Explore the World from your Sofa Part 2

Has lockdown spoiled your new year group travel plans? Well, you are not alone. We’re all itching to get back to travelling the world and exploring new places, but for now, the only places we’re going is to the fridge and back.

In our last post, which you can view here, we went through some of our favourite virtual tours that you can experience from your sofa. Today we’re turning the page and looking at some of the best travel books you can get that are sure to satisfy your wanderlust.

You and your group may not be able to start the new year travelling, but you can all pick up one of these amazing travel book recommendations and start your own Travel Book Club.

The Alchemist: A Fable About Following Your Dream. By Paulo Coelho

A global phenomenon, The Alchemist has been read and loved by over 62 million readers, topping bestseller lists in 74 countries worldwide.

Santiago, a young shepherd living in the hills of Andalucia, feels that there is more to life than his humble home and his flock. One day he finds the courage to follow his dreams into distant lands, each step galvanised by the knowledge that he is following the right path: his own. The people he meets along the way, the things he sees and the wisdom he learns are life-changing.

With Paulo Coelho’s visionary blend of spirituality, magical realism and folklore, The Alchemist is a story with the power to inspire nations and change people’s lives.

1,000 Places to See Before You Die: The World as You’ve Never Seen It Before. By Patricia Schultz

Patricia Schultz curates the world. When she published the original 1,000 Places to See Before You Die, she created not only a new kind of travel book but also a new way of thinking about our experiences and interests. Now Schultz captivates our hearts in the same compelling way her original book spoke to our minds. Moving from eloquent word to breath-taking image, she takes us on a visual journey of the best the world has to offer, and as we turn the pages and pore over these images, we feel it all: joy, curiosity, awe, passion, nostalgia (if we’ve been there), inspiration (because we want to go), and a profound and transforming sense of how lucky we are to live in a world filled with such beauty and wonder – to see tributaries of mist curling over the Great Wall, elephants grazing on the floor of the Ngorongoro Crater, the sun setting on the wild coast of Donegal, masked whirling dancers at a festival in Bhutan.

Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle. By Dervla Murphy

Shortly after her tenth birthday, Dervla Murphy decided to cycle to India. Almost 20 years later, she set out to achieve her ambition.

Her epic journey began during the coldest winter in memory, taking her through Europe, Persia, Afghanistan, over the Himalayas to Pakistan, and into India. This captivating account–Murphy’s first–is an enchantment that holds the reader to the final page.

Stranger on a Train: Daydreaming and Smoking around America with Interruptions. By Jenny Diski.

In spite of the fact that her idea of travel is to stay home with the phone off the hook, Jenny Diski takes a trip around the perimeter of the USA by train. Somewhat reluctantly she meets all kinds of characters, all bursting with stories to tell and finds herself brooding about the marvellously familiar landscape of America, half-known already through film and television. Like the pulse of the train over the rails, the theme of the dying pleasures of smoking thrums through the book, along with reflections on the condition of solitude and the nature of friendship and memories triggered by her past times in psychiatric hospitals. Cutting between her troubled teenaged years and contemporary America, the journey becomes a study of strangers, strangeness and estrangement – from oneself, as well as from the world.

Stories of the Sahara. By Sanmao

Sanmao: author, adventurer, pioneer. Born in China in 1943, she moved from Chongqing to Taiwan, Spain to Germany, the Canary Islands to Central America, and, for several years in the 1970s, to the Sahara. 

Stories of the Sahara invites us into Sanmao’s extraordinary life in the desert: her experiences of love and loss, freedom and peril, all told with a voice as spirited as it is timeless.

At a period when China was beginning to look beyond its borders, Sanmao fired the imagination of millions and inspired a new generation. 

Literary Places (Inspired Traveller’s Guides). By Sarah Baxter.

Travel journalist Sarah Baxter provides comprehensive and atmospheric outlines of the history and culture of 25 literary places around the globe, as well as how they intersect with the lives of the authors and the works that make them significant. Full-page colour illustrations instantly transport you to each location. You’ll find that these places are not just backdrops to the tales told, but characters in their own right.

Travel to the sun-scorched plains of Don Quixote’s La Mancha, roam the wild Yorkshire moors with Cathy and Heathcliff or view Central Park through the eyes of J.D. Salinger’s antihero. Explore the lush and languid backwaters of Arundhati Roy’s Kerala, the imposing precipice of Joan Lindsay’s Hanging Rock and the labyrinthine streets and sewers of Victor Hugo’s Paris.

The Geography of Bliss. By Eric Weiner

What makes a nation happy? Is one country’s sense of happiness the same as another’s? In the last two decades, psychologists and economists have learned a lot about who’s happy and who isn’t. The Dutch are, the Romanians aren’t, and Americans are somewhere in between…

After years of going to the world’s least happy countries, Eric Weiner, a veteran foreign correspondent, decided to travel and evaluate each country’s different sense of happiness and discover the nation that seemed happiest of all.

·He discovers the relationship between money and happiness in tiny and extremely wealthy Qatar (and it’s not a good one)
·He goes to Thailand and finds that not thinking is a contented way of life.
·He goes to the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, and discovers they have an official policy of Gross National Happiness!
·He asks himself why the British don’t do happiness?

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. By Cheryl Strayed

At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State–and she would do it alone. Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humour, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

Wanderlandby Jini Reddy

Alone on a remote mountaintop one dark night, a woman hears a mysterious voice.

Propelled by the memory and after years of dreaming about it, Jini Reddy dares to delve into the ‘wanderlands’ of Britain, heading off in search of the magical in the landscape.

A London journalist with multicultural roots and a perennial outsider, she determinedly sets off on this unorthodox path. Serendipity and her inner compass guide her around the country in pursuit of the Other and a connection to Britain’s captivating natural world. Where might this lead? And if you know what it is to be Othered yourself, how might this colour your experiences? And what if, in invoking the spirit of the land, ‘it’ decides to make its presence felt?

What’s the best travel book you’ve read? Let us know on Twitter or email us your own recommendations! Happy reading.

Ashleigh Ridler

6/1/2021