4 books for armchair travelers

Books that will take you to France, China, Ireland, and Libya – no passport required.

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Has flying become more hassle than it's worth? No problem – just pick up a book and go. Here are four excellent picks for armchair travelers.

1. "My Life in France," by Julia Child (Knopf Doubleday, 368 pp., $15). Fill in the gaps left by “Julie & Julia” with this “delightful and ebulliently written” memoir by Julia Child about her “six-year stint (1948-54) in France” – “the most influential years in her career as well as the happiest of her life.” (CSM review 6/20/06)

2. "Shanghai Girls," by Lisa See (Random House, 36 pp., $15). Lisa See painstakingly re-creates both the Shanghai of the 1930s and ’40s and California life in the 1950s in this novel about “the almost life-giving strength women can gain from sisterhood – and the ways in which they can tear each other apart without even trying.“ (CSM review 6/5/09)

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3. "Love and Summer," by William Trevor (Penguin Group, 224 pp., $25). Irish master William Trevor’s “simple, perfectly pitched study of ... passion” tells a story of adulterous lovers and gorgeously evokes the quiet rhythms of life set in an Irish farm town “some years after the middle of the last century.” (CSM review 9/26/09)

4. "In the Country of Men," by Hisham Matar (Random House, 256 pp., $12). When was the last time you read a novel set in... Libya? Don’t miss this “knockout” – the “emotionally wrenching and gorgeously written” story of a young boy whose father – a political dissident – suddenly “disappears.” (CSM review 2/6/07)

Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor's book editor.

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