We all know that reading has the power to transport you elsewhere, but as keen travellers, the best books in our view not only do that, but also immerse us in a new destination. Here, we’ve got six of the best books that bring to life a brilliant story, with a real sense of place.
1. Wild: From lost to found on the Pacific Coast Trail, by Cheryl Strayed, will take you to the west coast of the USA
If you’ve ever fantasised about packing your bags and rambling solo across thousands of miles of mountainous terrain, this book’s for you. That hasn’t crossed your mind? Read this anyway. Based on a true story, and at the age of 22, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. Her mother had passed away, her family had dispersed, and her marriage was left in tatters. With little to no experience, Cheryl made the impulsive decision to trek more than 1,000 miles across the Pacific Crest Trail, which stretches from the Mojave Desert near the US/Mexico border, right through to California, Oregon and on to Washington state. This novel beautifully captures both the challenges and enjoyment of one woman’s journey to discover, strengthen and heal herself.
2. All The Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr (Paris) will transport you back in time to Paris
In this novel, 12-year old Marie-Laure, who is blind, is forced to flee her home with her father when Paris becomes occupied by the Germans in World War II. They escape to the walled citadel of Saint Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive uncle owns a house by the sea. Meanwhile in Germany, Werner is an orphan, whose genius engineering skills land him a place in a tough military academy. His expertise is initially used to track transmissions across Russia and Central Europe before he’s referred to Saint Malo, where Marie-Laure’s uncle is working on behalf of the resistance. This page-turning novel is tense, captivating, and will have you yearning to know what happens next.
3. Call me by your name, by André Aciman, will immerse you in the Italian riviera
Set in the Italian Riviera, this heated love story will transport you to the cliffside town in which it’s rooted and given our current circumstances, that sounds pretty good to us. Elios, a 17-year old boy, grows up in his parents’ cliffside mansion in the province of Liguria. Each summer, doctoral students are welcomed as house guests to assist Elios’ father with academic papers. It was a tradition he hated, until an unexpected guest is the catalyst for a sudden and powerful romance, where both are unprepared for the consequences. This book will provide passionate escapism – it’s sensitive, powerful, and will leave a lasting impression.
4. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese will take you to Ethiopia and New York
Spanning two continents and five decades – this is a story of love and betrayal, benevolence and resentment, exile and homecoming, immersing you in the hardship and resilience of the political turmoil in Ethiopia during the 1950s. Twin brothers are born in a Mission hospital and, when their mother dies in childbirth, their father vanishes, leaving the boys to grow up with an ever fading sense of the man he was. Complex and intricate, this is a novel with utterly engrossing twists and turns, dealing with themes of betrayal and trust, forgiveness and self-sacrifice.
5. The Secret River will transport you back in time and to the early settlement of Sydney, Australia
A historical novel based in the early 1800s, Londoner William Thornhill endured a tough but bearable life before being transported to Australia for petty theft, with his wife and children in tow. Eventually pardoned, Thornhill falls in love with a section of land by the Hawkesbury River in New South Wales; it just doesn’t occur to him the land may already be inhabited… A timeless story about identity, belonging and love, set in the beauty of the Australian landscape, this is a story that will teach you plenty about Australia’s colonial past, whilst asking questions on actions and consequences and what it means to call a place home.
6. Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson will take you on a trip around Britain
Last but not least, and to embrace the place we’re all grounded to for the foreseeable, this is a book that might just deliver the upbeat and jovial tone we all need right now. Due to move back to the States for a few years with his family, Bryson decides that before leaving his adored home in North Yorkshire, he’ll take one last valedictorian trip around Britain, the island that he has for so long called home. Light and easy to read, you can expect some amusing observations on British culture, our idioms and oddities.