Do Not Disturb: Travel Books To Transport You Elsewhere

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Dear reader, we’d like to reacquaint you with a humble pastime. While endless scrolling through social media, binge-watching sessions and video calls with friends and family are indeed good self-isolation activities, how about taking it back to basics? We refer, of course, to the oft-overlooked art of reading.

It’s often been said that reading can ‘whisk you away to another place’, so why not satisfy your wanderlust with one of these books about travel? We’ve put together a list of non-fiction memoirs, novels set in far-flung destinations, and even the odd travel guide to help you escape the confines of your four walls – for a little while, at least.

Note: We’ve tried to opt for lesser-known reads in this list, so don’t expect any Eat, Pray, Loves or On The Roads…

Pennine Way Companion, Alfred Wainwright

Landscape scene from the Pennine Way, with the sun rising over distant hills

Although Wainwright is most well-known for his pictorial guides to the hills and valleys of the Lake District, this charming companion to one of Britain’s long-distance walking routes is nothing short of a breath of fresh air. From the starting point in Edale, Derbyshire, through Yorkshire, Westmorland, Cumberland and Northumberland, Wainwright offers his witty asides on all that he encounters, with hand-drawn maps accompanying his quaint musings. We can almost feel the breeze in our hair just from flicking through the pages…

Around the World in Eighty Days, Jules Verne

An adult and infant Asian elephant walking together

No book list is complete without a classic or two, so we humbly submit this novel for your consideration. A playful, exciting story of a haphazard Phileas Fogg and his adventures across the globe, this Victorian adventure was a big hit in its day, and proves popular even today. Taking in exotic destinations such as Egypt, India, Singapore, Japan and San Francisco on his whistle-stop tour of the planet, Fogg proves that there’s more than one way to travel, while also including a little romance too. If this doesn’t transport you from the confines of your sofa, we don’t know what will!

The Glass Palace, Amitav Ghosh

Ancient pagodas seen on the plain of Bagan, Myanmar, at sunrise

Set in the countries of Burma, Bengal, India and Malaya, this historical novel charts the changing fortunes of a series of families over the course of many years, from the colonial period through to World War Two and beyond. Intricately and emotively detailing the changes experienced by the aforementioned countries, Ghosh’s novel expresses both the beauty and the pain of these now-popular destinations expertly. Not only does this book grip its reader, it also inspires and educates at the same time – a winning combination, if you ask us!

A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson

Fitzgerald Falls surrounded by orange autumn leaves on the Appalachian Trail

At the age of 44, celebrated travel writer Bill Bryson set out to walk the longest continuous footpath in the world – the Appalachian Trail. Accompanied by his long-time friend, Stephen Katz, this duo of unfit, inexperienced and unprepared men set off from Georgia in the hope of reaching Maine alive. True to Bryson’s witty penmanship, this memoir is nothing short of chuckle-inducing; as he recounts his experiences with outrageous weather, clouds of insects and other walkers, you may even find yourself breaking into a full-on laugh. Who doesn’t need that right now? 

The Art of Travel, Alain de Botton

A canvas backpack with a map, hat and camera

OK, we know that this particular title comes up time and time again on lists such as this, but take this as a sign to finally read it. One of the greatest philosophers of our time, de Botton doesn’t so much look at where we should go when we travel, but why it is we choose to leave our homes in the first place. Turning to other writers, artists and thinkers for evidence and inspiration, de Botton explores our strange impulse to jet off somewhere new, why we chose that particular destination in the first place, and how we might be happier on our journeys as well. You can thank us later…

The Travels, Marco Polo

Aerial view of Guilin, Li River and Karst mountains in China

One of the most famous travellers to have ever lived, Marco Polo did his fair share of country-hopping before trains, Google Maps or all inclusive hotels. This recount of his stories was written while he was a prisoner in Genoa, and richly details his adventures in China and the Far East while serving Kublai Khan. While some of the sights, sounds and smells he discovered are rather common for travellers to that part of the world today, Polo’s enthusiasm for the variety of religions, cultures, colours and landscapes of this then unknown world is undeniably infectious. When it was published in the 14th century, The Travels was considered revolutionary in its study of a region previously undiscovered by the West, and it may prove to be an eye-opener for you too!

The Penguin Lessons, Tom Michell

A penguin walks along a pebble beach in Patagonia, South America

A light-hearted adventure with a rather adorable flippered friend at the centre, Tom Michell’s tale of an expat teacher who adopts a penguin during his travels to South America will make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Although Argentina’s political landscape is in turmoil (the book covers the fall of the Peronist government and the following economic strife), this black and white friend leads Michell to reflect on travel, companionship and the strange adventures we find ourselves on.

Why not have a go yourself?

Overhead view of someone writing in a notebook on top of a world map

Everyone has been on holiday (even if they do seem like a distant memory right now…), so why not write about your own adventures? Not only is the act of writing a very cathartic pastime, it’ll also help you remember all the amazing places you’ve been. Why not find some old photos of your trips for inspiration, before settling down with a warming beverage for a jotting session? Who knows, you may have a bestseller in you…

A plea from the dealchecker team 

As you’re probably aware, local and independent shops are being hit particularly hard in the current circumstances. If you can, please buy your books locally to help support your community. Although many shops may be physically closed, some are still delivering – this page from Penguin is being updated regularly with businesses offering this service. Happy and healthy reading, everyone!