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A selection of 7 books for travellers to enjoy when you’re not travelling!
It’s hibernation time, still, here in Vienna – the weather is grey and moody, rain drums on windowsills and the cosy rugs are still out on the couch, just in case. There is nothing I like more at this time of year than snuggling up with a good book and distracting myself from the everyday blah of long grey months.
These 7 books are the best reads I’ve enjoyed recently and would recommend for travellers and folks living abroad. They’ll transport you to another country from the comfort of your couch – with a side of humour and heartfelt joy. Let’s get into the recommendations!
1 Becoming – Laura Jane Williams. Laura Jane writes about travelling to Italy, teaching abroad, giving up sex for a year and the painful, hilarious and embarrassing parts of life in your twenties when you’re still figuring out who you want to become.
Her writing style is warm, but she doesn’t shy away from some honest truths about her own poor behaviour. I identified so hard with this book – particularly the parts about the intense, close friendships you form when in a foreign country for a limited amount of time. If you’re squirmy about embarrassing sex scenes this may not be for you – but if you dig the kind of book that will have you unexpectedly tearing up over a toasted sandwich in a cafe on a Monday night (ahem, perhaps speaking from experience) then you will love this.
2. The Expatriates – Janice Y.K Lerr. This book came to me by chance, and while I think the ending is a cop-out, the rest of it is intense, moving and unforgettable. The detailed writing about the life and privilege of expats in Hong Kong is incredible.
The author pulls apart the meaningless rituals, emotional rollercoasters and familiar timeline loops of 3 expat women – unlucky May, long-time unhappy expat Helen and the tragic story of MaryAnn. This one unexpectedly hit me long after I’d finished reading and raises a lot of questions about assumed privilege and the uncontrollable nature of fate. It also paints Hong Kong and South East Asia vividly for anyone looking to move there for a short time.
3. Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. If you haven’t read this by now, you need to immediately. Throw yourself into Ifemelu’s life and meditation on being black in America, Nigerian immigrants and bi-racial couples.
It’s blisteringly honest, funny and a peek into a life experience I could only ever imagine. If you want to get a deep history dive into Nigerian politics, you can follow-up with her excellent other novel, ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ which is set in the time of the Biafran War in the sixties.
4. Mother Tounge – Christine Gilbert. I wrote about this book earlier, but it’s still one of my favourite memoirs about living abroad. Christine Gilbert set herself the challenge to learn 3 languages in 3 different countries – while raising a young family. She throws herself into Mandarin in China, Arabic in Beirut and Spanish in Mexico. Each experience transports you to the countries she’s within, and beyond just a short blog post, you get to see how everyday life as a family can actually work in unknown environments. This also gave me hope and motivation in learning a language.
5. The Royal We – Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan. A fun bit of escapism, this book is a mash-up of fairytale, royal intrigue, love story and what can happen when you move abroad to study. Loosely based on the story of Princess Katherine & Prince William, it’s set in Oxford and moves to London as the story progresses. Rebecca Porter is an American studying abroad when she falls for the boy down the hall – Nick. But Nick just happens to be the next in line for the throne of England, and dating him throws Rebecca into a world of aristocratic ex-girlfriends, paparazzi and hidden family tragedies. Not to mention a jealous sister on her side and Nick’s charming but troublesome brother, Freddie.
While it sounds a touch ridiculous, the novel is entertaining without being over the top. Exploring sibling dynamics, the insecurities of young love and navigating your partner’s family history with a light touch. It’s a well-researched and vivid imagining of what life would really be like on the other side of the world’s most famous love story. If you know the authors’ blog Go Fug Yourself (which I believe I’ve been reading for about 9 years now!!) then you know the fun writing style you are in for.
6. Love With a Chance of Drowning – Torre de Roche How could I not relate to this book? Torre de Roche is a twenty-something Aussie girl who moves overseas to experience life abroad, then accidentally falls for an intriguing boy at a bar. Oops. Relate much? But Torre’s story goes in a slightly different direction, as the interesting Argentinian man she meets tempts her to join him in sailing across the Pacific Ocean. Torre – morbidly afraid of open water – agrees.
The novel is funny, warmly written and gets to the good juicy memoir topics like confronting your fears and the misadventures that can happen in two years of travel. I loved her honest writing style.
7. All over the place – Geraldine DeReuiter. This isn’t officially released until May, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that it will be one of my favourite books about travel. I’ve already got mine on pre-order!
Geraldine is the hilarious blogger behind the Everywherist, and shares honest, heartfelt stories about life as an inept traveller, loving her entrepreneur husband and a lifelong adoration of Jeff Goldblum and cupcakes. Her writing will make you cry and snort-giggle, LOUDLY, at your desk when you least expect it. I cannot wait for this book to be released and will 100% be giving you guys a review once I devour it.
That’s my current collection of books to escape the drudgery of March – what are you guys reading?