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.


Travel as a Political Act: How to Leave Your Baggage Behind by Rick Steves

I’ll admit that my husband and I have been making fun of Rick Steves for years – in a good way of course. Sorry Rick. That said, we obviously love him as we have been watching his show on PBS pretty religiously for nearly twenty years. We love you Rick Steves! and this book is no let down. What a joyful read with deep insight and critical comparative thinking about countries he has traveled. He compares them to the United States and sheds a light of unbiased realism and intellectualism that can’t be ignored.

In the first chapter of Travel as a Political Act: How to Leave Your Baggage Behind Rick Steves boldly begins “Many of today’s elected leaders have no better connection with real people–especially ones outside their borders–than those “divinely ordained” kings did centuries ago.” Rick Steves recommends traveling on purpose… learn and connect with people across our own borders. In his words…”travel broadens our perspectives personally, culturally, and politically”. He delves into Brexit, refugees, Trump, Nativism, Terrorism, and climate change. This is a well-written perspective from a master teacher traveler. I highly recommend Travel as a Political Act: How to Leave Your Baggage Behind to crack open your mind just a little bit more, or to crack open your heart and let some love of your fellow human beings enter. Don’t be afraid to travel or fear the unknown. The world is yours for the taking….be fearless and travel widely.

Come, Read How a Famous Mystery Writer Married to an Archeologist Lives

In 1930, Agatha Christie married her second husband, Max Mallowan, an archeologist, and spent many happy seasons accompanying him on his archeological digs in the Middle East. Her experiences with the people and the environment then became inspirations for many of her most famous novels including Death on the Nile, Murder in Mesopotamia, and Murder on the Orient Express. Agatha Christie wrote Come, Tell Me How You Live as response to the many people who asked her what it was like to travel around the cradle of civilization on her husband’s expeditions in Syria, Iraq and many other places.

I ADORE this book. From lamenting over her husband shoving books into her carefully packed crate at the last minute to becoming tongue-tied with feeling inferior while chatting with their architect to running out of her bedroom screaming due to being covered in mice and cockroaches (her husband recommended that she just go to sleep and then she wouldn’t notice them crawling over her…yeah right), I just found Agatha to be so lovely and Britishy and wonderful! She manages to be both neurotic yet brave, awkward yet charming, silly yet shrewd, much like a heroine in a Sophie Kinsella or Katie Fforde novel. Come, Tell Me How You Live is the perfect mixture of personal memoir and travel adventure and a fascinating snapshot of the relationship between European archeologists and the Middle Eastern peoples during the years between the wars. This little known book is a fun read for all armchair travelers and Agatha Christie fans.

All Over the Map by Laura Fraser

Following her memoir, An Italian Affair, travel writer Laura Fraser shares an intimate peek into her private life, which includes traveling to exotic places and interviewing eccentric personalities in All Over the Map.

On one hand, I was at once envious, wishing I had the means to travel, seemingly at whim, to such intriguing locals (Italy, Provence, Peru, Samoa, etc.) but on the other hand, sympathetic to what dangers she may have faced (Rwanda) and to what her career and lifestyle choices have forced her to forego — a lasting marriage and children of her own.

She is open about her love affairs, poignantly honest about an assault in the South Pacific, and appreciative of her large network of friends.  In all, the book achieves the desired result and illustrates why she is successful in her field — readers may have seen her work featured in O, the Oprah Magazine, Gourmet, and many other publications.  Those who enjoyed Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love will also enjoy this; plus it’s also an excellent example of how a non-fiction work can read like fiction.