Travelling abroad is one of the most fascinating experiences and an attainable dream for many people. The feeling one gets when one sets eyes on something exotic is addictive and novelists love to feed the beast. Before going to your next destination, pick up a book set in the location to which you are heading. Smells, sights and atmospheres are so well depicted in the following books that you’ll feel like you’ve been there before! Here are some books to read while traveling:
The Motorcycle Diaries by Ernesto “Che” Guevara. One of the books to read while traveling is “The Motorcycle Diaries”. Read this if you are travelling to South America and especially if you’re on a road trip! The book shows his journey as a student through Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Venezuela, Peru and Colombia on motorcycle, steamship, raft, horse, bus, and hitchhiking. The book captures the path of self-discovery “the Che” lived though. He witnesses social problems faced by people and finds his aim in life: help them.
- Knockabout Girl by Pip Newling. This is a story of a young girl, and it takes us away from the stereotypes of Australia and into the Australia that most people don’t see and experience. This is a journey to remote Western Australia where she meets new people in the small town and has experiences which she never thought she would – an intriguing book to read before a Western Australia road trip. There are also more predictable books to read while traveling with information, advice and inspiration. Such is Around Australia in 80 Days (2004) by Jonathon Green that can be handy for an Adelaide to Melbourne road trip.
- A Room with a View by E. M. Forster is set in Florence, Italy and describes the climate and culture observed by an English woman on her tour to Italy. It is one of those books to read while traveling that has romance and optimism that it can give you a sudden urge to fly to Florence. There is also a movie adaptation with the same name.
The Berlin Stories by Christopher Isherwood consists of his two short novels: Goodbye to Berlin and Mr. Norris Changes Trains. The book is set in Berlin during the time of Hitler. Different characters like a cabaret dancer, a Jewish heiress, a gay couple, take you through a journey of Berlin society in pre-Nazi Germany.
- Bangkok 8 by John Burdett is a crime/revenge novel based in one of the most exotic cities in the world. It takes us into the world of drugs, corruption, prostitution and stolen art with a cop and FBI agent on a spree to catch the murderer and gives an insight about Thai Buddhism.
- The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles. This is a good read before travelling to Algeria. It gives an account of how 3 Americans survive in a desert and a culture which is totally alien to them. It is an intense story and is also included in the TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005.
- Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Hugely popular book, TV series and movies, still this remains one of the best London-based books. Extremely engaging stories of a consulting detective, Sherlock Holmes and his partner, Dr. John H. Watson takes us through the London streets and in a true English manner.
The Life Before Us by Romain Gary (Emile Ajar) is set in a district in Paris and is a story of love, compassion and companionship. It is extremely moving and a delightful read and stays with you for a long time with a lovely story between an orphan boy and his guardian.
- The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera. It’s set in the Prague of the late 60’s and early 70’s, when the Russian troops invaded Czech Republic.
This one is a mood setter more than anything, since the descriptions of the place are not very specific to anywhere, but rather of a certain mood one might encounter in Prague. It’s a city with many, many layers, and extremes of emotions can be felt when least expected, just like Kundera’s masterpiece.
- The Quiet American by Graham Green. Vietnam is a truly complicated place and it can be extremely difficult for English-speaking (or French-speaking!) people to even scratch the surface. The population and the landscape bear very deep scars of the many wars it faced. The Quiet American is set downtown Saigon – now officially called Ho Chi Minh City – and most of it is still vividly alive today.