In celebration of world book day, we take note of a number of best-sellers that inspire wanderlust in even the most seasoned of travellers...
Unlike the prescribed images of film and television, a book can transport you into the world of your imagination. A great writer conjures setting with recognisable symbols and the embroidery of language. Given these familiar fragments, we then weave together an unknown tapestry - the world of the story - in our own mind’s eye. It’s that subjective experience – the sense of knowing a place, without having ever been there – that makes us want to step into that setting for real. Look then, to our top reads for travel inspiration.
100 Years of Solitude – Gabriel García Márquez
Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez pioneered the magic realism style of writing with this enchanting novel, following seven generations of the same family in the fictional town of Macondo. Widely believed to be a metaphor for Colombia, the setting of Macondo almost features as a character itself, metamorphosing from small rainforest community, to a thriving colonialist hub. “I would say that I completed my education as a writer in Cartagena,” Márquez is reported to have said. You need only take a stroll through the city’s colonial old town to see the romance, the magic and old-world charm that pervade the Nobel Prize winning author’s work.
Dubliners – James Joyce
Take a trip back in time to James Joyce’s Dublin. This series of short stories gives life to a city by holding a magnifying glass over its diverse inhabitants, from truanting schoolboys to old boozers and scheming landladies. Describing settings from the perspectives of his characters, Joyce paints a realistic and varied view of the Irish city. What’s more, he references specific geographical locations in Dublin, making for an interesting historical tour of the heritage-rich city.
After Dark – Haruki Murakami
Set in the crowded downtown streets of Japan’s Tokyo, Murakami’s After Dark conjures images of neon digital screens, buildings that loom tall and cartoon-style college kids clad in colourful ensembles. Typical of the Japanese writer’s other works, After Dark, takes place somewhere between a dream and reality. Exploring the busy night-life of central Tokyo and homing in on specific stories set on the city’s streets, After Dark fills the reader with a burst of images – kaleidoscopic in their descriptions – certain to leave you keen for the buzz of Tokyo.
The Island – Victoria Hislop
Trust in Victoria Hislop for heart-wrenching stories set in the sun-soaked Mediterranean. More than just chick-lit, The Island is a historical foray, a blending of fact and fiction that explores the world’s last ever leper colony. Set on the real island of Spinalonga, off the coast of Crete, the novel transports you to 1940s Greece. Drama, love affairs and tragedy abound in this spirited book that overspills with the Greek idiosyncrasies you’ll encounter on any island holiday. The book is best enjoyed with a view of Spinalonga from Elounda...
The Jungle Book – Rudyard Kipling
Born in Bombay to English parents, Rudyard Kipling grew up in colonial India. Returning to India after a stint in England, he worked as a journalist and then went on to write a collection of short stories – The Jungle Book – that were to become iconic after Walt Disney adapted them into a children’s animated film in 1967. The story that follows young Mowgli, a boy raised by wolves in the jungle, is said to have been set in India’s Pench National Park, which you can actually visit and stay at overnight on an outdoor platform in the jungle.
The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
This international best-seller invites you into a timeless Barcelona. The age-old architecture, rich smells and quirky Catalan vibe abound in this post-war thriller. Weaving in and out of Barcelona’s city streets, Zafon tells the story of a young man on a mission to uncover a mystery over the course of a decade. The plot revolves around a secret library of forgotten books that you almost believe truly does exist, as you stroll the narrow cobbled streets and barrios of contemporary Barcelona.
The Lost City of Z – David Grann
Thrill seekers may well be inspired to set out on an unknown adventure after reading The Lost City of Z. Inspired by the legend of Percy Fawcett, the British explorer that went missing in the mid 20s on his hunt for ‘The Lost City of Z’ in the Amazon, David Grann writes about his own journey into the jungle. In this gripping read, Grann explains over 100 people were lost on their search for Fawcett after his disappearance, and uncovers new evidence hinting that Z really did exist. Another ‘lost city’ (Ciudad Perdida) has since been uncovered on the north coast of Colombia, and is a popular trekking spot for travellers with a thirst for adventure.
The Miniaturist – Jesse Burton
Uncover the Amsterdam of years gone by with Jesse Burton’s The Miniaturist. This historical thriller that follows two women in the repressive setting of 17th century Amsterdam is a world away from the tolerant, forward-thinking city that visitors now flock to. It does however highlight the past that the city perhaps doesn’t dwell on. In the city’s old centre, 17th century merchants houses (the inspiration for the novel) are still lived in by today’s Amsterdammers. Read the book and then book.