There’s nothing quite like the rich, immersive experience of a treasured book to transport you to another place. Even if your vacation’s put on hold, well-crafted writing can help you travel to faraway lands, discover other cultures, and find yourself along the way.
Whether you long to scale mountaintops or to dine at provincial French restaurants, the following literary escapes will ease your wanderlust and engage your love of exploring the world. Travel on!
A boozy, sun-drenched story, “The Sun Also Rises” is about American and British expats traveling from Paris to the popular bullfighting festival in Pamplona, Spain in the 1920s.
Through its pages, I wandered aimlessly alongside Jake and his friends through the hot Spanish streets, got wrecked, drank too much champagne while bar hopping, danced in the saloons, fell in love, and then fell out of it, and watched my first bullfight in salty detail. It was fun to chase the moment and to travel alongside Hemingway’s lost characters. —Catherine Cu,Cocofloss co-founder
Looking for adventure? “Annapurna: A Woman’s Place” pulls you in a gripping first-person account of the 1978 all-women’s expedition to climb Annapurna, the 10th highest mountain in the world. The intimate portraits of the 13 climbers made me feel like I knew each of these incredible women personally. I was cheering for them all the way to the top. —Kristina Malsberger, content writer
Escape to Bombay, London, Paris, and provincial France with “The Hundred-Foot Journey,” a delicious tale about a mostly self-taught Indian chef and his rise in the fine French cuisine scene.
Called “‘Slumdog Millionaire’ meets ‘Ratatouille,’” by the New York Times Book Review, the novel’s descriptions of elaborate dishes and kitchen chaos might leave you hungry, while the interplay between the chef’s eccentric family and a snooty neighbor chef provide a bit of tit-for-tat humor.
The 2014 movie of the same name is also worth a watch, though it lacks some of the charm and emotional depth of the book. —Jennica Peterson, content writer
This book has haunted me for years. In “The Places in Between,” Stewart beautifully describes his solo journey through Afghanistan in 2002, shortly after the Taliban were deposed. He visits places few travelers will ever venture, discovers kindness in unexpected places, and also offers important lessons in the history and culture of this headline-grabbing country.
Perhaps I can’t forget this story because though the land Stewart explored is so distant and foreign to me, the humanity he found there burrowed deep into my own heart. —J.P.
“The Alchemist” is one of the most-read books in recent history — and with good reason. The enchanting story follows a young shepherd boy from Spain to Egypt as he follows his dreams, goes with the flow, and learns about love and the meaning of life.
The novel is filled with wonderful and inspirational quotes. My favorite: “If you can concentrate always on the present, you’ll be a happy man … Life will be a party for you, a grand festival, because life is the moment we’re living right now.” —Melissa S. Cheng, head of product, merchandising, and operations
For a perfectly delicious way to travel through recipes, try “The Gastronomy of Marriage: A Memoir of Food and Love.” With polished prose, Maisto tells the story of her courtship with her fiancé, exploring their shared passion for good eats along with the tricky negotiations of sharing a Brooklyn kitchen and cooking duties for the first time.
I often love books that take me back to my decade of living and working in NYC. Call it a nostalgic travel time capsule? —M.C.
It’s my love for Italian culture that takes me to “The Unprejudiced Palate: Classic Thoughts on Food and the Good Life,” a spirited, charming book, first published in 1948.
As described by Booklist, “Pellegrini immigrated to the U.S. from Italy and became a professor of English. At his Seattle home, he cultivated a garden and spread a gospel of simple, fresh cooking that wowed his academic colleagues. Disdaining the pretensions of the midcentury movement for processed, flavorless foods, Pellegrini was a lonely voice for using game, fresh herbs, home-canned tomatoes, and garden vegetables to create simple sauces for pasta.”
“The Unprejudiced Palate” is not just about cooking and transporting you into different places, but also about being intentional and making time to slow down and enjoy life — a bellissima way for me to remember my years living in Italy. —M.C.
My favorite book as a kid was “The Twenty-One Balloons” by William Pène du Bois, winner of the 1948 Newberry Medal. In this fantasy-adventure, “Professor William Waterman Sherman intends to fly across the Pacific Ocean. But through a twist of fate, he lands on Krakatoa, and discovers a world of unimaginable wealth, eccentric inhabitants, and incredible balloon inventions.”
This middle-grade novel is often listed as one of the best children’s books of all time, though it’s a marvelous escape for all ages. —Elisa Brittain, Dental Marketing Manager
If you’ve never lost yourself in the epic imaginary world of “The Lord of the Rings” — or even if you have — now is a good time to dive into what many fans feel is the best fantasy series of all time. With its own language, geography, calendar, and history, the alternative universe Tolkien creates feels amazingly alive and fully immersive. Perhaps that’s just what you need right now. (And yeah, Peter Jackson’s film adaptions are pretty darn good, too.)
This quote from “The Fellowship of the Ring” provides wizardly wisdom for our own challenging times:
“‘I wish it need not have happened in my time,’ said Frodo.
‘So do I,’ said Gandalf, ‘and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.’” —April Kilcrease, editorial director
Love or hate it, “Eat Pray Love” sold 10 million copies worldwide to readers who gobbled up its engaging combo of self-help, romance, and travel. As described by the publisher, “Setting out for a year to study three different aspects of her nature amid three different cultures, Gilbert explored the art of pleasure in Italy and the art of devotion in India, and then a balance between the two on the Indonesian island of Bali.”
Julia Roberts starred in the movie, a fun follow-up to this memoir about one wise, witty woman’s search for meaning in life. —A.K.