A book is always a handy companion for a regular traveller. For flights, long bus or train rides, down time in hotels, or simply as something to do while sitting in a foreign city park, the right book can help you to enjoy your break from everyday life that much more. This one reason this site has previously discussed books you must always carry with you when travelling! Something nice to read is a must-have for many of us who act on wanderlust.
Even better than a generally great book, however, can be a book that’s directly linked to a destination. This is not to say you should journey to remote corners of the world just to read books there. But if you have a place in mind, chances are there’s a novel that pairs well with it. We’ve written up a few examples below.
1. A Gentleman In Moscow by Amor Towles (Moscow, Russia)
Depending on where you live, Russia may seem like an iffy destination these days. Despite hints that the Cold War is heating up again, however, Moscow remains a fascinating city to see, and it’s probably going to be attracting more tourism than usual in the next year or so. The city is making improvements and transportation infrastructure is being updated for the 2018 World Cup, so it could actually be the most comfortable time in years to be there. A Gentleman In Moscow, meanwhile, paints a fascinating portrait of the city’s history, particularly in the first 30 years or so of the 20th century. Revolving around an aristocrat who ends up on house arrest in an elegant hotel, it provides unique perspective on a politically turbulent era and the early development of modern Moscow.
2. Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy (American Southwest)
This is not exactly the sort of novel you want to experience. If you’re familiar with McCarthy’s work (which includes No Country For Old Men and The Road, among other works) you know that the author has a penchant for violence, brutality, and nihilism. Blood Meridian is no different. In fact it may be his most violent novel, written about a horde of scalp hunters in the mid-19th century. That said, there may not be a novel that captures the beauty and drama of the American Southwest’s scenery quite like Blood Meridian. If you’re touring the area and stopping at national parks, as many choose to do in this part of the world, the book may just lend you a deeper appreciation of what it must have been like to explore the same land when it was fully wild.
3. Dracula by Bram Stoker (Romania)
Dracula has been twisted and reimagined so many times it’s almost forgettable that it was originally a book. There have been films made about the infamous vampire from the ‘30s into present day. And even those films have led to new takes. A slot machine-style video game recently emerged online that takes its inspiration from the classic 1931 film, for instance. Other games in the console realm have designed the character anew on their own. But Dracula first appeared in this late-19th century novel by Bram Stoker – a vivid, spooky, and captivating Gothic tale. As it happens, many have interpreted the character to be based on an old ruler named Vlad Dracu, who hailed from Romania. Numerous castles around the country (already among the top attractions) are linked to the legend, with Bran Castle even having earned the nickname of “Dracula’s Castle.”
4. The Black Book by Orhan Pamuk (Istanbul, Turkey)
While Orhan Pamuk is well known in literary circles, this still may be the littlest known book on this list. A mystery tale that revolves around a man’s search for his missing wife (and impersonation of a newspaper editor in the process), it’s deeply tangled up in the layout and atmosphere of Istanbul. Perhaps more than any other novel listed here, it feels as if it’s as much about its setting as it is about its plot and characters. For that reason, it’s an outstanding read to have with you if you get a chance to visit the ancient and famous city. It’s about as close to a fictional guidebook of a city as you’re going to find.
5. Angels & Demons by Dan Brown (Rome, Italy)
Plenty of people frown upon Dan Brown as a purveyor of cheap legends and conspiracy theories. But his storytelling is undeniably gripping and as a review of his latest novel (called Origin) stated, Dan Brown likes spectacular settings. In various stories, that has meant the Louvre in Paris, numerous important places in Washington, D.C., and underground hideouts in Florence. But if there’s one location Brown has brought to life unlike any other it’s Rome, already one of the most intriguing urban destinations on the planet. Certainly Angels & Demons is full of silly ideas and ridiculous implications – that is the formula for a Dan Brown novel – but it’s a great deal of fun to read. Protagonist Robert Langdon spends most of the book dashing from one famous chapel to another deciphering sinister clues left behind by the Illuminati. As he does so, the reader is treated to a sort of art history tour of Rome and the Vatican.