I have a confession. I am officially the world’s worst (living!) German citizen. Not only do I not speak a word of German, I’ve actually never even set foot on German soil (unless you count transiting through the Frankfurt airport and being mocked by the immigration officers for having a German passport and not understanding a word they were saying). The true reason I’ve never been to Germany is that I just haven’t got around to it, the reason I usually tell people I haven’t been to Germany is the fact that I don’t want to be mocked for my offensively poor language skills, and the secret reason, deep in my heart, that I have never been to Germany is that I’m scared it won’t live up to the Germany described in Philip Kerr’s Berlin Noir. This 880-page masterpiece is actually three novels in one, and begins a lengthy series of detective novels set in and around Berlin during WW2.
I’m not even sure that I need to visit Germany now, as Kerr’s descriptions of the city are so vivid that you feel like you’re right there in the Hotel Adlon lobby with the jaded detective Bernie Gunther. As the series of novels progresses you’ll cross war-torn Europe (I’m currently reading the latest in the series in which Bernie pays a visit to Smolensk, and I now know that Smolensk has a most noteworthy cathedral!) and even go as far afield as Havana, Cuba. Leave your e-reader at home and pack a paperback copy of this book for your next trip. It’s long enough to keep you occupied at the airport, on the plane, on the bus and by the pool, and I promise that after reading it you will either be inspired to book a trip to Berlin, or determined never to let the reality of the city today interfere with the world you pictured as you read this book.
Inspiring Travel Books is a series that slowly faded away as the pressures of grad school took their toll. I hope to revive it as regularly as possible. In addition to reviewing standard “travelogues” I will also share any other books (novels, cookbooks, etc.) that evoke a place and time in the way that will have you searching for flights and hotels the second you turn the last page.