2017, books, copenhagen, denmark, design, Summer, travels, Writing

Introducing The New 'Hidden Copenhagen' Website

All images taken from the new . Family portrait by  Alec Vanderboom.

All images taken from the new Family portrait by Alec Vanderboom.

Summer is Here.

And just in time for your summer travels, the good folks at Luster Books have introduced the official 'Hidden Copenhagen' website by Luster Books, part of their new

Along with preview sections from the book, the 'Hidden Copenhagen' page also features a 'Meet The Author' page as well as ways to buy the book online. Each book in the 'Hidden' series has it's own page, so you can get busy exploring Barcelona, London, Lisbon, Rome, and several others. 

**The third edition of The 500 Hidden Secrets of Copenhagen is OUT NOW!**

2017, book launch, books, copenhagen, denmark, scandinavia, Frama, Writing

First Look: Dialogues, A Book From Frama & Our Food Stories

I am very excited to introduce you to Dialogues - a book collaboration between Frama (Copenhagen design shop) and Our Food Stories (food blog) and a project unlike any other I have ever worked on (I acted as editor and creative consultant). Dialogues is full of recipes, architectural case studies, and insightful interviews with a wide range of fascinating thinkers and makers from a wide range of fields.

'This book is our way of celebrating a half-decade of personal relationships and creative dialogues. In three distinct conversational sections, Dialogues invites readers to consider how our natural and built environments become the spaces that define our context, how our food traditions can connect us with both the past and the future, and how a diversity of individual creative voices can come together to form a powerful chorus of inspiration for all those willing to listen. Featuring 6 architectural and design case studies, 14 interviews with craftspeople and innovators from around the world, and 19 new recipes from the team at our food stories, Dialogues is not simply a book about Frama. It’s not another book about design. In fact, Dialogues is not a book about any one particular theme, any single discipline, or any one overarching philosophy of life or art. Instead, this is a book about the value of creative exchange and the power of listening. With Dialogues, we invite you into this conversation' [text taken from the book jacket].

You can learn more about Frama here, Our Food Stories here, or pre-order your copy of Dialogues here (and get a free poster when you do!). 

More to come.

2016, books, favorites, list, The Americans

2016 | The Year In Books

2016: oh what a year it was! And what could I say about this last year that hasn't already been said. But, despite everything else, this past year was a great year of challenging and inspiring reads.

With only two exceptions (Joan of Arc and The Nordic Theory of Everything), you'll notice the titles pictured below have a strong bend toward American history, culture, and characters - a trend that was not planned but that, in many ways, proved to be cathartic in a year so full of strange realities. Click on the titles to learn more (at or visit your local bookseller to pick up a copy.

Please share your favorite books of 2016 in the comments section below, we're always in search of our next favorite book!

2016, america, books, list, favorites

The American Experience, By The Book

America By The Book

Just in time for this week's presidential election, here’s a list of ten books that I think help to explain 'The American Experience.'

This is list of personal favorites and by no means an authoritative list - it varies widely in styles, genres, and publication dates, but what unites these stories is that each one captures a particular moment in time or singular voice that is distinctly American. Whether reading these stories as an American or as an outsider, each one communicates a powerful spectrum of perspectives. In these books are truths that are not always pleasant, convenient, or easy to swallow - but they are important because they remind us how far we have come and how far we still have to go as a nation.

1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Huck Finn.jpg

This classic book is a serious morality tale wrapped in the guise of a downriver adventure. At the very heart of Huck Finn is the title character’s struggle to reconcile the mainstream racism of his generation with the basic truths of humanity coming of age in his heart. Why is this essential Americana? Because, in Huck Finn Twain holds up a mirror to American hypocrisy and takes on the great sin of the history of The United States (slavery) without (miraculously!) coming off as preachy. 

2. Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Between The World.jpg

This may very well be the most important book of 2015 / 2016. Written ostensibly as a letter to his teenage son, Between the World and Me is author Ta-Nehisi Coates’ powerful memoir of growing up as a black man in America. This slim book is a hard-hitting, deeply personal, non-fiction read, full of blunt condemnations of a system that has, for centuries, marginalized millions of African Americans. This book will change the way you see the African American experience.

3. Beach Music by Pat Conroy

In early 2016, America lost a literary lion when Pat Conroy passed away suddenly. Better known for the best sellers The Great Santini and The Prince of Tides, Beach Music is an essential American story because it is a love letter to the golden age of American post WWII prosperity. The language of this sprawling, Southern family saga is poetry posing as prose, and contained within the book’s pages is a colorful cast of American characters who display the great diaspora of the nation and the family units that make up it’s people.

4. Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

For those of you wondering how in the world Donald Trump could appeal to such a significant portion of the American populace, there are plenty of clues in this book. Another recent, best selling memoir, Hillbilly Elegy tells the story of a young man coming to age in the industrial ‘Rust Belt’ of America, part of the shrinking culture of blue collar working class whites. Vance’s book tells the story of growing up in a volatile home, a dying town, and as a part of a threatened way of life. This is a timely and touching that helps to shatter the prejudice that comes with stereotyping others.

5. On The Road by Jack Kerouac

Everybody has heard of On The Road, but many less have actually read this groundbreaking 1957 novel. An icon of the Beat generation, On The Road blurs the lines between memoir and fiction, documenting a group of friends traveling on a wild jazz- and sex- and drugged-fueled road trip across America. Once controversial, now considered a classic, this book is a celebration of freedom, of driving the roads of America, of youth, and of the universal quest to find meaning.

6. Travels With Charley by John Steinbeck

Travels with Charley.jpg

Like On The Road, Travels with Charley is the story of an ambitious road trip that criss crosses the vast American nation. Unlike On The Road, Charley features no illicit drugs or sex, but, instead, the observations and insights of author John Steinbeck as he drives along the highways and byways of the good ole USA with his standard poodle Charley. After writing fiction about the American experience for decades (East of Eden, The Grapes of Wrath), this book is Steinbeck’s non-fiction(ish) account of what it was like to hit the road and reengage with the people and country he loved so well.

7. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

This Pulitzer Prize winning novel is a sweet, hilarious, and challenging; the fictional story of Oscar De León, a chubby, comic book obsessed Dominican boy growing up in New Jersey. Featuring several styles, several narrators, and quite a bit of ‘Spanglish,’ Diaz’s novel is part immigrant memoir, part magical realism, and part coming of age story. In reading this book, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll get illuminating glimpses into what it means to grow up in one place, but to also ‘be from’ somewhere else.

8. A Good Man is Hard To Find by Flannery O’Connor

This collection of stories by Flannery O’Connor’s is absolutely perfect. Each of the book’s ten tales thrusts the reader into a scene populated by characters so real, so Southern, so utterly American, that it’s hard to believe it was published over 70 years ago. At times contemplative, at other times brutally violent - this book portrays an American South haunted by racial inequality and possessed by strange and incongruous religious spirits. A Good Man Is Hard To Find deserves to be read and reread.

9. One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson

Best known for his travel books recounting his travels in the US, Britain, Australia, and along the Appalachian Trail, author Bill Bryson has spent much of his life on the move. But, in the this book, Bryson settles in one particular moment in America’s history: that eventful summer of 1927 when Lindbergh flew across the Atlantic, Babe Ruth hit 60 homeruns, Sacco and Vanzetti went on trial, and The Jazz Singer became the first ‘talking’ motion picture. Far more than a collection of facts, One Summer is a fascinating and humorous snapshot of America during one of it’s most adventurous, most innovative, and most prosperous periods.

10. Beloved by Toni Morrison

A masterpiece of American fiction, Beloved is a story of slavery and freedom. It is a story of a mother and her daughter. It is also, both figuratively and literally, a ghost story. Described by The New York Times as “one of the best works of American fiction from 1981 to 2006,” Beloved received the Pulitzer Prize in 1988 and was later adapted into a movie starring Oprah Winfrey. When asked why Morrison had chosen to write Beloved, the author replied that because, “there [existed] no suitable memorial or plaque or wreath or wall [honoring the millions of Africans brought to America as slaves]...this book had to.”

books, copenhagen, events

Hidden Copenhagen Book Launch At Paper Collective Design Gallery

Hidden Copenhagen Book & Poster Launch

Friends, YOU'RE INVITED to join me this Thursday, May 19 at Paper Collective, one of Copenhagen's very best gallery spaces (Kompagnistræde 29, 1208 København K), for a special evening of books, craft beer, Italian wine, and hidden Copenhagen trivia (and prizes!).

Come around for a drink, some good vibes, and to see the reveal of Paper Collective's brand new 'Copenhagen' poster series. The event is free and will take place from 17:00 - 19:00.

More details on the Facebook event page.

The Paper Collective Design Gallery at Kompagnistræde 29, 1208 København K.

The Paper Collective Design Gallery at Kompagnistræde 29, 1208 København K.

books, copenhagen, denmark, book launch

Hidden Copenhagen Book Launch

Oh, what a night! Last Wednesday's official launch of The 500 Hidden Secrets of Copenhagen at Books & Company in Hellerup was an absolute delight. Copenhagen trivia, handsome prizes, craft wine from Vinhanen, craft beer from Mikkeller, and, surprise of surprises, the sun was even shining. 

Thanks to everyone who came out to celebrate the book launch. Thanks to Isabella and Hanne for playing host. Thanks to LUSTER Books for trusting me with this project. Thanks to Steve at Wooden Spoon for the delicious trivia prize donations, and special thanks to the indomitable Nick Scriven for all the lovely photos you see here.

The 500 Hidden Secrets of Copenhagen is now available at your local bookseller (support local shops - just ask them to order a copy for you), via, and for signed copies you can email

books, america, summer

American Getaway: 100 Years of Saints & Sinners at Camp Wandawega

In 2014, I was asked by David Hernandez and Tereasa Surrat, the incredible owner / directors of Camp Wandawega, to help write a history of their extraordinary property in Walworth County, Wisconsin. The result was a book, titled American Getaway: 100 Years of Saints and Sinners at Camp Wandawega, Wisconsin. Here's the summary from the book's dust jacket: 

Indians. Bootleggers. A Swedish Madam. The Feds. A Murderer On The Lam. Refugee Priests. The Ghost Of The Lake. Kids In Canoes. A Russian Gangster. And A Cheeky Racoon Named George. This is the very strange, very true story of Camp Wandawega, Wisconsin: an American getaway since 1925.

Below you can read the book's prologue. At the Wandawega Historical Society's website, you can read all of the book's seven sections.

American Getaway, Prologue: "Our Place," Walworth County, Wisconsin, August 2012.

          "How dare you, sir. How dare you threaten to take this place away from us."
          At this the crowd fell silent. Clearly, emotions were high. After all, when a ninety-year-old woman crosses a crowded courtroom to dress down the county zoning board - directly to their faces - well, then, pretty much everything else comes to a standstill.
          And she was just getting started: "Ashamed, the county should be ashamed for even considering something like this," she yelled, quaking with indignation. "That’s our place, that’s God’s place and you will not take it away from us." There was a respectful wave of applause. The venerable woman spent the next several minutes laying out the many noble qualities of the place in question before finishing her statement with a final wag of her finger and a final benediction: "ashamed, you should all be ashamed."
          Mrs. Rita Sisk of Walworth County is a devout Catholic mother, grandmother, and first-time zoning board scolder. The inciting incident that had brought so many supporters together that day? A zoning violation. And, “the place” that Mrs. Sisk, along with fifty others had stood up to defend? ‘Our place,’ she had called it, ‘God’s place,’ was an outdoor chapel situated on a twenty five acre piece of property along the north edge of Wisconsin’s Lake Wandawega, known today as Camp Wandawega.
          Since the 1960s, when the property was used as a retreat center by an order of refugee Latvian priests, the outdoor chapel at Camp Wandawega had been used during the summertimes for ‘Mass in the Grass.’ For the faithful, the opportunity to pray and hear mass outdoors was more than just a novelty, it was a new kind of sacrament: worship in that first of all temples, nature. Over time, the tradition became sacred. So, in 2012, when the county zoning commission realized that the chapel sat on property zoned for residential use only (and not for religious gatherings), it threatened closure and an end to "Mass in the Grass."
          Cue the community uproar. Cue the indignation. Cue Mrs. Sisk and the crowd of people who showed up on a weekday to protest; the local residents, the out-of-towners from Chicago, the members of the Latvian community, the Catholic school principal, a big city ballet director, even former Illinois state representative Joe Lyons. Cue the over three hundred letters of support that came in from around the world, insisting that Camp Wandawega be allowed to remain open as-is and that the loss of Mass in the Grass would be, "a travesty."
          In the end, it was a non-travesty: the chapel and the camp were saved from the wrecking ball, or, at least, from closure. It was a victory for the diaspora of those who love Camp Wandawega; the generations of families who had come (and are still coming) to their summer getaway ‘on the lake no one has ever heard of’ in southeast Wisconsin.
          But there was a second, less instantaneous consequence in Camp Wandawega’s August, 2012 campaign: in the process of preparing for the court hearing, the camp’s current owners David Hernandez and Tereasa Surratt were introduced to decades worth of documentation and first-hand accounts clarifying much of the shadowy history of the resort property which included, in the broadest of strokes, illegal booze, illicit sex, the mob, the Vatican, a panhandling raccoon, and even a murderer on the run. And what they found - the facts they were able to confirm after years of unconfirmed myth and campfire legends - was stranger, more fascinating, and more complicated than they could ever have imagined. 
          As it turns out, for the past century, "God’s place" - that wholesome, all-American getaway by the lake - has been just as much a sanctuary for sinners, as it has for saints. Since the first modern building appeared on the site in the 1920s, it has been a speakeasy, a secret hideout for Chicago mobsters, a 1930’s brothel, and as the site of a gruesome, 1942 murder-suicide. For almost one hundred years, what is now known as Camp Wandawega has been many things to many people, but one thing has remained constant: the shores of Lake Wandawega have always played host to those who seek, whether for virtue or vice, to get away - both to something, and away from something else. 
          The story you are about to read reaches back into far away decades, it is populated by real people - both heroes and villains; the facts of their lives and times have been meticulously gathered, thoughtfully considered, and sketched here with as much journalistic integrity as we could muster. There’s a chance that a little ‘color’ has been added between the lines here and there whilst still leaving plenty of room for these tales to grow taller in the years to come. This is the stuff of legends, after all. So crack open a cold one, wrap up in a blanket, and gather in close around the fire...this is the very true, very strange history of Camp Wandawega, American Getaway.

Learn more about the American Getaway book project here, and more about Camp Wandawega here.

copenhagen, denmark, travels, books

Announcing 'The 500 Hidden Secrets of Copenhagen'

I'm happy to announce the release of my newest book project, The 500 Hidden Secrets of Copenhagen to be released by LUSTER Books (Belgium) later this spring. The book is available for pre-order at Read on for a little more about this upcoming book release...

About The 500 Hidden Secrets of Copenhagen (from the publisher):

  • An insider’s guide to Copenhagen and its best kept secrets,
  • An inspirational and practical guide to discovering Copenhagen’s finest and most interesting buildings, restaurants, shops, museums, galleries, neighbourhoods, gardens and cafes,
  • A new edition in Luster’s growing series of city guides,
  • Written by Austin Sailsbury, Photography by Tino van den Bergh.

"Where are the 5 best places in Copenhagen to experience New Nordic cuisine? What are the 5 best places to shop for Scandinavian furniture, fashion, and design? What is the city’s hippest new cocktail bar? Where can you find the best nature trails and waterfront walks? Where are the city’s small, independent cinemas? Which museums are best to visit on a rainy Danish day? What is Smørrebrød and where can I try it? What is Copenhagen’s best artisanal coffee?

The 500 Hidden Secrets of Copenhagen reveals the answers to these (and many other) questions. Discover a diverse range of under-the-radar, yet outstanding addresses that will allow you to explore the best of the city away from the typical tourist crowds. An affectionate and informed guide to Copenhagen, written by a local.

This is a book for visitors who want to avoid the usual tourist spots and for residents who are keen to track down the city’s best-kept secrets."               

Book’s Contents: 

95 Places to Eat or Buy Good Food; 65 Places To Go For A Drink; 70 Places For Fashion and Design; 40 Places to Enjoy Culture; 75 Places to Discover The Real Copenhagen; 20 Things to do with Children; 20 Places to Sleep; 45 Weekend Activities; 30 Buildings To Admire; 15 People Who Made Modern Copenhagen; 30 Random Details and Helpful Hints.

Pre Order The 500 Hidden Secrets of Copenhagen at

books, 2015

2015: The Year in Books

From whale attacks to Grizzly attacks, from a multi-verse of magical Londons to Flannery O'Connor's Gothic American South, and from the return of Scout Finch to the return of Cormoran Strike - these were our favorite book discoveries in 2015 (note: not all were published in 2015). Click on the cover art to learn more.

What were your favorite books of 2015? Leave us a recommendation in the comments below.

books, america, essay

Introducing American Getaway: 100 Years of Saints and Sinners at Camp Wandawega, Wisconsin


I am thrilled to finally be able to see this project come to life in print: American Getaway was a collaborative research, writing, and historical fact-checking endeavor over a year in the making. 

You can learn more about the extraordinary true history of Camp Wandawega and the extraordinary couple who is keeping such a special plot of Americana alive here.

Read the whole, rambling story of American Getaway for yourself here.

travels, books

2014 | The Year in Books

Need a good read? Looking for a Christmas gift? Here are ten books that we discovered, read, and loved in 2014. Note: These 10 books were not all published in 2014, but this past year was when they found their way to us. Hopefully something (or several somethings) below will spark your interest: gangsters, river pirates, artists in Paris, daring escapes, a deal with the devil, and the very funny minds of David Sedaris and Tina Fey.

1. One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson. The inter-war years in America were never as exciting as in the summer of 1927: Lindburgh's Atlantic crossing, Prohibition, Babe Ruth's greatest season, the birth of Hollywood, political scandal, murder, mayhem and 'The Trial of the Century.' This is what literary non-fiction is all about. Five stars, highly recommended.

2. Wicked River: The Mississippi When It Last Ran Wild by Lee Sandlin. Okay, so if this sounds like a kind of a niche-interest book (Mark Twain, reclaimed midwestern history, etc.), well, it is. BUT, it is a remarkable history of frontier America in the years before the Civil War: pirates, river boats, religious orgies, and a haunting profile of the early days of New Orleans. If you have any interest in American history, this book is worth your time. Well researched, brilliant non-fiction prose, I re-read several chapters just to soak in the bizarre beauty of early America.

3. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter: Italy in the 1950's, a beautiful actress hiding out in the Cinque Terre, and a whole tangle of lies, secrets, and the fortuitous intersecting of clumsy human lives. This is a beautifully crafted, thoughtful, and simultaneously tragic & wondrous novel. 

4. Bossypants by Tina Fey. Two words: TINA FEY. Ms. Fey's prose is remarkably touching and insightful. You will laugh. You will cry. You will come away from this book with an even bigger crush on Tina Fey than you have right now.

5. The Cuckoo's Calling and The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling). If you like crime novels, detective novels, mysteries set in London, then you will like both of these books. Cuckoo is an introduction to the Cormoran Strike series, but you can start with either book. Mr. Galbraith's plots are intricate and well spun and the reader is given a lot of realistic insights into how investigations work. Fan of detective fiction? These are worthy members of the genre's canon. Note: The Silkworm is considerably more graphic / violent than The Cuckoo's Calling.

6. Room by Emma Donoghue. I have never read a book like Room. And, in my opinion, Ms. Donoghue has written a heartbreaking masterpiece. The tragic scenes and imagery from this book are intense, difficult, and, honestly, haunting. Room tells the story of a young boy and his mother who are prisoners inside a tiny garden shed, their strange life inside, and the hope that sustains them. At times shocking, violent, and is also a picture of human resilience, a mother's love, and the need for all of us to open our eyes to the suffering around us.

7. Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris. To read David Sedaris is to love David Sedaris. His latest collection of memoir-ish, travel-ish, cultural critique-ish essays is splendid and (clearly!) hard to define. Hilarious, reflective, and always self (as well as others)-deprecating, this has to be one of the funniest and sweetest books of the past few years. This is very addictive prose.

8. The Greater Journey by David McCullough. If you liked the Woody Allen film Midnight in Paris and you don't mind reading name-heavy, date-heavy nonfiction, then you will probably enjoy this book. Mr. McCullough is an literary treasure - his exhaustive books on American history or legendary (John Adams, 1776, Truman, The Great Bridge, etc.) and The Greater Journey is no different. Focusing mainly on the life and times of Americans living and working in Paris in the late 18th and early 19th century, this is a book about art, medicine, literature and the intersection of early American zeal, European expertise, and the golden yellow glow of the Parisian joire de vivre. 

9. The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafrón. Think The Da Vinci Code meets Paul Auster, set in Barcelona of the 1920s. This is escapist fiction, fantastic realism, and supernatural whodunnit all rolled into one. Part of a non-linear series by Mr. Zafrón, The Angel's Game is just as much fun as The Shadow of the Wind with it's chases down crooked Catalun alleyways and mysterious midnight visitors.

10. The New Kings of Non-Fiction edited by Ira Glass (of This American Life). We don't normally pick up anthologies - but since this one was edited by Ira Glass, well, we knew it was going to be stellar. And it is. Consisting of essay selections from a variety of authors writing on a number of subjects from all corners of the human experience, this is an outstanding collection and reads like an in-depth, sound-effectless episode of This American Life. Each essay is remarkable in its own way. Highly recommended.

What were your favorite books of 2014? Please leave us your suggestions in the comments below. We're always on the hunt for the next book.