10 books to fuel your wanderlust
We've put together a list of our all-time favourite books for armchair travelling. These novels and travelogues will take you to some of the world's most incredible destinations. Whether you're in the mood for a creepy Gothic mystery, a hilarious travelogue, an action thriller or a life-affirming memoir, we've got the perfect option to whisk you away from the comfort of your own sofa.
The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell
In this funny and hopeful memoir, former Marie Claire editor Helen Russell moves from London to Denmark and sets out to discover why it’s the happiest nation on earth. This book is a deep dive into another culture, featuring amusing anecdotes about tackling long dark winters and a newfound pastry addiction. It’s a fun and uplifting read, and will have you adding the land of LEGO, hygge and pickled herring to your future travel list.
The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon
This swashbuckling historical fiction series begins in 1945, when ex-World War II nurse Claire Randall falls back in time to the Scottish Highlands of 1743. Thrown into a world of smugglers, lairds, redcoats and witches, Claire is caught up in a plot to restore Bonny Prince Charlie to the throne. Scotland’s ancient traditions, scenery and strongholds are a huge part of the action. In fact, one of the Travelzoo team booked a Scottish road trip after watching the Outlander TV series, which is adapted from these books.
Down Under: Travels in a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson’s delightfully funny travelogue about Australia is filled with hilarious personal anecdotes and fascinating facts. Bryson goes on a fast-paced whistle-stop tour that takes in sunny cities, Alice Springs, the Great Barrier Reef and the Blue Mountains, meeting a host of lovable characters along the way. It’s a genuinely laugh-out-loud read that you’ll love even if you have no plans to visit Australia – but we think by the time you get to the end you’ll be ready to book a trip!
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Elizabeth Gilbert’s famous travel memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, documents the round-the-world odyssey she embarked on following a difficult divorce. Gilbert travels to Rome to experience Italy’s lust for life and indulgent food, to India to meditate at an ashram, and finally to Bali, where she finds balance and falls in love. It’s a witty, life-affirming book about healing and enjoying life’s pleasures. The countries that she visits, and the cultures she experiences, have starring roles.
The book was made even more famous by the film of the same name starring Julia Roberts. The scenes of Julia bicycling through lush green rice paddies in the arty town of Ubud, Bali, are enough to tempt anyone to plan a trip to Indonesia.
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
This atmospheric Gothic-style novel is set in Barcelona in the decades surrounding the Spanish civil war. It’s a dramatic murder mystery with a dose of magical realism, which begins when a father takes his son to visit a secret Cemetery of Forgotten Books. The Shadow of the Wind is a love letter to the city it’s based in, and Barcelona’s old town, with its cobbled alleyways, medieval churches, tapas bars and Gothic towers, takes centre stage. The characters meet, plot and fall in love in real-life landmarks including the palm-tree-lined square of Plaça Reial and the Els Quatre Gats café, which was once frequented by Picasso and Gaudí.
A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle
This classic bestselling memoir documents British writer Peter Mayle’s year-long love affair with life in the Provençal countryside. In the book, Francophile Mayle moves to a farmhouse in the Luberon Valley to feast on rustic market fare and discover Gallic rural pursuits like boules and goat racing. If you’ve ever dreamed of escaping to the French countryside, you’ll love the evocative escapism of A Year in Provence.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: a Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream by Hunter S. Thompson
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is iconic journalist Hunter S. Thompson’s most famous novel. This breakneck-paced semi-autobiographical book documents a road trip that Thompson took with his attorney in 1971, under the pretext of covering a motorcycle race for a magazine. Set in the seedy, glittering Las Vegas of the '70s and laced with drug taking, hallucinations and surreal dreamscapes, this book is a hilarious, bizarre, fun read that will make you want to book a trip to Vegas (sans the drugs).
If you haven’t seen the film adaptation starring Johnny Depp, it’s bonkers, surreal and well worth a look.
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
This memoir documents Cheryl Strayed’s experience hiking more than 1,000 miles up America’s West Coast, from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington. Strayed took the solo trek following her divorce and the death of her mother. It’s a heartfelt, physically gruelling journey of self discovery and survival. It might just inspire you into packing a backpack for a solo journey of your own!
There’s also a 2014 film starring Reese Witherspoon.
Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes
In this bestselling memoir set in the Tuscan countryside, Frances Mayes explores life in rural Italy while she renovates an abandoned villa. Expect atmospheric descriptions of overgrown vineyards, scenic hill towns and bustling market days. This a gentle, convivial book about the sundrenched Italian good life, complete with fine wines and delicious seasonal cooking from the kitchen garden.
The 2003 film starring Diane Lane is a cheesy, moreish bit of escapism.
The Beach by Alex Garland
A '90s cult classic, The Beach is a gripping adventure thriller set in Thailand. The story centres around a young British backpacker who is given a hand-drawn map to a beautiful and secret Thai island. At first, life on The Beach seems idyllic, but as time goes by, he learns that darker forces are at play. At times violent and disturbing, this book also provides a nostalgic nod to the '90s backpacking scene. Its setting on a spectacular Thai island will have you itching to book a trip to Southeast Asia to find an unspoiled beach of your own.
The Danny Boyle film adaptation starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tilda Swinton is well worth a watch.
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