9 Books That Transport You Around the World

Amazon / Amazon

If a trip to a tropical beach or secluded cabin thousands of miles from home is off the table, the next best thing is to pick up a book that will bring you on journeys all across the world from the comfort of your home. From thrillers set in the middle of the world's busiest cities to character pieces that drop readers into the middle of remote forests and mysterious islands, here are nine books that anyone with a little wanderlust should add to their to-read pile.

1. Shantaram // Gregory David Roberts; $18

St. Martin's Griffith/Amazon

Based on events from his own life, Gregory David Roberts’s Shantaram takes readers on a whirlwind adventure across the world, from an Australian prison break, to the Bombay underworld, to the hills of Afghanistan. Alongside the main character, Lin, we explore the culture of the Indian city that was once called Bombay (now Mumbai), where we break bread with people from all over the world. Throughout the book, Lin sets up a health clinic in a slum, acts in Bollywood movies, and is pushed to his limits in a Bombay prison.

2. Ways to Disappear // Idra Novey; $16

Back Bay Books/Amazon

One day, a famous author mysteriously disappears from a park in Rio de Janeiro after climbing an almond tree. Her translator, Emma, sets out to try and find her. As the mystery deepens, Idra Novey explores the fine art of translation, which might hold the key to this fictional writer’s whereabouts. The vivid descriptions of Brazil will make you feel like you're on the journey with Emma as she combs through the rooms of the missing author's house, listens to lizards, befriends the locals, and travels across the country.

3. The Return // Victoria Hislop; $12

Harper Perennial/Amazon

To escape an unfulfilling life back home, The Return's protagonist, Sonia, travels to Spain, where she discovers that dancing is the perfect outlet for her troubles. But while the vibrancy of flamenco reignites her passion, readers will also witness the effects that civil war had on a family 70 years earlier. On the surface, this might look like a light summer read, but it’s packed emotional turmoil. A story of love, passion, and family, it will transport you right to the cobbled streets of Spain.

4. Swing Time // Zadie Smith; $13


This novel takes us between London, New York, and the Gambia, as we follow two girls from neighboring housing estates bound together by a love of dancing. As the book unfolds, we follow the different paths their lives take—one of which involves jet-setting with a famous pop star and her extremely questionable choices. In Swing Time, Smith (White Teeth) explores class, race, and privilege in a story of an ebbing friendship and tortured souls.

5. The Beach // Alex Garland; $17

Riverhead Books/Amazon

Even if you know the famous film adaptation with Leonardo DiCaprio, it’s still worth reading this cult classic. This book transports readers to paradise in the form of a remote island in Thailand cut off from the rest of civilization and untouched by tourists. It's lush and mysterious, with vivid descriptions that firmly plant readers squarely in the middle of it all. But just as the perfect world starts to come undone, our main character, Richard, has to face off against his own demons. It’s the ultimate story of backpacking gone wrong.

6. Unbowed // Wangari Maathai; $9


If you want to experience the real Kenya, then pick up this memoir by Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai. This story chronicles her early life in a rural Kenyan village, her hard-fought struggle to be educated, and her foundation of the Green Belt Movement to conserve the environment and empower women to take action in their local communities. She also details the opposition she faced throughout her life, with people determined to stop her environmental mission. This story moves from Nairobi to small Kenyan villages and further across the world as Maathai becomes more and more determined to make meaningful change. It’s a book that doesn't just take you to another country—it also helps you understand it.

7. Surfacing // Margaret Atwood; $16


In Surfacing, we travel to a remote and wild island in northern Quebec, Canada, where our main character is searching for her missing father. It's a place she hasn't been back to in years, and when she finally returns, along with her partner and another couple, everything starts falling apart. She’s weighed down by the secrets she carries, the toxic behavior of her companions, and the unanswered questions about her father. Atwood, a native of Canada who also wrote The Handmaid’s Tale, brings this excursion into the wilderness to life through vivid details and descriptions that give the reader an authentic sense of place.

8. Life of Pi // Yann Martel; $9

Mariner Books/Amazon

After their cargo ship begins sinking, a young boy named Pi makes his escape in a small lifeboat—a lifeboat that just so happens to have a tiger on board. The two unlikely companions have to somehow manage to live with each other while surviving on whatever they can. As Pi drifts in and out of consciousness, the duo lands on a mysterious island inhabited by a colony of meerkats. In this fantastical story of survival, we’re never quite sure what’s real as we travel across the ocean and explore the island through Pi’s eyes.

9. Corelli’s Mandolin // Louis de Bernières; $15


We travel to the Greek island of Cephalonia during World War II, along with Captain Corelli, an Italian who is part of the occupying forces. As Corelli makes a home of the island—arguing with the locals, playing his mandolin, and falling in love—we meet other characters affected by war in the region. This story is at once funny, heartbreaking, and romantic. There are characters you’ll remember forever, and the master storytelling makes it feel like you’ve visited Cephalonia for yourself.