The great literary escape: Aro

Image: Liverpool Guild Student Media

The great literary escape: Around the world in 10 books

Armchair travel: Embark on a journey around the globe – from Russia to Cuba – by reading these great books in the comfort of your home.

The great literary escape: Aro

Image: Liverpool Guild Student Media

As lockdown is slowly coming to an end and we ease back into “normal life”, some of us are excitedly making travel plans for when it is safe again to travel. For others, travel might not be on the cards for a while yet, and we must find other ways to visit places around the world…and one of these ways is through the wonderful world of books.

Whether you are looking for travel ideas and inspiration for your upcoming trips, or you plan to travel from the couch, these 10 books will provide endless entertainment, adventure and and will reign in that travel bug.

This list has a book for every type of reader; from thriller fanatics to romance and historical fiction lovers, this list is bound to cater to every bookworm.


‘Chocolat’ – Joanne Harris

Vineyards in Burgundy, France. Image: Adobe Stock

Our first stop on this bookworm bus tour is France, more specifically the small French village of Lansquenet.

The plot

When mysterious Vianne and her child arrive in a tranquil French village in the winter of 1959, no one could ever have imagined the impact that she and her spirited and bright daughter would have on the community, a community stubbornly rooted in tradition. Within days, she opens an unusual and exotic chocolate shop, right across the square from the church.

Vianne’s ability to perceive her customers’ desires and satisfy them with just the right confection, coaxes the villagers to abandon themselves to temptation — just as Lent begins.

As she starts unsetting the stifling, traditional order of things in this village, she is confronted with her own past, her abilities, and the possibility of love.


‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ – Stieg Larsson

Moving north, the book bus makes a stop in Scandinavia, where we come across one of the most famous thriller and murder mystery writers of all time, Stieg Larsson. His book ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ is widely regarded as a must-read for all thriller/crime fans. This novel has also been adapted into a film starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara.

Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig in the film adaptation of ‘The Girl with The Dragan Tattoo’ film poster. Image: Supplied

The plot

Harriet Vanger, a scion of one of Sweden’s wealthiest families disappeared over forty years ago. All these years later, her aged uncle continues to seek the truth. He hires Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently trapped by a libel conviction, to investigate.

He is aided by the pierced and tattooed punk prodigy Lisbeth Salander. Together they tap into a vein of unfathomable iniquity and astonishing corruption.

An international publishing sensation, Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo combines murder mystery, family saga, love story, and financial intrigue into one satisfyingly complex and entertainingly atmospheric novel


‘Anna Karenina’ – Leo Tolstoy

Moscow Russia
Moscow, Russia. Image: Adobe Stock

Moving along to Russia, this novel will enchant readers with its beautiful writing, nature descriptions and striking characters. It is a hefty read with many characters and sub-plots, but if you want to challenge yourself, give this book a try and be transported to the wonderful and enchanting country of Russia.

Acclaimed by many as the world’s greatest novel, ‘Anna Karenina’ provides a vast panorama of contemporary life in Russia and of humanity in general. In it, Tolstoy uses his intense imaginative insight to create some of the most memorable characters in all of literature.

Anna is a sophisticated woman who abandons her empty existence as the wife of Karenin and turns to Count Vronsky to fulfil her passionate nature – with tragic consequences…


‘The Quality of Silence’ – Rosamund Lupton

Alaska. Image: Pexels

Jumping over to Alaska, this next option will appeal to thriller fans and will chill readers to the bone.

The plot

Yasmin and her 10-year-old daughter, Ruby, are on a journey across Northern Alaska. On a search for Ruby’s father throughout the arctic wilderness, the pair become increasingly isolated from society and are engulfed by the night sky. Ruby is deaf and in turn loses the one sense that she needs to survive when night overcomes their journey: Sight.

While the cold, isolating, and debilitating winter in Alaska is taking its toll on the mother-daughter team, simultaneously somebody wants them gone, someone is tracking them through the dark.


‘From Here to Eternity’ – James Jones

Hawaii. Image: Adobe Stock

Heading to some warmer weather, the travelling bookworms hop over to tropical Hawaii. From Here to Eternity is a classic work and will appeal to all historical fiction and war fiction fans. So, let’s grab this book and head to the beach.

The plot

Diamond Head, Hawaii, 1941. Pvt. Robert E. Lee Prewitt is a champion welterweight and a fine bugler. But when he refuses to join the company’s boxing team, he gets “the treatment” that may break him or kill him.

First Sgt Milton Anthony Warden knows how to soldier better than almost anyone, yet he’s risking his career to have an affair with the commanding officer’s wife. Both Warden and Prewitt are bound by a common bond: the Army is their heart and blood… and, possibly, their death.

In this magnificent but brutal classic of a soldier’s life, James Jones portrays the courage, violence and passions of men and women who live by unspoken codes and with unutterable despair… in the most important American novel to come out of World War 2, a masterpiece that captures as no other the honor and savagery of men.


‘Next Year in Havanna’ – Chanel Cleeton

Havana, Cuba. Image: Adobe Stock

Travelling south, the bookworm bus stops in Cuba. For romance and historical fiction lovers, this next option will have you laughing as well as crying and will steal your heart with its incredible characters and setting.

The plot

After the death of her beloved grandmother, a Cuban-American woman travels to Havana, where she discovers the roots of her identity–and unearths a family secret hidden since the revolution…

Havana, 1958. The daughter of a sugar baron, 19-year-old Elisa Perez is part of Cuba’s high society, where she is largely sheltered from the country’s growing political unrest — until she embarks on a clandestine affair with a passionate revolutionary…

Miami, 2017. Freelance writer Marisol Ferrera grew up hearing romantic stories of Cuba from her late grandmother Elisa, who was forced to flee with her family during the revolution. Elisa’s last wish was for Marisol to scatter her ashes in the country of her birth.

Arriving in Havana, Marisol comes face-to-face with the contrast of Cuba’s tropical, timeless beauty and its perilous political climate. When more family history comes to light and Marisol finds herself attracted to a man with secrets of his own, she’ll need the lessons of her grandmother’s past to help her understand the true meaning of courage.


‘The Queue’ – Basma Abdel Aziz

Egypt South Africans
Egyptian Pyramids. Image: Pexels

Hopping on a boat and travelling east, the next stop is Egypt. ‘The Queue’ is a chilling debut novel which incorporates dystopia and surrealism to explore authoritarianism and the way power can be abused.

The plot

In a surreal, but familiar, vision of modern day Egypt, a centralised authority known as ‘the Gate’ has risen to power in the aftermath of the ‘Disgraceful Events,’ a failed popular uprising. Citizens are required to obtain permission from the Gate in order to take care of even the most basic of their daily affairs, yet the Gate never opens, and the queue in front of it grows longer.

Citizens from all walks of life mix and wait in the sun: A revolutionary journalist, a sheikh, a poor woman concerned for her daughter’s health, and even the brother of a security officer killed in clashes with protestors.

Among them is Yehia, a man who was shot during the Events and is waiting for permission from the Gate to remove a bullet that remains lodged in his pelvis. Yehia’s health steadily declines, yet at every turn, officials refuse to assist him, actively denying the very existence of the bullet.

Ultimately it is Tarek, the principled doctor tending to Yehia’s case, who must decide whether to follow protocol as he has always done, or to disobey the law and risk his career to operate on Yehia and save his life.


‘Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found’ – Suketu Mehta

The Taj Mahal, India. Image: Adobe Stock

Moving east, the next stop is India and caters specifically to the non-fiction fans out there and will transport you to the bustling and busy heart of India.

A native of Bombay, Suketu Mehta gives us an insider’s view of this stunning metropolis.

He approaches the city from unexpected angles, taking us into the criminal underworld of rival Muslim and Hindu gangs; following the life of a bar dancer raised amid poverty and abuse; opening the door into the inner sanctums of Bollywood; and delving into the stories of the countless villagers who come in search of a better life and end up living on the sidewalks.


‘Before the Coffee Gets Cold’ – Toshikazu Kawaguchi

Hopping over to Japan, the bookworm bus stops in the capital of Tokyo. This next book is a relatively quick book to read and is perfect to dive into on your coffee break. This beautiful and moving story explores the inner workings of memory and time and asks the reader the age-old question:

What would you change if you could travel back in time? More importantly, who would you want to meet, maybe for one last time?

The plot

In a small back alley in Tokyo, there is a café which has been serving carefully brewed coffee for more than one hundred years. But this coffee shop offers its customers a unique experience: the chance to travel back in time.

In Before the Coffee Gets Cold, we meet four visitors, each of whom is hoping to make use of the café’s time-travelling offer, in order to: confront the man who left them, receive a letter from their husband whose memory has been taken by early onset Alzheimer’s, to see their sister one last time, and to meet the daughter they never got the chance to know.

But the journey into the past does not come without risks: Customers must sit in a particular seat, they cannot leave the café, and finally, they must return to the present before the coffee gets cold…


‘The Dressmaker’s Secret’ – Rosalie Ham

The Australian Outback. Image: Adobe Stock

Ending our journey in Australia, this final book is perfect for historical fiction lovers, but should really be read by everyone. Make sure to check out the interview we did with the author herself, Rosalie Ham, and find out all she had to say about her latest novel:

The plot

It is 1953 and Melbourne society is looking forward to coronation season, the grand balls and celebrations for the young queen-to-be.

Tilly Dunnage is, however, working for a pittance in a second-rate Collins Street salon. Her talents go unappreciated, and the madame is a bully and a cheat, but Tilly has a past she is desperate to escape and good reason to prefer anonymity.

Kate Winslet
Kate Winslet as the title character in the film adaptation of ‘The Dressmaker’. Image: Supplied

Meanwhile, Sergeant Farrat and the McSwiney clan have been searching for their resident dressmaker ever since she left Dungatar in flames. And they aren’t the only ones.

The inhabitants of the town are still out for revenge (or at least someone to foot the bill for the new high street). So when Tilly’s name starts to feature in the fashion pages, the jig is up. Along with Tilly’s hopes of keeping her secrets hidden…