What’s your go-to travel indulgence? That thing you do when you become infatuated with yet another destination? It’s no secret that reading a good book can transport you to foreign lands, exotic islands and mythical, far away places. When I become infatuated with a new destination, the first thing I do is turn to Amazon. Likewise, travel reading has sparked in me interests in countries I had never before considered. A good writer will have you engaging all your senses as you journey with them into a foreign destination – leaving you with memories so vivid it’s as if you were there.
Travel Reading: What Makes a Great Book?
I like my books to serve two purposes – I’m not one for beach-reads. I enjoy the odd quick and easy novel occasionally, but I’m a sucker for excellent narrative and addictive writing style. So instead of serving you up a list of trashy holiday destination reads, today’s list is one of travel reading that features incredible storytelling by great authors who really will transport you to exotic countries around the globe.
If, perhaps, one of these books takes your fancy, I have included a link to buy it on Amazon. If you are to use one of these links to buy a recommended book, then I will get a small commission. This commission is not added onto the charge and won’t affect you in any way – it just helps me to keep this blog running! If you object to affiliate links then simply head to Amazon yourself and search for the title.
1. The Kiterunner ~ Khaled Hosseini
Will transport you to: Kabul, Afghanistan
An epic tale by a spectacular author, this inter-generational story tells tales of family amidst some much darker themes. Hosseini’s writing style is so skillfull that by the end you will feel you have run the dusty back streets of Kabul yourself and feasted on juicy pomegranates yourself. A masterful read that is far too easy to devour in one all-night read-a-thon.
Buy it on Amazon: The Kite Runner
Favourite quote: “It was only a smile, nothing more. It didn’t make everything all right. It didn’t make ANYTHING all right. Only a smile. A tiny thing. A leaf in the woods, shaking in the wake of a startled bird’s flight. But I’ll take it. With open arms. Because when spring comes, it melts the snow one flake at a time, and maybe I just witnessed the first flake melting.”
2. The Secret Life of Bees ~ Sue Monk Kidd
Will transport you to: Georgia – The American Deep South
Uplifting, beautiful and transformational. Sue Monk Kidd’s writing will pick up right up and plonk you down in the heart of a George peach farm. This story tells the tale of sisterhood, and the bond between mother and daughter through the eyes of 14-year-old Lily Owen. Set in the 1960’s to a background of racial violence, Lily runs away from her abusive father with her beloved nanny Rosaleen in search of her mother, who she shot and killed when she was just a baby. Everything from the language, the sites, the sounds and the smells will bring you to the deep South of America in this touching and often humorous (but always heartwarming) novel.
>Buy it on Amazon:The Secret Life of Bees
Favourite quote: “Now and then sprays of rain flew over and misted our faces. Every time I refused to wipe away the wetness. It made the world seem so alive to me. I couldn’t help but envy the way a good storm got everyone’s attention.”
3. The 40 Rules of Love: A Novel of Rumi ~ Elif Shafak
Will transport you to: Thirteenth century Turkey and Iraq
East meets West when Ella Rubenstein is first introduced to the Eastern mystic Rumi and his companion Shams of Tabriz. Through editing a novel she begins to grow and learn more about herself and love. Although it sounds rather chick-lit-esque, this novel provides a beautiful integration of Rumi poetry and the life of these two wandering Dervishes. To be honest, I dislike Ella’s character – but the wonderful narration of Rumi’s story, and beautiful integration of life in thirteenth century Middle East. Most of the other characters are vibrant and fascinating, and the undercurrent of spirituality and love is interesting but not sickly.
Buy it on Amazon:The Forty Rules of Love: A Novel of Rumi
Favourite quote: ”For Aziz, on the other hand, time entered on this very moment, and anything other than now was an illusion. For the same reason, he believed that love had nothing to do with plans for tomorrow, or memories of yesterday. Love could only be here and now”
4. The Mistress of Spices ~ Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Will transport you to: A street corner in California, and the magical spice markets of the East
Despite being set in LA, this novel is anything but. This magical story tells the tales of Tilo, a young woman from another time who has a gift for the art of spices. Through ingenious storytelling and a mouth-watering knack for choosing words, Chitra weaves a magic tale of love and spices from inside the walls of this incredible spice shop. Not only an excellent example of travel writing, but delectable food writing as well. An excellent read if you need transporting to somewhere rather magical and exotic.
Buy it on Amazon:The Mistress of Spices: A Novel
Favourite quote: “Each spice has a special day to it. For turmeric it is Sunday, when light drips fat and butter-colored into the bins to be soaked up glowing, when you pray to the nine planets for love and luck.”
5. Little Paris Bookshop ~ Nina George
Will transport you to: Paris and through France following the Sienne.
Skillful story telling, wonderful character development and delightful scene-setting make this delicious novel one of my all-time favourite choices when it comes to travel reading. Nina takes us to Paris, through the eyes of Monsieur Perdu. Monsieur Perdu lives aboard his beautifully restored barge on the Sienne – his literary apocathery. It is here that he prescribes books for all of life’s hardships. After suffering many years of heartbreak, he finally decides to haul up anchor and set sail down through small town France to discover what happened to his long lost love, all those years ago. This is a heartwarming & charming read full of vibrant characters and a truly French feel. You’ll come away from it feeling like you’ve just spent a month on the waters of the Sienne.
Buy it on Amazon: The Little Paris Bookshop: A Novel
Favourite quote: “Books are more than doctors, of course. Some novels are loving, lifelong companions; some give you a clip around the ear; others are friends who wrap you in warm towels when you’ve got those autumn blues. And some…well, some are pink candy floss that tingles in your brain for three seconds and leaves a blissful voice. Like a short, torrid love affair”
6. Like Water for Chocolate ~ Laura Esquivel
Will transport you to: Vibrant and delicious (and often heartbreaking) Mexico
This gorgeous book has me pining for traditional Mexican dishes and time-traveling back to my incredible visit to Mexico. A beautiful and at times devastating story of life, magic, feasts and recipes. This story is of Tito, the youngest daughter who has been condemned by traditions to look after her mother until she dies. But despite being forbidden to marry, she falls in love with Pedro. He, in turn, is utterly seduced by her cooking and in an act of desperation to stay near to her, marries her sister. It is only through a string of tragedies that the two lovers are finally reunited. A spellbinding story of life in turn-of-the-century Mexico.
Buy it on Amazon: The Alchemist
Favourite quote: “Tita knew through her own flesh how fire transforms the elements, how a lump of corn flour is changed into a tortilla, how a soul that hasn’t been warmed by the fire of love is lifeless, like a useless ball of corn flour.”
7. The Magus – John Fowles
Will transport you to: Mythical islands of Greece
A fest for the mind and senses, the Magus brings us to a remote Greek island where our protagonist, Nicholas Urfe, finds himself entangled in the psychological games of a master trickster. A true classic of exceptional writing, John Fowles uses exceptional imagery and mind-bending writing to transport us to the mythical islands of Greece and the mysteries that lie within it.
Buy it on Amazon:The Magus
Favourite quote: “if Greece were a woman so sensually provocative that I must fall physically and desperately in love with her, and at the same time so calmly aristocratic that I should never be able to approach her.”
8. The Beach ~ Alex Garland
Will transport you to: The lush jungles and tropical beaches of Thailand
Many people know of the Leonardo DiCaprio film..but in my opinion, but the novel is even better. In search of his own personal paradise, Richard follows a map he’s given to an unknown island, and the secluded beach contained within. With it comes a new way of life, and revelations more exciting, more extrodainary and more frightening than anything of his wildest dreams. A true tale of intrepid travel and adventure, this thrilling story is a lush insight into Asia and Thailands most paradise-worthy beaches.
Buy it on Amazon: The Beach
Favourite quote: “If I’d learnt one thing from travelling, it was that the way to get things done was to go ahead and do them. Don’t talk about going to Borneo. Book a ticket, get a visa, pack a bag, and it just happens.”
9. The Alchemist ~ Paulo Coelho
Will transport you to: Andulucia, Spain
An epic classic of monumental proportions. Although a short read, over 2 million readers consider this novel a must-read masterpiece. A well loved universal classic that tells the tale of an Andalusian shepherd boy on a journey to follow his dream, and the revelations, characters and events that happen along the way. One of these, of course, happens to be the alchemist. And so begins a beautiful mentor-student relationship and a story that lingers in your heart and mind for long after you’ve read it.
Buy it on Amazon: The Alchemist
Favourite quote: “We are travelers on a cosmic journey,stardust,swirling and dancing in the eddies and whirlpools of infinity. Life is eternal. We have stopped for a moment to encounter each other, to meet, to love, to share.This is a precious moment. It is a little parenthesis in eternity.”