To everyone who’s saving the world by simply staying at home, we stand with you. Just because the furthest physical journey you’ll be making for the foreseeable future might be from your bedroom to your kitchen doesn’t mean that you can’t ‘travel’ further afield. There’s no transportation system quite like our imagination and with a good book (and the necessary provisions of tea and biscuits) there’s no limit to where you can go.
Choosing a book per geographical region, we’ve composed a different kind of itinerary and it’s one that’s going to take you on an around-the-world adventure right from your sofa. We’ll be adding to this list so be sure to check back here when you start getting to the bottom of your reading list.
Important Note: While bookstores around the world have had to close during this lockdown, many local bookshops are offering delivery services. Before you’re tempted to buy from Amazon, support local stores by seeing if you can order delivery with them. Now, more than ever, we need to support small businesses.
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
An epic multi-generational masterpiece, this novel will mesmerise you with the magical realism that South American literature, and Marquez in particular, is so loved for. Set in the fantastical Colombian town of ‘Macondo’, the narrative follows the Buendia family through seven generations. Combining weird and wonderful vignettes and poetic descriptions of the town and its people, this is a book that will ignite your imagination and linger in it long after self-isolation is over.
Hot Milk by Deborah Levy
Hot Milk is the book version of an afternoon nap after a long morning of basking in the sunshine. It’s a slow and dream-like story of a young girl who travels with her sick mother to the coast of southern Spain in an attempt to discover the cause of her mysterious illness. The beauty of this book is not in the narrative but in its lyricism and deep-rooted symbolism. This novel won’t only invite you to travel to the arid beaches of Spain; it will pull you into Levy’s world of language; of poetic metaphors and rhythmic passages that you can get lost in for hours.
*As the Tokyo 2020 Olympics are having to be postponed due to this pandemic, we’re dedicating the Asian portion of this world trip to Japan. If you’ve had to postpone your travel plans, here are two of our favourite books that should help to satisfy your wanderlust for the time being.
Shōgun by James Clavell
James Clavell’s Shōgun is an epic tome and a masterpiece of world-building. As the New York Times said, this book is “ . . . not only something you read – you live it”. Following the journey of John Blackthorne, an Englishman who is washed up in Nippon after being lost at sea, we enter 17th century Japan. Through the eyes of John, we are introduced to a society where everything feels foreign – everything except the universal emotions of loyalty, passion and loss. This book will engross and absorb you into the mystifying feudal society of Japan during the Edo period, and once you’ve devoured it, there are five more in Clavell’s ‘Asian Saga’ to dive into.
1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
Every one of Murakami’s works captures the enigmatic essence of modern Japanese culture, but if you’re looking to really sink into his world during this lockdown, 1Q84 is the one to pick up. Set in Tokyo, the story transports us to a parallel existence; a dystopia that rivals that of George Orwell’s novel to which this title pays homage to. From religious cults and cut-throat private investigators to superhuman senses and benevolent dowagers, although expectedly surreal, this novel couldn’t feel more true to the character of modern Japan.
In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
If you’ve had travel plans to Australia disrupted this year, this pick could be the next best thing to actually travelling there. With the brilliant Bill Bryson as your guide, you can’t go wrong – and if you’re in need of a cheerful pick-me-up, it’s a double-whammy. Bryson’s report on his journey through the incredible continent of Australia gets the alchemy just right. It’s equal parts comedy, wonder, bewilderment and undeniable love for this bizarre country, as hospitable as it can be hostile.
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
A powerful antithesis to the imperialist stereotypes presented in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Things Fall Apart is one of the first fiction books to explore African life from an African perspective. Set in pre-colonial Nigeria and chronicling the life of community leader, Okonkwo, through this epic story Achebe reclaims Nigerian culture, history and tradition from the generations of colonial writers before him. With vivid depictions of Igbo life woven throughout, this book doesn’t only thrust you into a new world, it offers you a whole new perspective with which to explore your own.
Summer Book by Tove Jansson
A joyful and life-affirming book, Tove Jansson’s Summer Book is largely based on her own experience of summers in the Gulf of Finland. Detailing the blossoming relationship between an elderly artist and her young granddaughter, woven through the novella is the same whimsy, magic and humour that imbue Jansson’s iconic Moomin stories. A strong but quiet read, this one will whisk you off to endless summers of enjoying simple pleasures amongst untouched nature.
The Catcher in The Rye by J.D Salinger
You may remember this book from high school but we promise that returning to it now will be a whole new (and much more enjoyable) experience. While our protagonist, the young Holden Caulfield, may complain about Manhattan and the ‘phoney’ people who live here, the book pulses with an affinity for the gritty streets of New York City. In this canonical novel about teenage angst, the setting of New York is what conjures its moody atmosphere. From Grand Central Station and Broadway to the American Museum of Natural History and the duck ponds of Central Park, we can follow in the footsteps of Holden to some of the most iconic spots in this incredible city.