Our Top Ten Travel Reads

The world of literature and the world of travel are natural bedfellows. The reasons for this are many; practically, reading is a great way to spend downtime when abroad, a necessary tool for filling those few spare moments. The bond between these two fields runs deeper than that, though. The real power that books and travel share is escape. They can transport you from your everyday reality into an exotic, marvellous place, full of wonder, awe and joy. This is their true value. We’ve compiled a list of our favourite works of both fiction and travel writing, notable for inspiring us to discover the real-life locations behind the stories.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

"He left the drapes open, watched the lights of the cars… through the window glass, comforted to know there was another world out there, one he could walk to anytime he wanted.

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An unconventional choice, this modern fantasy (by an English author) perfectly encapsulates the culture and appeal of the USA. The sense of Americana comes from the remote highways, small towns and sweeping North American vistas the novel inhabits.

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

"Going up that river was like travelling back to the earliest beginnings of the world, when vegetation rioted on the earth and the big trees were kings. An empty stream, a great silence, an impenetrable forest."

Congo River

Conrad’s classic tale of exploration and discovery documents a young man’s expedition up the Congo River and into the deep jungle; the heart of darkness. Conrad captures the mystery and primal power of the Congo with elegance and finesse.

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

"The Great Stories are the ones you have heard and want to hear again. The ones that you can enter anywhere and inhabit comfortably."

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A moving tale of twins leading tangled and complex lives, The God of Small Things is particularly impressive for the way it evokes such a vivid, intriguing picture of Southern India.

Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

"I had never known the pleasure of reading, of exploring the recesses of the soul, of letting myself be carried away by imagination, beauty, and the mystery of fiction and language. For me all those things were born with that novel."

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Set in post-war Barcelona, this tale is saturated with Spanish culture. From its portrayal of Spain’s political landscape of the time to the vivid descriptions of the majestic architecture of the city, Zafon’s story is moving, evocative and unforgettable.

Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne

"The joy of riding through an unknown land made me easy to please at the beginning of our venture. I was caught up in the happiness of those who go on journeys, a feeling of hope mixed with a sense of freedom."

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Jules Verne is revered as one of the greatest adventure writers of all time, and for good reason. His many books take us to many astounding places, but perhaps the most famous is “Journey to the Centre of the Earth”. The titular journey begins in Iceland, a place renowned for natural beauty and geological curiosities.

Hokkaido Highway Blues by Will Ferguson

"During their brief explosion, the cherry blossoms are said to represent the aesthetics of poignant, fleeting beauty: ephemeral, delicate in their passing."

Japanese Maple and Mt Fuji

In this honest, insightful and revealing travelogue, Will Ferguson attempts to be the first man to hitchhike the length of Japan. He immerses himself in Japanese culture, and reports his experiences back to the reader in a hilarious yet fundamentally observant narrative.

The Beach by Alex Garland

"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."

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Garland’s iconic masterpiece is all about travel; the characters go to Thailand, seeking adventure by looking for a fabled backpacker’s paradise, completely isolated from the outside world. Emblematic of the philosophy of travel and escape, The Beach is a must-read.

The Lycian Shore by Freya Stark

"There are not so many places left where magic reigns without interruption and of all those I know, the coast of Lycia was the most magical."

CIRALI, TURKEY Boat on water.

Freya Stark was an explorer in the 1900s, a true pioneer of modern travel, and a prolific writer. Her time on the Lycian Coast of Turkey left a lasting and powerful impression upon her, and this eloquent, informative guide, full of history and culture, is the product of that passion.

Among the Russians by Colin Thubron

"The sky loomed preternaturally vast. The whole world seemed to have been crushed and flattened out into a numinous peace."

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This book tells the story of Thubron’s forays into the Soviet Union, now Russia, during the early 1980s. His florid, poetic and intellectual writing style combine with the fascinating setting and the complex politics and history of the time period to create a textured, illuminating whole.

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez

"It was the time when they loved each other best, without hurry or excess, when both were most conscious of and grateful for their incredible victories over adversity. Life would still present them with other mortal trails, of course, but that no longer mattered: they were on the other shore."

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This artful exploration of love and romance is masterfully crafted and critically acclaimed. The story is set in Colombia, and juxtaposes the place with the relationships of the characters.

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