What is travel fiction? It’s a book in which a place is as important to the narrative as a main character. The characters themselves may be traveling, but it can also be a book in which the reader is taken on a journey to the real (or fantastical) place described vividly on each page. It’s a book that shapes the way we see a certain place or whose events and characters could be in no other setting. Or, when written by an author about their own homeland, and so informed by the writer’s culture, that it’s impossible to read it without uncovering the author’s life.

Travel fiction has the ability to transport you to places you’ve never been and may never go. Through the power of storytelling, you can wander ancient streets in bustling cities, traverse untouched rugged landscapes, and immerse yourself in cultures rich with history and tradition. From the comfort of your armchair, you can discover that the world is vast and boundless, and that the greatest journeys are often those undertaken within the pages of a beloved book. If you don’t have grand travel plans this summer, let a book be your passport to adventure. I’ve selected three fictional books for you to consider for your reading travels.

The first book, My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante, is set in a very poor and isolated part of Naples, Italy in the mid-20th century. While the plot follows a lifelong friendship and unravels divergent fates due to economic and cultural circumstances, there are many vivid depictions of place and culture that will draw you in, including: immersion in shopping districts, dazzling views of the Mediterranean Sea and the Amalfi Coast, and revealing the heart of cities like Florence and Milan.


In Hula : a novel by Jasmin ‘Iolani Hakes, you’ll meet three generations of native Hawaiian women whose lives are closely tied to the art and culture of Hula, including a famous hula teacher, her daughter, Laka, a Miss Aloha Hula contest winner, and Laka’s daughter. This novel explores the tight-knit Hula community within Hilo, Hawaii. It also delves into the history of Hawaii (a now forgotten kingdom that still lives in the heart of her people) and the complicated relationships between family and between the Hawaiian people and Hawaii itself.

To stretch your imagination a bit further, I’ve included Tokyo Ueno Station by Miri Yū about a homeless ghost, Kazu, who haunts one of Tokyo’s busiest train stations and its nearby park. Kazu’s life in the city began in the park when he arrived as a laborer in the preparation for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. His life also sadly ended there in the homeless village in the park, a place erected after the 2011 tsunami devastation. We see daily life in Tokyo through Kazu’s eyes as we learn details of his own story that have been shaped at every turn by modern Japanese history.

It is said that a library card is the best passport you could ever have. Hopefully one of these fictional stories will inspire you to “travel” somewhere interesting this summer. But, I didn’t forget about those of you who prefer non-fiction… Check out this book: Around the world in 50 years : my adventure to every country on earth by Albert Podell. In his book, Podell describes unusual and exotic places – not just the well-known tourist destinations around the world.  Perhaps it will inspire your next travel fiction book selection – or to an actual travel adventure of your own.