Our Temporary Homes: A Reading List About Hotels

One of my favorite childhood memories is going to Kentucky to visit my grandmother’s hometown. We stayed in the same hotel during every trip: the Best Western. My mom loved it for its consistency and affordability. I loved the popcorn machine in the lobby and the indoor swimming pool.

Hotels are weird, with their anonymous, uniform rooms; where you have to give your name at the desk in order to sleep there. As writer Aaron Gilbreath finds out in “Three Feet by Six Feet by Three Feet,” hotels are, paradoxically, monuments to isolation and to community. Suzanne Joinson feels the weight of being everywhere and nowhere at once in “Hotel Melancholia.” These essays and the others stories in this list will take you all over the world, to the hotels we call our temporary homes.

1. “Inside the Mad, Mad World of TripAdvisor.” (Tom Vanderbilt, Outside, March 2015)

Author Tom Vanderbilt uses his own family vacation to Mexico as a case study in TripAdvisor’s astounding omniscience.

2. “Hotel Melancholia.” (Suzanne Joinson, Aeon, June 2015)

Frequent travel takes its toll on Suzanne Joinson, whose existential fatigue is exacerbated by her sterile surroundings. Joinson cites several other women writers who were similarly (tragically) affected by their stints living in hotels.

3. “In Case of Emergency.” (Matthew Newton, The Rumpus, June 2013)

When he dropped out of high school, Matthew Newton struck a deal with his parents: get a job, pursue your GED, and we won’t give you grief. His memorable character sketches from his dishwashing job at the Holiday Inn pair nicely with his rumination on his unexpected unemployment in the present.

4. “Three Feet by Six Feet by Three Feet.” (Aaron Gilbreath, The Morning News, January 2015)

Aaron Gilbreath forgoes luxury in favor of the inexpensive, communal capsule hotel, the preferred lodging of Japanese businessmen.

5. “Honoring the Dark Goddess with a Coven in an Airport Conference Hotel.” (Tarin Towers, Broadly, April 2016)

The attendees at PantheaCon summon the divine at the Doubletree San Jose.