Bookishness, Real Medicine

TTT: Books for the Traveler

I am changing things just a little for today’s Top Ten Tuesday. The topic is Top Ten Books that feature TRAVELLING in some way. I’m choosing books that I think travelers would like. Whether you are traveling, have actively traveled, or dream about traveling, these books are all set in foreign countries and are great to read (whether you’ve been to the countries or not). And since they transport the reader to another world, I’m thinking it’s not too much of a cheat ;).

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1. Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

If you have been to Shanghai (or other parts of China) this one will resonate with you especially. The story of two privileged sisters in pre-WWII Shanghai, and what happens when their father loses everything and they have to travel to the USA. A beautiful emigration story, that exposes a lot of what happened in two separate corners of the world at this turning point in history. Poignant, striking.

2. The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh

Spanning several generations and across Burma, India and olden-Malaya, this book is an EPIC work of art. The history in this novel is amazing, and the struggles of the characters real. My only suggestion is to keep notes and make a family tree as you read because as I said: epic.

3. The Prophet of Zongo Street by Mohammed Naseehu Ali

A series of short stories set mostly in a fictitious Ghanaian street. I loved these for their colour and tone. The rhythm of life in West Africa is perfectly captured. Such an easy read, and one I never regretted.

4. The Moon, Come to Earth: Dispatches from Lisbon by Philip Graham

Sigh, I didn’t really LIKE this travelogue. I thought that Lisbon was very nicely described, but maybe the fact that I knew little of Lisbon to begin with made it difficult to connect with this book. I found myself referring to the book a lot when I met someone FROM Lisbon, so it must have stuck in my mind. The book also addresses some important aspects of living in a foreign country for an extended period, and the effects it may have on one’s accompanying family.

5. Railsea by China Mieville

This book features traveling by rail, but reminiscent of traveling by ship. It is wonderful! Set in an Earth very different from the one we know. The prose is stunning, the world-building intriguing because it happens subtly, and keeps you discovering. And then there’s TRAIN TRAVEL (I said that already).

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6. The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng

Set mostly in Malaysia (but with some flashes to South Africa and Japan) this book travels between eras and experiences. Really a beautiful piece of work. I feel like I have a picture of Malaysia in my head, and it made me want to travel to Malaysia even before I met Nazirah.

7. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

Pulitzer Prize-winning short stories set mostly in India. Tells you more about the people than the country, but what is traveling if not meeting people?

8. Willard Price’s Adventure Series

If I have to trace my desire to see the world, I would probably arrive at these books, which I started reading when I was about seven years old. Hal and Roger went everywhere, guys! The Amazon, Africa (yeah, didn’t say where in Africa, sigh), volcanoes, the Arctic… and they had awesome adventures. I don’t know if these books are still in print, but if I ever manage to pick them up somewhere I will buy them ALL.

9. Wegkomkans (English: Breathing Space) by Marita van der Vyver

Set in Apartheid South Africa, ten friends meet at a beach house once a year. They discuss matters of politics and person, they grow together and apart. An intense but amazing book. Also, the kind of book that reminds you that traveling to a local destination can still be awesome (in my case, it’s local).

10. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

I read this because I was on a ship, and it is a tiny book, and I figured I should read some Hemingway. I didn’t think I enjoyed it very much, but I can’t get it out of my head, and I think that is the magic of a good story, isn’t it? The old man does not travel very far, but maybe his travels are more metaphorical. Also, it is set in Cuba. I like that.

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24 thoughts on “TTT: Books for the Traveler”

    1. Thank you! I went to book shops in every country, but didn’t take many pictures (don’t know why, sigh). I should actually post about it. They were like an oasis after a long day of exploring!

  1. Great list! I haven’t read any of these titles but The Garden of Evening Mists is definitely on my radar after it won the Asian prize and was shortlisted for the Man Booker last year.

    in an ideal situation I would have re-read The Witch of Babylon to reacquaint myself with John Madison’s character and backstory but his story from the first book is mentioned here and there over the course of the novel so it helped

    1. Please ignore my second paragraph, I thought that I had cut-and-pasted my TTT and it turns out I pasted a piece of my review for McIntosh’s The Book of Stolen Tales instead! Sorry for the confusion *blushes*

      Here’s what I was meant to paste: My TTT

  2. Oooh, great list! I loved Shanghai Girls and put it on my list as well. Will have to look into Breathing Space as I’ve been fascinated by South Africa since visiting a few years back. My husband is from Malaysia, so I’ll have to read The Garden of Evening Mists as well. 🙂

    1. Thank you! I avoided Shanghai girls for the longest time, because the copy I found was old and musty, but I’m so glad I read it. You’ve visited ZA? Awesome! I think you’ll enjoy Breathing Space then. I was probably too young when I read it, it is a little heavy, but soooo good. The Garden of Evening Mists gave me a lot more insight into Malaysian history, and it’s beautiful too.

      1. Yes, we actually came for the World Cup and saw Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town (and environs), and Durban. We loved it and would love to go back some day. I’ll look into Breathing Space for sure!

  3. I think the only one of these I’ve heard of is The Old Man and the Sea… but many of them sound really good! Great list!

    Thanks for stopping by my TTT 🙂

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