There are only a handful of countries around the world that are still allowing American tourists within their borders. Since traveling abroad has become so difficult, why not try a different kind of mental escape?
Explore the World Without Leaving Home
These authors depict Asian and Australian landscapes so vividly they transport readers straight into their settings. Try one of these books to get your travel fix.
Rattawut Lapcharoensap’s fiction debut is a collection of short stories set in modern Thailand. Sightseeing follows tales of young love, family bonds, cultural and generational clashes, and the continued intrusion of Westernization on a small Asian nation. His depictions of idyllic, white sand beaches, busy urban centers, and lush jungles are as vivid and nuanced as any of his character. Some of the short stories are brightly comedic and include characters such as Clint Eastwood, a pet pig that swims out to sea, while others are heart-wrenchingly honest in their depictions of family devotion in the face of adversity. This book is a truly stunning way to visit Thailand without enduring the 20+ hours of air travel.
Vibrant colors, aromas of spice markets, thick blankets of humidity, and the urban roar of Bombay all come to life in Gregory David Roberts’ evocative, semi-autobiographical novel Shantaram. Lin, a convict that has escaped from a maximum-security prison in Australia, flees to Bombay where he can hide in the densely populated slums. He opens a free medical clinic for slum residents while also apprenticing for the underground Bombay crime syndicate. The plot shifts between the slums and exquisite five-star hotels, Bollywood film sets and spiritual temples. Shantaram is a massive, beautifully crafted love letter to India wrapped in a story of intrigue and self-discovery.
After his father’s violent death, Jaxie Clackton sets out on his own into the desolate wilderness of Western Australia. He has a rifle and a jug of water; that’s it. Surviving solo in the harsh saltlands is no small feat. In the wilds, he meets another exile, Father MacGillis, and is never sure he can trust him completely but his survival may well depend on this stranger. The Shepherd's Hut depicts the extreme landscape of Western Australia through engaging prose that are, at times, surprisingly tender. This is a novel for anyone that has ever wanted to traverse the Australian outback solo on foot.
It’s the heartbeat and devotion of locals that create rich, vibrant places worth visiting. Such is true in Camilla Gibb’s novel The Beauty of Humanity Movement which focuses on 3 central characters: the elderly proprietor of a pho stall, a young tour guide, and an artist searching for answers while returning to Vietnam for the first time since her birth. The characters are full of hope for the future while still longing for the past. Their faith and love are what can heal a nation still recovering from and dealing with a turbulent and past. Gibb expertly describes the complexities of contemporary Vietnam, the hearts of the local Vietnamese that love their country, and the beautiful ways it continues to evolve.
Bill Bryson is one of the most prolific travel writers today. His book Down Under: Travels in a Sunburned Country describes his travels throughout the country/continent by rail and car. He speaks with locals from all walks of life about the history of their nation, geography, the pros and cons of Australian living, and the huge scope of local plants and animals (many of which can kill you). The book is split into 3 sections: The Outback, Civilized Australia (Boomerang Coast), and The Edges, which includes the Great Barrier Reef. His writing is wry and entertaining but through all the humor, his readers still feel Bryson’s deep respect for Australia and all it has to offer.
Half Japanese and half American, John Rain has an unusual vocation. He’s an assassin that specializes in making his kills look like natural causes. His professionalism has never wavered until he begins to fall for a beautiful pianist who happens to be the daughter of his latest kill. Like all good espionage professionals, Rain has his vices: single malt scotch, jazz, and beautiful women. The first book in Barry Eisler’s John Rain thriller series, A Clean Kill in Tokyo takes readers on a heart-pounding ride sitting shotgun with the world’s most sought after assassin as he charges through Tokyo by night.