The 5 Best Books Set in Top Travel Destinations
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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.
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The Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon
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.
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
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 Kate Shugak Series by Dana Stabenow
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
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.
A Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable
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).
What books have you read that made you yearn to pack your bags and hop on a plane?
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