Books to Ignite Your Wanderlust: 12 Books for Armchair Traveling
Travel through books with these novels and travel memoirs to inspire wanderlust! These books will transport you far away to the Swiss Alps, the English countryside, Venice, Iran, and more…
Guest post by Kaitlyn Beck
Ah summer! A season of sun, fun, and travel. Many of you will be going on well deserved vacations in these months and to you I say Bon Voyage! If you are sticking closer to home but still wish to be in far off places, books are the ultimate passport! In this article, I have compiled some book ideas for traveling to various places–some well known, others not so much. I hope these suggestions allow you to take a mental vacation.
Best Wanderlust Books for Armchair Travelers
If you want to travel to the Swiss Alps, try Heidi by Johanna Spyri
Published in 1881, this children’s classic follows a little girl named Heidi who is sent to live with her withdrawn grandfather in the Swiss Alps. The story is sweet, filled with loveable characters and kindness. I love this story, however the character that shines the most is the Swiss Alps! The description of these beautiful mountains are amazing. Anytime I read any part that talks about the flowers and how the sun hits the mountains, I cannot help but smile. Some of the book also takes place in Frankfurt but you do not get an in-depth description of the town. So, if you want to travel to the Alps for a quick trip, hop on this book and fly!
If you want to travel to the British coast, try The Offing by Benjamin Myers
As an American, I had never heard of this book until it was suggested to me at an independent bookstore in England. I devoured this book and cannot recommend it enough! The Offing takes place in 1946, just after World War II has ended, and follows a sixteen-year-old boy named Robert Appleyard. Son of a coal miner, he decides to travel from his small mining village in the north of England to the coast. Here he meets an older woman named Dulcie and they develop a deep friendship over a beautiful summer. The writing is poetic and feels like a cool, refreshing drink. In addition, the descriptions of the landscape, flora, and fauna are just fantastic. Now I do not want to spoil any of this beautiful book, but take a look at a taste of the language used:
“On the contrary, it had awakened within me a sense of adventure, a wanderlust to step beyond the end of the street where the flagstones finally gave themselves to the fields, and industrial Northern England stretched away beneath the first warm haze of a coming season of growth, to explore whatever it was that lay beyond this shimmering mirage that turned the horizon into an undulating ocean of blossoming greens.”
Be still my heart! The characters, plot, and setting are woven expertly to make you never want to put this book down. Best of all, for all you seasonal readers, it takes place over an entire summer. Run, do not walk, to check out this book!
If you want to meander through a forest or laze on a river, try The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
This is a children’s classic I had never read as a child. Tragic I know. I had seen the Disney short but it doesn’t even scratch the surface of this brilliant book. The Wind in the Willows follows animal lives of Mole, Water Rat, Badger, and Mr. Toad as well as their camaraderie with each other and others. Though not necessarily set in a specific, well-known town or place, this book gives the coziest vibes of enjoying the outdoors. If you are into cottagecore, this book should be high on your priority list. The chapters take you on many adventures in different seasons, allowing you to feel enveloped by the wonders of their home. A great mix of slow tales and invigorating adventures, this novel will transport you far from your everyday life.
If you want to take a journey through the English countryside, try A Fine Romance by Susan Branch
Now before I read this book, I had never heard of Susan Branch. I later found out she is a well known blogger and author of cookbooks as well as a beautiful artist (which you see clearly in this work). This memoir, which is her actual journal, follows Susan and her new husband on a two-month trip in 2004 to various villages in the English countryside. She describes each place as well as the various house museums and activities she partakes in (including Chawton for all my Jane Austen lovers out there!).
This book is like a soothing cup of hot tea on a rainy day–very relaxing and charming. The memoir is accompanied by such beautiful, hand-drawn artwork that you cannot help but smile. If you want a relaxing trip to England, by all means pick up this book!
If you want to travel to Paris, try Maggie Finds Her Muse by Dee Ernst
This sweet romantic comedy follows popular author Maggie Bliss, who is desperately trying to finish her latest romance novel manuscript. She decides she needs to go somewhere new for inspiration and decides to stay with friends in Paris. There she soaks in the creative atmosphere and gets to know more about who she is and, maybe, even finds a new love.
This book is quite unique in that it follows an older protagonist (only 48), which I feel like is not that common. She is funny and kind yet still growing as a person; I really appreciated that. Now this book is not the most minisculely-detailed Paris book I have read–for that I would recommend the memoirs My Life in France by Julia Child and A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway–but I really enjoyed the atmosphere as part of the story (with some small trips to other parts of France). Filled with humour and heart, this is a great book to smell the baguettes and fill the heart.
If you want to travel to Iran, try Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram
This young adult novel is a unique intersection of setting, family, and heart. Darius is a Persian American teen who is traveling to Iran for the first time. He struggles with both clinical depression and his identity as a multicultural kid. This book has so much heart and discovery, I couldn’t put it down. In our world today, I am saddened that certain countries are only associated with war or poverty without recognizing the beauty of them. The setting of Iran takes you to a rich, beautiful old culture that may not be so easily found in well-known modern novels. I will warn that this book does look at mental health, so please consider that if you are triggered by such discussions. Otherwise, please take a look at this complex and gorgeous book.
If you want to travel to the Scottish Coast, try A Summer at Sea by Katie Fforde
With all the craziness in our world, sometimes you just want a sweet book in Scotland. Katie Fforde and her plethora of novels never disappoint to take me far away. Emily is a midwife who loves her job but wants a change of scenery. When her very pregnant friend Rebecca asks for help on her puffer boat off the coast of Scotland, Emily is all aboard! Helping as a cook, Emily enjoys the fun of sea life and the camaraderie of all those on board. This sweet romance is cozy and a perfect book to read on a vacation. There are many books that take place in Scotland (including the famous Outlander series) but I really recommend this one for a more seabound novel.
If you want to travel to Venice, try The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke
Cornelia Funke is one of the first authors I remember truly loving and I was a devourer of her novels. Thief Lord is a 2002 children’s adventure (translated from the original German) that takes place in modern Venice. Two orphans–Prosper and Bo–find themselves on the run through Venice when they come across a group of homeless boys led by an alluring lad named Scipio. From here you have laughs, adventures, and a little bit of magic. To tell more would spoil it.
There are so many books that take place in Italy, so why this one? Well, this book really shines in not just using Venice as the setting but also utilizing its magical ambiance for the plot to take place. Venice is one of those special cities that almost doesn’t feel real, which can be hard to explain in literature form. However, this book does an excellent job at making the reader believe in its unique magic. Though twenty years old, The Thief Lord is a fun and inventive book whose characters and story make you feel like you are truly in Venice.
If you want a multi-stop trip, try some family travel memoirs
Let me start by saying I DEVOUR travel memoirs–I just love them. Family travel memoirs are an interesting subgenre because they have the added element of the family dynamics, which can be both hilarious and heartfelt. When I say family, this means both families with and without children. Additionally, these books tend to go to multiple places either in a specific country or continent, though sometimes it’s even more expansive than that! I see it as hitting multiple birds with one stone. Below I am listing just a few books and their places of travel:
Best Family Travel Memoirs:
- Wide-Open World: How Volunteering Around the Globe Changed One Family’s Lives Forever by John Marshall (Costa Rica, Thailand, and India)
- We Came, We Saw, We Left: A Family Gap Year by Charles J. Wheelan (travel across 6 continents!)
- No Baggage: A Tale of Love and Wandering by Clara Bensen (3-week travel all around Europe)
- At Home in the World: Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the Globe by Tsh Oxenreider (all over the world)
Now, there are so many other places to travel with the help of a book but these are just a few! Writing this list makes me want to read more books with even more diverse settings. I hope these might give you some new finds to dip your toes into. Hope everyone has a safe and wonderful summer. Happy travels!
Kaitlyn Beck has been a lover of books for as long as she can remember. Her favorite novel is Little Women by Louisa May Alcott but she also loves classics, literary fiction, historical fiction, and memoirs. Besides reading, Kaitlyn loves research (especially history), knitting, musical theatre, cuddling with a blanket, and education. She is a military wife who currently lives with her loving husband in Germany.
More Ways to Travel Vicariously Through Books
These posts from Tea and Ink Society are full of books to transport you to faraway places!
- Quiz: What’s Your Ideal Fictional Vacation Destination?
- 6 Books That Will Transport You to Scotland
- Classic Irish Novels Set in Ireland
- Bestselling Classic Novels Set in the American South
- 7 Books to Pack on Your Next Beach Vacation
- 8 Nautical Novels That Will Make You Want to Run Off to Sea
I very much enjoy your newsletter! Thanks for the recommendations.
I am curious about the painting at the beginning of this post, the two ladies on the train. Can you tell me the artist? I collect prints of women reading and would be interested in finding the print. Thanks
Yes, that painting is called “The Travelling Companions,” painted in 1862 by Augustus Leopold Egg (what a great name!). It’s in the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (Birmingham, England, not my own Bham!). Another fun fact: Augustus Egg was friends with Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins!
This is a fantastic list! The Offing sounds the most intriguing to me. I’m a big Brit Lit reader, and I’ve never heard of this author or this book. I saw some Goodreads reviews compare it to The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley and A Month in the Country by J.L. Carr, both of which I recently read. Thank you Kaitlyn!
What a fantastic list!
I would love to travel to all these magical places.
In the meantime, I’ll be content with them, reading here in Brazil, on my couch and with a delicious cup of tea.
Beijos e abraços,
with all my heart,
Yes, Kaitlyn did such a lovely job! Enjoy your tea and books!
Ann Cleaves does a great job describing northern England in her Vera books, and the far northern Scottish islands in her Shetland series.
Thank you for those recommendations, Noel!