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  • Olivia Swindler

13 Armchair Travel Books to Get You Through the Summer

Updated: Sep 9, 2021

Before 2020, I traveled monthly for my job. I love seeing new places, eating new food, and hearing languages that are not my own. Since my ability to travel has all but halted, I am traveling the only way I can--through books. Here are 13 of my favorite armchair travel books for any reader!




Young Adult


Notes From My Captivity: This might be the only book I have read that takes place in Siberia. It is a wild ride. This is a story of perseverance and survival. The development of the main character is profound. There are also some beautiful descriptions of Siberia. This book has some mystical realism, lots of adventure, and complicated family dynamics. This is a good page-turner!


Clap When You Land: A story told in verse from the perspective of two sisters. The story bounces between New York and the Dominican Republic. It is a story about family, loss, and love. I cannot recommend this book enough. It is so potent. I highly recommend listening to the audio, the narration is INCREDIBLE!



Non-Fiction


A Walk in the Woods: This is my favorite Bill Bryson book I have read. It is hilariously entertaining. As a life-long hiker, I love reading about other people’s hiking adventures (and misadventures). It was also interesting to learn more about the Appalachian Trail.


A Year in Provence: I read this book right after I moved to France and fell in love with its witty take on life in the south of France. This is a very entertaining take on the realities of moving abroad. If you can’t make it to France this summer, this read might fill that void.


The Geography of Bliss: I love a grumpy narrator. This book follows the author, Eric Weiner, as he searches for the happiest place on earth. This book will take you around the world, and help you to remember that there is beauty everywhere. This is a great mix of funny and informative.


I Was Told to Come Alone: Different from all of the books on this list, this memoir follows Mekhennet as she travels behind the lines of the jihad. This book is a slow burn and is incredibly fascinating. It opened my eyes to some of the realities of journalism. It was hard not to leave this book and admire the bravery of Mekhennet.


Into Thin Air: It took a lot of self-control to only include two hiking books on this list. The writing of this book is incredible! I have also read and recommend Into the Wild (WHY would you go to Alaska without a compass….), and I love the way Krakauer tells stories. This book includes many of the heartbreaking truths of climbing Everest, and I appreciated its raw and honest look at the mountain. It’s a short read, perfect to fill any longing for the mountains.


Fiction


The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry: I had to read this book for a class I took a few years ago, so I went into it knowing nothing. This book pulled on all of my heartstrings. It is perfect for any lover of British fiction, or if you are trying to transport yourself to England this summer. It is profoundly moving. Read with tissues.


The Great Alone: Kristin Hannah is one of my favorite writers. This book is so beautiful and page-turning. Great if you love nature -- especially the rough and tumble life of living in the Alaskan bush. The characters are amazing, and Hannah writes in a way that makes you feel as if you are living the adventure with the characters. Great if you love a family drama with a strong sense of place.


The Bastard of Istanbul: I traveled to Istanbul in 2017 and it is still one of my favorite cities. This book did not help my strong urge to go back ASAP. It is a historical fiction family drama and is deeply moving and profound. This book broke my heart. It has so many layers to unpack. Read with tissues and brace for heartbreak, but this is worth it. (Also the cover is b-e-a-u-tiful!)


Crazy Rich Asians: I liked this movie and LOVED the book (the whole series is wonderful if I am honest). The social commentary is amazing. The writing is so witty. The characters are so deep. Honestly, I would reread this book for the food descriptions alone! This is a great beach read!


Homegoing: This was one of my favorite books I read in 2020. The story spans 300 years and two continents. The actual composition of this book is superb. This book made me feel deep sorrow with small glimmers of hope. This book is a must-read. The storytelling is remarkable. A true picture of how a family, and a nation, have been shaped. Read with tissues, but read this book.


The Things We Cannot Say: I have read many dual timeline WWII novels and wasn’t sure I would read another, but this book changed my mind. Deeply emotional and moving, this story broke my heart. It might be the best weaving of the modern-day storyline and the WWII storyline that I have read. I cannot recommend this book enough. Read with tissues...I honestly just sat on my couch and bawled when I finished this one.



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