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Welcome to my Traveliste! I blog about adventure, exploration, and budget travel. 

The 5 Best Books Set in Top Travel Destinations

The 5 Best Books Set in Top Travel Destinations

The 5 Best Books Set in Top Travel Destinations-3.png

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I've mentioned before that I absolutely love reading books to get in the right mindset to visit a new place. Usually, I decide where to go and then finds books set in that location.

Right now, though, I'm OBSESSED with my Outlander audiobooks. I'm an adjunct professor at 4 different colleges and universities in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and it feels like I'm always on the road traveling between schools.

Much to my surprise, I got bored with music after a while. Now I switch between podcasts and audiobooks. 

Since last summer (!) I've been listening to the Outlander audiobooks on my commute (they are very long books--but they never feel too long, probably because the narrator Davina Porter has the voice of an actual angel). 

In case you've been living under a rock and haven't heard about Outlander either through the book fans or the television series, it's a historical fiction series set in the Highlands of Scotland--which, incidentally, has worked its way to the top of my travel destination list. 

It helps that I have a very dear friend living in Scotland whom I'd love to see (hey, Lauren!), but I have become so enamored with the world Jamie and Claire inhabit that I need to see it for myself. 

Needless to say, the Outlander series has earned its place on my list of the five best books set in travel destinations. There are currently nine Outlander books, so this could be the world's easiest list to create...

Just kidding, that would be no fun.

In no particular order, here it is: The 5 Best Books Set in Top Travel Destinations. To be included, the book has to be 1) amazing for its own sake and 2) have given me a tremendous urge to travel to where the book was set.

Just as an FYI, if you're buying the books through the links in this article, I'll receive a small commission and it won't cost you a penny more (so thank you in advance!). You can find any edition of the book through these links, so if you prefer Kindle or hard copy, no problem.

And if you haven't tried Audible audiobooks yet, you can click here to start your free trial of that right now and get your first two books free!

The Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon

Official Blurb: 

Scottish Highlands, 1945. Claire Randall, a former British combat nurse, is just back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding clans in the year of Our Lord . . . 1743.

Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of a world that threatens her life, and may shatter her heart. Marooned amid danger, passion, and violence, Claire learns her only chance of safety lies in Jamie Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior. What begins in compulsion becomes urgent need, and Claire finds herself torn between two very different men, in two irreconcilable lives.
— Amazon.com

Destination: Scotland; secondary but equally glorious destinations of France, England, the Caribbean, and North Carolina

Why I Adore It: Claire, the main character, is so compelling. She finds herself in quite a different world than her own, and reacts in ways that I could see myself reacting. She reads like a real woman, which I find kind of rare--she is fiery, but not always; she's competent but goes to pieces sometimes. And Jamie? Well, he's basically a dream. We need more men like him in the world. For a series to keep my attention through so many pages, though, it needs more than just compelling characters--and Diana Gabaldon keeps things interesting throughout.

Why It Made the List: Diana Gabaldon does such an incredible job at describing the setting without it feeling like you're reading a ton of scene-setting (no tiresome pages-long rhapsodies of the sun glinting through the whatever--just enough that I can picture the scene, and she adds it in a fairly unobtrusive way). The length of the series has given me enough time with each town or castle or village that they've become familiar. I'm pretty sure if I were transported to Inverness, I'd recognize it right away even though I've never seen pictures. 

Outlander
By Diana Gabaldon

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

Official Blurb: 

To you, perceptive reader, I bequeath my history....Late one night, exploring her father’s library, a young woman finds an ancient book and a cache of yellowing letters. The letters are all addressed to “My dear and unfortunate successor,” and they plunge her into a world she never dreamed of-a labyrinth where the secrets of her father’s past and her mother’s mysterious fate connect to an inconceivable evil hidden in the depths of history.The letters provide links to one of the darkest powers that humanity has ever known-and to a centuries-long quest to find the source of that darkness and wipe it out. It is a quest for the truth about Vlad the Impaler, the medieval ruler whose barbarous reign formed the basis of the legend of Dracula. Generations of historians have risked their reputations, their sanity, and even their lives to learn the truth about Vlad the Impaler and Dracula. Now one young woman must decide whether to take up this quest herself-to follow her father in a hunt that nearly brought him to ruin years ago, when he was a vibrant young scholar and her mother was still alive. What does the legend of Vlad the Impaler have to do with the modern world? Is it possible that the Dracula of myth truly existed-and that he has lived on, century after century, pursuing his own unknowable ends? The answers to these questions cross time and borders, as first the father and then the daughter search for clues, from dusty Ivy League libraries to Istanbul, Budapest, and the depths of Eastern Europe. In city after city, in monasteries and archives, in letters and in secret conversations, the horrible truth emerges about Vlad the Impaler’s dark reign-and about a time-defying pact that may have kept his awful work alive down through the ages.Parsing obscure signs and hidden texts, reading codes worked into the fabric of medieval monastic traditions-and evading the unknown adversaries who will go to any lengths to conceal and protect Vlad’s ancient powers-one woman comes ever closer to the secret of her own past and a confrontation with the very definition of evil. Elizabeth Kostova’s debut novel is an adventure of monumental proportions, a relentless tale that blends fact and fantasy, history and the present, with an assurance that is almost unbearably suspenseful-and utterly unforgettable.
— Amazon.com

Destinations: Istanbul, England, and Eastern Europe

Why I Adore It: As an archaeologist, I am fascinated by history. As an archaeologist who specializes in mortuary ritual and deviant burials, I am absolutely enthralled by examinations of the belief in vampires. This book is so charmingly written, and so compelling that I quite literally finished the whole thing in one sitting the first time I read it.

Why It Made the List: This book is what gave me the idea to make sure I read a book set in my travel destination forever. Elizabeth Kostova did such a good job describing the different locations in the book that I actually felt dreary when she wrote us into the Soviet bloc and eagerly curious in Oxford. She took us through so many different places through the course of this adventure, and I'd bet that travelers to any destination in the book would find it as compelling as I did.

The Historian
By Elizabeth Kostova

The Kate Shugak Series by Dana Stabenow

Official Blurb:

Somewhere in the hinterlands of Alaska, among the millions of sprawling acres that comprise “The Park,” a young National Park Ranger has gone missing. When the detective sent after him also vanishes, the Anchorage DA’s department must turn to their reluctant former investigator, Kate Shugak. Shugak knows The Park because she’s of The Park, an Aleut who left her home village of Niniltna to pursue education, a career, and justice in an unjust world. Kate’s search for the missing men will take her from self-imposed exile back to a life she’d left behind, and face-to-face with people and problems she’d hoped never to confront again.
— Amazon.com

Destination: Alaska

Why I Adore It: This recommendation actually comes courtesy of Mama Beth, who has sung the praises of "the Kate books" for as long as I can remember. My mother is one of those who typically reads for a few minutes at night to fall asleep, but found herself wide awake devouring these novels. She loves Kate and Mutt and all of the trouble they get into together.

Why It Made the List: Y'all, my mother just moved to actual Alaska, and I'm 98% sure she went because of these books. I am 100% sure that she was so thrilled to go there because of these books. She kept saying, "Oh! I need to find a Mutt!" and talking about all of the things she would see and do, and all of her information came from these books. I'm going to visit her later this year and guess what series I'll have on my Audible before I go? Yep, the Kate Shugak books. 

The Pendergast Series by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Official Blurb:

Just days before a massive exhibition opens at the popular New York Museum of Natural History, visitors are being savagely murdered in the museum’s dark hallways and secret rooms. Autopsies indicate that the killer cannot be human.…

But the museum’s directors plan to go ahead with a big bash to celebrate the new exhibition, in spite of the murders.

Museum researcher Margo Green must find out who―or what―is doing the killing. But can she do it in time to stop the massacre?
— Amazon.com

Destinations: New York City, New Orleans, Massachusetts, Colorado, Kansas, Italy, Scotland, Africa

Why I Adore It: I am not typically a murder-mystery type of girl, I'll admit--but the Pendergast series is delightful for a few reasons. First of all, the first book is set in a museum and did you forget already that I'm an archaeologist? That's what got me started with the series. But Aloysius Pendergast, an unconventional investigator with a genteel manner and a Southern drawl, kept me going through all of the many books in the series (I just saw that there's a new book out as of January and I AM SO EXCITED). He's such a strange bird but I really do adore him and finding out details of his backstory only makes him more interesting.

Why It Made the List: This series crisscrosses the globe about a million times. I won't say that Still Life with Crows made Kansas sound particularly compelling, though I'd definitely read that if you're headed there for business or something. I was very drawn, however, to Preston & Child's Louisiana, Italy, Scotland, and Africa. Pendergast has a vast fortune at his disposal, so he's able to set off to the ends of the Earth to pursue his targets. 

Relic (Pendergast, Book 1)
By Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child

A Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable

Official Blurb:

Based on the fascinating true story of a treasure-stocked Parisian apartment opened for the first time in seventy years.

April Vogt, Sotheby’s continental furniture specialist, is speechless when a Paris apartment shuttered for seventy years is discovered in the ninth arrondissement. Beneath the cobwebs and stale perfumed air is a goldmine, and not because of the actual gold (or painted ostrich eggs or mounted rhinoceros horns or bronze bathtub). First, there’s a portrait by one of the masters of the Belle Epoque, Giovanni Boldini. And then there are letters and journals written by the very woman in the painting, Marthe de Florian. These documents reveal that she was more than a renowned courtesan with enviable decolletage. Suddenly April’s quest is no longer about the bureaux plats and Louis-style armchairs that will fetch millions at auction. It’s about discovering the story behind this charismatic woman.
— Amazon.com

Destination: Paris

Why I Adore It: Can you tell yet that I love historical fiction? This book is set in modern Paris, but April, the main character, delves into the past to uncover the woman who lived in the hitherto-sealed apartment she's there to assess. The archaeologist in me loves the realistic depiction of tracking this woman through history. The romantic in me loves that she's successful in the end.

Why It Made the List: This isn't the only book I've read that was set in Paris, but it's by far the best at evoking the setting. By the end of the book, I felt like I really knew Paris in a way that I don't feel at the end of a book about King Louis' court (ahem, basically all of the other books I've read set in Paris).  

A Paris Apartment: A Novel
By Michelle Gable

What books have you read that made you yearn to pack your bags and hop on a plane? 

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