8 Books That Let You Travel the World Without Ever Leaving Your Lounge Chair

summer reading

Summer reading.

Is there any more beautiful combination of two words? Personally, I would be hard-pressed to find one.

For me, there is absolutely nothing more blissful than spending a summer day curled up in a deck chair with a good book, one that pulls me in so deeply that I lose all sense of time and self. And being the hopeless wanderluster that I am, the experience is even more sublime with novels that transport me to a different city, country, or culture and leave me with the feeling that I truly know a place that I may have never actually visited in real life.

Here are eight of my top picks for books that will take you around the world without ever leaving your lounge chair:

book maya

Maya’s Notebook

by Isabel Allende

setting: Las Vegas and Chiloé, an island off Chile’s southern coast

“This contemporary coming-of-age story centers upon Maya Vidal, a remarkable teenager abandoned by her parents. Along with a circle of girlfriends known as “the vampires,” she turns to drugs, alcohol, and petty crime–a downward spiral that eventually leads to Las Vegas and a dangerous underworld, with Maya caught between warring forces: a gang of assassins, the police, the FBI, and Interpol. Her one chance for survival is Nini, who helps her escape to a remote island off the coast of Chile. In the care of her grandmother’s old friend, Manuel Arias, and surrounded by strange new acquaintances, Maya begins to record her story in her notebook, as she tries to make sense of her past and unravel the mysteries of her family and her own life.” — Amazon.com


book light between

The Light Between Oceans

by M. L. Stedman

setting: a small island off the coast of western Australia

“Tom Sherbourne is a lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, a tiny island a half day’s boat journey from the coast of Western Australia. When a baby washes up in a rowboat, he and his young wife Isabel decide to raise the child as their own. The baby seems like a gift from God, and the couple’s reasoning for keeping her seduces the reader into entering the waters of treacherous morality even as Tom–whose moral code withstood the horrors of World War I–begins to waver.” –Malissa Kent for Amazon.com



book state of wonder

State of Wonder

by Ann Patchett

setting: the Amazon rainforest

“In State of Wonder, pharmaceutical researcher Dr. Marina Singh sets off into the Amazon jungle to find the remains and effects of a colleague who recently died under somewhat mysterious circumstances. But first she must locate Dr. Anneck Swenson, a renowned gynecologist who has spent years looking at the reproductive habits of a local tribe where women can conceive well into their middle ages and beyond. In finding her former mentor, Dr. Singh must face her own disappointments and regrets, along with the jungle’s unforgiving humidity and insects, making State of Wonder a multi-layered atmospheric novel that is hard to put down.” — Jessica Schein for Amazon.com


book time in betThe Time In Between

by María Dueñas

setting: Spain and Morocco

“With the Spanish Civil War brewing in Madrid, Sira leaves her mother and her fiancé, impetuously following her handsome lover to Morocco. However, she soon finds herself abandoned, penniless, and heartbroken in an exotic land. Among the odd collection of European expatriates trapped there by the worsening political situation back on the Continent, Sira reinvents herself by turning to the one skill that can save her: her gift for creating beautiful clothes. As England, Germany, and the other great powers launch into the dire conflict of World War II, Sira is persuaded to return to Madrid, where she takes on a new identity to embark upon the most dangerous undertaking of her career. As the preeminent couturier for an eager clientele of Nazi officers’ wives, Sira becomes embroiled in the half-lit world of espionage and political conspiracy rife with love, intrigue, and betrayal.” — Amazon.com


book poisonwoodThe Poisonwood Bible

by Barbara Kingsolver

setting: the Belgian Congo

“…a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it—from garden seeds to Scripture—is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family’s tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.” — Amazon.com



book shadow

The Shadow of the Wind

by Carlos Ruíz Zafón

setting: Barcelona, Spain

“Barcelona, 1945: A city slowly heals in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, and Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer’s son who mourns the loss of his mother, finds solace in a mysterious book entitled The Shadow of the Wind, by one Julián Carax. But when he sets out to find the author’s other works, he makes a shocking discovery: someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book Carax has written. In fact, Daniel may have the last of Carax’s books in existence. Soon Daniel’s seemingly innocent quest opens a door into one of Barcelona’s darkest secrets–an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love.” — Amazon.com


book god of

The God of Small Things

by Arundhati Roy

setting: Kerala, India

“Equal parts powerful family saga, forbidden love story, and piercing political drama, it is the story of an affluent Indian family forever changed by one fateful day in 1969. The seven-year-old twins Estha and Rahel see their world shaken irrevokably by the arrival of their beautiful young cousin, Sophie. It is an event that will lead to an illicit liaison and tragedies accidental and intentional, exposing “big things [that] lurk unsaid” in a country drifting dangerously toward unrest.” — Amazon.com



book shell seek

The Shell Seekers

by Rosamunde Pilcher

setting: Cornwall, England

“At the end of a long and useful life, Penelope Keeling’s prized possession is The Shell Seekers, painted by her father, and symbolizing her unconventional life, from bohemian childhood to wartime romance. When her grown children learn their grandfather’s work is now worth a fortune, each has an idea as to what Penelope should do. But as she recalls the passions, tragedies, and secrets of her life, she knows there is only one answer…and it lies in her heart.” — Amazon.com




What’s a book that has whisked you away to a new place?

3 thoughts on “8 Books That Let You Travel the World Without Ever Leaving Your Lounge Chair

  1. Thank you for these recommendations. I’ve got a week at a cottage coming up soon, I may check my local bookstore to see if they have any of these on hand. They would be perfect reading material for the dock OR the porch!

  2. Yes! Two of the best words put together! That really made me smile and nod vigorously. :) I would add Elizabeth Gilbert’s latest book, The Signature of All Things, which is epic in terms of length and scope and had me totally riveted from start to finish. From Amazon – “It soars across the globe from London, to Peru, to Philadelphia, to Tahiti, to Amsterdam. Peopled with extraordinary characters – missionaries, abolitionists, adventurers, astronomers, sea captains, geniuses and the quite mad -above all it has an unforgettable heroine in Alma Whittaker, a woman of the Enlightened Age who stands defiantly on the cusp of the modern.”

    I also just devoured The Girl with the Painted Face by Gabrielle Kimm, set in Italy in 1582. Was up very late last night finishing it!

    Great post, thanks for the ideas Elizabeth!

  3. The Time Inbetween sounds amazing. I’ve just added it to my ever-growing to-read list and can’t wait to check it out!

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