Concord Pulse asked local and book aficionado Raf @isthisnametakenyet to share a handful of the best books she's read to help satisfy our wanderlust travel cravings while we are all stuck at home with no international travel in our near future.
They say the next best thing to living an experience, is experiencing it vicariously through someone else. What better way to do so than by picking up a book? So while my jampacked 2020 plans of a Victorian road trip, ski holiday to Japan and visiting New York City are all unfortunately on hold, thankfully there are books about travel, culture and adventures abroad to satiate the travel bug during a Covid-enduced border lockdown.
1. THE ALCHEMIST by Paulo Coelho
For lovers of a lyrical classic
Paulo Coelho’s beloved classic is a recent read of mine and was an instant favourite.
Follow the fable-esque story of a young boy leaving behind his life as a shepherd to travel the Middle East in search of treasure at the Egyptian pyramids. The moral of his journey is one that is simple but universally resonant; to have trust in time and the unknown order of things, and to follow your instincts to the furthest corners of your dreams, no matter how far from comfort they may take you.
The Alchemist is hopeful and inspiring, and a book everyone should read at least once in their lives.
2. THE PARIS HOURS by Alex George
New literary fiction release
For the bookworms wanting to stay up to date, here are two new Literary Fiction releases that have crept their way to the top of my To Be Read list:
Set over the course of a single day in Paris, 1927, four strangers search for something they’ve lost. A maid is desperate to find a stolen notebook, an artist is looking for an escape from debt, a refugee searches for a place to call home, and a journalist struggles to find a way to tell his own story.
As they exist through the lingering effects of war, loss and betrayal, we watch these strangers’ stories intertwine.
The Paris Hours is an intricately crafted mystery that will draw you into the dim and glittering cobblestone streets of France. I cannot wait to pick it up.
3. THE LIBRARY OF LEGENDS by Janie Chang
Bookworms wanting to stay up yo date
Travel back in time once more, but this time add some ancient Chinese fantasy.
Tasked with delivering a book of myths to the Library of Legends, a group of students begin their quest across China. The further away from home they venture, the more their journey mirrors the fantastical tales in the book they hold.
Bringing the darkest and most thought-provoking ancient Chinese myths to life in a cross-country expedition, Chang’s novel will be the perfect portal into a far off, unknown land.
4. REDISCOVERING TRAVEL: A GUIDE FOR THE GLOBALLY CURIOUS by Seth Kugel
For non-fiction readers
Recounting his adventures abroad as the New York Times’ Frugal Traveller, Seth Kugel will reignite your spark of curiosity at what lies beyond our Aussie waters.
Rediscovering Travel is reminiscent of chef Anthony Bourdaine’s short memoirs. It is quick-witted, awe-inspiring and wholly enjoyable.
Retelling his fantastically flawed travels with honesty and humour, Kugel will make you rediscover the joy of spontaneous discovery - even if just from behind a book in your bedroom.
5. THE TEN THOUSAND DOORS OF JANUARY by Alix E Harrow
For readers who love a fantasy full of whimsy, magic and adventure
January Scolar’s father is an archeologist employed by a wealthy society of collectors to uncover the most rare and valuable of foreign objects. His expeditions, however, are not of the regular kind. Rather, they are adventures through portals into other worlds.
When January’s father goes missing, she runs away in search of him through one of her world’s ten thousand doors. On her journey, she realises secrets about her family, her home, and herself, that sends her life into disarray.
The Ten Thousand Doors of January made me want to drop my current life to become an adventurer in search of vast and unknown places. Perhaps I’ll take up this new path once borders open again. If not, I’ll just have to reread this book.
6. THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
For lovers of historical fiction
Follow the story of war-time journalist Juliet Ashton, as she adventures to the German-occupied Guernsey Channel Islands after receiving a strange message delivered in the form of a book that once belonged to her. There, she becomes acquainted with a small town and it's Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (aka the coolest book club ever).
About the power of good books and good friends to bring together a community in times of heartache and uncertainty, this novel is a hopeful one that will remain a favourite of mine for all of time.
7. BURIAL RITES by Hannah Kent
One final historical fiction
Against a starkly beautiful setting, Hannah Kent tells the true story of Agnus Magnusdottir - the last person in Iceland to face death row.
We follow the woman’s final days before execution and are slowly drawn into her past to watch the brutal murder of her former master unfold.
Richly emotive, Burial Rites conjures a shocking existence in a haunting time and place. Kent had me holding my breath at every page.
Raf's final piece of advice "we may be living through unprecedented and unsettling times - but there are less than two months left of this impossible year, and there’s no better way to watch them pass than by disappearing into the faraway worlds of some good books."
THANK YOU, Raf, for sharing your passion and knowledge for all things literary, a trip to the bookshop or library is now on the cards. Make sure you follow Raf on instagram @isthisnametakenyet and if you'd like some more reading recommendations let us know and we'll ask Raf to create another list.