Books that'll have you booking a trip somewhere you didn't know you wanted to visit

By Friday, April 20, 2018 , ,

Books transport readers into different contexts on many levels, but new places are perhaps one of the most common of these transportations. I can’t remember how many times I’ve been reading a book and thought, “I need to see this place being described.” And I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s experienced the thrill of finally getting to see the setting of a favorite book. But when you’re not able to physically visit the place of your current imaginings, the next best thing is surely a bit of armchair travel that a good book can provide. Here’s a rundown of unlikely travel destinations that you’ll be booking a ticket to in no time once you’ve read these books that bring them to life so beautifully. 

The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows: Guernsey, Channel Islands, UK 
I hadn’t even heard of Guernsey before I picked up this gem of a book. It’s a tiny British territory island in the English Channel that’s closer to the French coast than the English. This post-WWII novel centers on Juliet Ashton, a London writer struggling to find a new book topic. By happenstance, she begins a correspondence with a group of Guernsey inhabitants who formed a book club during the war. Intrigued, Juliet eventually travels to Guernsey to meet them, unprepared for how the eccentric book club members will work their way into her heart. Rolling green, quaint English farms, crashing waves, and the nearby French coast seem almost within touching distance while reading this delightful story. 

Poldark Series by Winston Graham: Cornwall, England 
Ross Poldark and his family and friends are the focus of this 12-book series, but it’s no exaggeration to say that Cornwall is just as significant of a character as Ross himself. Winston Graham narrates spectacularly vivid images of this beautiful, rugged setting and often uses it to foreshadow coming events, reflect his characters’ emotions, or give more color to a character’s rich inner dialogue. I knew little of Cornwall before discovering the Poldark series, but now it’s near the top of my destination bucket list. I now dream at least twice a week of brooding on a cliff in Cornwall with the old tin and copper mines in the background. 

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley: the highlands of Scotland 
Talk about atmospheric. The drama of this book unfolds in the shadow of a great castle on the northern coast of Scotland. The heroine rents a cottage near the castle ruin as she writes a novel about the Jacobite rebellion and I felt like I was sitting in her window seat. Seriously considering getting my own cottage in Scotland now. And maybe finding a handsome Scottish soldier with a knee-weakening brogue to marry. There are all kinds of possibilities. 

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah: Alaska 
This book is a heartbreaker, as I’ve previously discussed at length. But wow, does the Alaskan setting paint a picture. And not just any Alaska. Remote, moody, rough, majestic Alaska. Ernt and Cora Allbright and their daughter Leni move to this untamed wilderness in search of a new start, totally unprepared for how Alaska will change them. Leni arrives uncertain, but soon feels belonging and connection to the rugged beauty and close-knit community. But her father has wrestled with dark moods and violent behavior since the Vietnam War, and the merciless winters do him no favors. This story is difficult and sometimes upsetting, but it crescendos on an ultimately redemptive note, which is reflective of its backdrop. Alaska can be harsh and unforgiving towards the most lovable characters, but it also represents their home, a place of refuge, and a special part of their identity. 

Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr: Rome, Italy 
Okay yes, Rome is probably already on many travel lists, but this book makes you feel smack dab in the middle of the city, so if you’re not able to go there yet, here’s a nice placeholder! Anthony Doerr is well-known for his fiction (notably, All The Light We Cannot See), but this memoir of his year of living in Rome shows his versatility. In the early 2000s, he won a writing fellowship that would put him up in Rome for a year with his family, provided he would write. So he and his wife Shauna and their six-month-old twin boys moved from Idaho to Rome, and what a year it was! Doerr shares the struggles of new parenthood, writer’s block, and insomnia, all while also trying to find footing in a new country. His vivid descriptions of each season, the cobblestone streets, the famous landmarks like the Sistine Chapel, and Pope John Paul II’s funeral will captivate your imagination and even your tactile senses. 

What are your favorite armchair travel books? I’d love to hear!

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