For Taiwan, I recommend reading Green Island by Shawna Yang Ryan, which is a beautiful novel that explores Taiwan's modern history. (I am of Taiwanese descent with parents who immigrated from Taiwan and this sparked a record-long conversation with a parent about their experience growing up, politics, etc.)
Fully learning to read Chinese characters between now and the summer (and I am a heritage speaker of Chinese with basic level of functional literacy, so I know of what I speak!) is going to be an impossible task, but it would be worth it in my opinion to learn to pronounce pinyin, or the standard Romanization of Chinese. Because it was designed to be a standard Romanization and is also used in China to teach children, it follows standard rules.
I say this because, for example, a name like Zhongxiao Fuxing*, which is a station on the Taipei metro, is not pronounced as a native English speaker would expect -- it's helpful to know how things are pronounced so that you'll understand say the English announcements of station names on the metro (since the English announcement will use a close approximation of the Chinese pronunciation).
A specific hint for Taipei -- it's worth understanding the local address system. Find a guidebook for the best description, but in brief:
Roads are often divided into "sections," and house numbering begins anew at each section -- 168 Nanjing Road, Section 3 is not the same places as 168 Nanjing Road, Section 4. Furthermore, many smaller streets off of large streets don't have independent names but are "lanes" or "alleys" -- "lanes" come off "roads" and "alleys" come off "lanes."
So for example:
- No. 20, Alley 19, Lane 120, Section 4, Nanjing East Road (a random address that I picked off Google Maps)
To find this, first find Nanjing East Road, Section 4. Find building number 120 on that road; in the close vicinity Lane 120 will be branching off of Nanjing East Road, Section 4. Go down that lane and then find building number 19 on that lane; in the close vicinity Alley 19 will be branching off Lane 120. Go down Alley 19 and find building number 20. That's where you are trying to go.
(Of course I realize with Google Maps/smartphones you often just follow the walking directions. But I still would recommend familiarizing yourself with the basic system especially if you just plan on walking around!)