nine tropical plants with mystical powers.
Mexico: Duende Tours leads custom adventure eco-trips through the Mayan rain forest (onejungle.com, eight-day trip from $1,389).
Fairy Tale Blues
By Tina Welling (NAL Accent, $15)
AnnieLaurie takes a sabbatical from her marriage and flees to Hibiscus Island, just off the coast of Miami Beach, where she rents an apartment for six months of sunbathing and soul-searching.
Miami: Rent your own ritzy beachside mansion: The website homeaway.com lists over 550 vacation rentals in the greater Miami area—including more than 200 in Miami Beach alone.
La Bella Lingua
By Dianne Hales (Broadway Books, $25)
In her quest to speak fluent Italian, the author attends language lessons all over Italy, from conversation groups in Rome to private classes in Assisi. Her decades-long love affair with all things Italian is so vividly told, you'll soon be craving gelato.
Italy: Scuola Leonardo da Vinci offers Italian classes countrywide (scuolaleonardo.com, two-week courses from $421).
food for thought
"My new book, Not Becoming My Mother, is a memoir about my mother based on her diaries. I associate her with Pearl Oyster Bar, in Greenwich Village, because the one—well, two—things that she could cook were steamers and lobsters. When I order them there, it's like I'm at my mother's table again." —Ruth Reichl
Pearl Oyster Bar 18 Cornelia St., New York, 212/691-8211, pearloysterbar.com, boiled lobster $27