It is no secret that the world is quickly changing and in some ways shrinking for many of us during the current global crisis created by the Corona virus. As travelers, just two weeks ago we were seeing massively discounted flights, and now we are watching flights being cancelled or banned, the borders of many countries closing, and what may be the (at least temporary) collapse of the travel industry as we know it, even after the threat of the virus has declined.
Many of us are undergoing self isolation, while others are having to continue their work due to various reasons. Regardless of your situation, I think it’s safe to say that we are all experiencing some stress created by what is happening in our world right now. While I am a traveler, I am also an avid reader, and I have not found anything I love to do more during a day at home than read a good book. Since many of us will be spending the next days, or weeks, in mostly a state of seclusion, I felt like this may be an appropriate time to suggest some wonderful books for those out there who also love both travel and reading.
I decided to create a list of some books that either inspired me to travel or that I just truly enjoyed. I also included some that may not have affected me so deeply that I still think may be worth reading for others. I hope that you find something that sparks your interest!
Novels That I Loved
American Gods by Neil Gaiman:
This book is what I consider a modern “hero epic”, written to allude to the epics of demigods such as Gilgamesh and Heracles—but set in modern day America. In short, this novel tells the story of a man who find himself a key player in the war between the Old Gods (Odin, Kali, Anansi, etc) and the New Gods (Internet, Media, and others). The story takes the reader across America and also harkens to the ancestral homes of many of the Old Gods. It’s a book that combines mythology with modern fantasy elements while centering around a very human, everyday charter. It’s one of my favorite books and worth reading! (Neil Gaiman is my favorite author and he has many other amazing books— including Neverwhere, which will take you to a fantastical, underground version of London!)
The Robert Langdon novels by Dan Brown:
This includes Angels & Demons as well as The Da Vinci Code. These are the only two titles I have been able to read of his so far, but I adored them! Suspense, adventure, travel, and lots of fun for lovers of history.
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon:
An excellent historical novel set in 1940s Barcelona. The prose is enchanting and the storyline as well as the characters are engaging and fascinating. If you like a bit of romance and drama, as well as mystery and history, this is a great novel that I suggest to everyone!
Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman:
This is one of my favorite books, and not just because it is set in Italy (though that helps). This is the story of young Emilio falling in love with his family’s summer guest over the course of a summer. It is raw, is heavy in heart-struck inner monologues (which I personally love), and captures the beauty of the setting and characters in a way that stays with you long after the book is finished.
Chocolat by Joanne Harris:
This book is set in Southern France, and tells the story of a woman and her young daughter, both of whom are touched with magic. This book ruminates on family bonds, human nature, and the crossroads of everyday living and pleasure. The descriptive powers of the writer— of food, scenery, and everything in between— is stunning. If you like strong female characters, magic, and food, this book is as good as it gets.
Travel Books: For Your Future Travels
Vagabonding by Rolf Potts:
I found this book when I was working at a secondhand bookstore in my hometown. At the time I was desperately craving a sign about what to do with my life, and then it appeared. It is one of the books that truly spurred me to leave home on a solo trip that lasted nearly four months. This book is full of travel tips but also quotes, advice, and encouragement. It makes great fuel for any future travel plans you may have.
How to Travel the World on $50 a Day by Matt Kepnes:
The author of this book runs a great travel blog called Nomadic Matt in which he details his adventures and gives people advice on how to make their travel dreams come true. This book was a great extension of his blog, and has various lists of resources available to travelers. It helped me a lot on my travels.
From Excuses to Excursions: How I Started Traveling the World by Gloria Atanmo:
This book is also written by a successful travel blogger. She is my greatest traveling idol— also being a black woman who loves travel and had to overcome many boundaries both real and imagined to live the life she is living. She gives great travel advice and is just generally inspiring both in her book and on her blog.
Lonely Planet’s Where To Go When:
This book gives a great outline on the best places around the world to visit at the best time of year. It outlines some of the must-sees in those areas, and includes so many beautiful pictures that it is bound to bolster up hope for your future travels.
Other Books Worth Mentioning:
Tangerine by Christine Mangan:
This book surprised me. I read it recently and though I wouldn’t venture to say it is one of my favorites, it was so enthralling a read that I’m still thinking about it weeks later. The two main characters are both women, who share a mysterious past, and who meet once again after a year long separation, in Morocco. At first it did not seem like the sort of novel that would hook me, but after the first chapter I was not able to put this book down. I can’t say too much without giving too much away, but if you like mystery and suspense, and are interested in hearing beautiful and haunting descriptions of Morocco, this book is worth reading.
Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert:
Nearly everyone has heard of this book. It tells the true story of a woman outgrowing her life and going on a life-changing journey to find herself and where she belongs. It’s something that can resonate with nearly all travelers on one level or another.
Letters from Paris by Juliet Blackwell:
A woman who has always wanted to outrun her “small town life” in Louisiana travels to Paris with hopes of finding a new life and solving a family mystery. It’s an interesting and entertaining novel filled with soul searching, some mystery, a little heartbreak, and hope.
The Summer Book by Tove Jansson:
This is a compilation of short vignettes that peer into the life of a grandmother and her grandchild living during the course of a summer on a small island in the Gulf of Finland. Most of the stories are told through the eyes of a young girl learning about nature, family, human behavior, and mortality. It’s actually a great book for light summer reading.
These are just some of the books that I have read in recent years that really stirred the wanderlust in me or helped me in my travels. If you have read any of these books I would love to hear what you thought! Or, if you have some suggestions of your own please send them my way! I am always looking for more books to read. I hope to create a similar post for films within the week!
I hope that you are all staying safe during this time. To everyone closely affected by this crisis— you are in my thoughts.