Armchair Travel

There's nothing like a good vacation, and summertime always makes me eager to travel. This summer, however, a complicated schedule and lack of funds are keeping me from exploring the world. Fortunately, I can be consoled with books whose settings and plots take me all kinds of places, even from my Denver living room.

The best writers, in my opinion, create a setting that is so vivid that it almost becomes a character. The following list contains some of my favorite fiction that provides a distinct sense of a unique locale: Honolulu by Alan Brennert (Hawaii); Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene (Cuba); Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather (New Mexico); The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (Congo); Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell; The Commitments by Roddy Doyle (Dublin); Lime Tree Can't Bear Orange by Amanda Smyth (Caribbean); When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro (Shanghai).

I'm always a sucker for a novel of suspense, and below are some of the best for whiling away a summer afternoon. In just a few pages you can be solving mysteries in Mesopotamia or collecting clues in the Caribbean: The Shape of Water and other Inspector Montalbano series by Andrea Camilleri (Sicily); The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith (Botswana); The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler (Los Angeles); Skinny Dip by Carl Hiaasen (Florida); The Chicago Way by Michael Harvey; The Janissary Tree by Jason Goodwin (Turkey); Poirot in the Orient (Murder in Mesopotamia, Death on the Nile, Appointment with Death, Murder on the Orient Express) by Agatha Christie.

Sometimes it's fun to read about the real-life adventures of people who are lucky enough to be traveling, either around the world or in our own backyard: The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt (Venice); Gone Bamboo by Anthony Bourdain (St. Martin); Great Plains by Ian Frazier (American West); On Mexican Time by Tony Cohan (Mexico).

A trip through time also enhances travel narratives; I'm fascinated by the way people and places looked to tourists in past decades and centuries: Roughing It by Mark Twain (American West, 1870s); A Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor (Europe, 1930s); Passenger to Teheran by Vita Sackville-West (Persia, 1920s); The Land of Little Rain by Mary Austin (California, 1890s).

What books take you places? Do you have favorite stories about travel?



Written by Emily on June 28, 2010

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