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Travel Tips

Armchair Tourists: Books That Take You To Extraordinary Places

Stephen King once wrote that books are a ‘uniquely portable magic’ and I wholeheartedly agree with him. I would love to be traveling all the time, however, I have to work and study and generally live an adult life so that’s not really a possibility. What I can do, and love to do, is read. When you read you can travel to many wonderful and magical places without ever leaving the comfort of your own home. Especially during the current crisis with so many people in self-isolation, it’s more important than ever to become armchair tourists. Below are some of my favourite books that make me want to travel, and sometimes believe I already am. I’m not talking here about specific travel books but general fiction that has such a pull that you can’t help but want to visit these amazing places.

*Disclosure* The Travel Fairies are participants in the Amazon Associates program. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases but all opinions are our own.

The Stravaganza Series by Mary Hoffman

These books are set in a fictional alternate dimension of 16th century Italy. There are 6 books in the series, each set in a different Italian city. The first book The City of Masks is set in Belezza, the alternate version of Venice. This book set me up for a lifelong love of the beautiful water city and it was one of the first places I ever chose to visit of my own accord. A whole host of other cities are included, including Sienna, Florence and Padova.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

We Were Liars is an incredible book set on a private island off the coast of America. It focuses on a group of teenagers who spend their summer vacations on the family island and what they get up to while they’re there. It’s not all sun, sea and sand however so prepare to question everything you believe is real if you read this book.

The Bone Season Series by Samantha Shannon

The Bone Season and its sequels are set in a dystopian England controlled by Scion. Most of the action takes place on, and under, the streets of London and the unique dystopian perspective of London streets makes for a fascinating experience when walking the streets in real life. The Bone Season is spent mostly in an Oxford of the future-past where technology no longer is permitted and gas lights burn bright but the people there are not really people at all. They are all incredibly written and researched novels and are definitely worth a read. The Mime Order, the second in the series, has actually just become one of my literary tattoos.

Kiss Me First by Lottie Moggach

This book is a bit… much. I’ve read it twice and I’m still not entirely sure I understand everything in it. It talks a lot about philosophy and morality and asks some pretty tough questions about a lot of things. It also features a lot of the Spanish countryside in beautiful descriptions which add to the themes being discussed in the book. A thoroughly interesting read but quite a tough one.

Beauty Queens/Lord of the Flies/The 1049 Club/Savages

I categorise these books together because they all make me want to go and find a deserted island somewhere and begin life afresh. Admittedly a lot of terrible, terrible things happen in all of these books, most of them involving a lot of death and plane crashes, however, the scenery still makes me want to jump on a plane and go, hopefully, land, somewhere exotic.

The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen

The Land of Decoration actually consists of a very small setting, mostly a little girl’s bedroom, a small rural community, a school and a Kingdom Hall. However, the pure imagination which flows from that little girl’s mind shows the power that imagination can have. She creates for herself a way to travel to a land of her own and escape everything else around her. Something I think most of us try to do when traveling. This book focuses predominately on the Jehovah’s Witness community so bear that in mind when choosing whether or not to read it. 

The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

An incredibly famous novel, it follows the story of Tom Ripley, a charismatic misfit on his journeys through Europe. A lot of twisted things happen throughout this book, Tom Ripley is certainly not the best role model however his journeys and the descriptions of the places he visits make you want to follow in his footsteps regardless. I only hope your journeys are less dramatic.

The Princess and the Captain/Branded Ann

I am a sucker for a good pirate adventure. I love the sword fights and the plank walking and generally the romance involved in pirates tales. Both these novels involve sailing through the known world, searching for knowledge and treasure and getting into all sorts of scrapes and plots along the way. They make me want to jump on a ship (despite my seasickness) and sail away into the horizon.

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

A relatively impossible travel book since the heroine, Thursday Next, travels into works of fiction but still a worthy book to read. Jane Eyre has been kidnapped and it’s up to Thursday Next to save the day and the novel. Featuring all kinds of works of literature, including Wordsworth’s poems, it is a veritable tour-de-force of amazing literary landscapes.

The Mayan Prophecy Trilogy by Steve Alten

I read these first in 2012 as I wanted to know what all this fuss about the end of the world was. As I’m writing this in 2019, clearly the world didn’t end but the books are still incredible (and the world doesn’t end in the books either). Spanning the past, future and all things in between, including space travel and wormholes, there’s plenty of travel and adventure for you to sink your teeth into. There’s a large focus on the Mayan ruins in Chichén Itzá and the Peruvian landscape which are stunningly described and definitely on my bucket list.

I hope you enjoy some, if not all, of these books as much as me and experience many great places through the books you read. What books do you recommend for visiting beautiful destinations as an armchair tourist? 

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  1. I totally agree with the Talented Mr. Ripley! It made me want to travel to Europe SO badly! I have made a list of some of the others to check out!!

  2. Shantelle says:

    Sounds like some good books!

  3. Wow I am always looking for a great book to fuel my wanderlust! Thanks for these suggestions!

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