12 Novels That Will Take You on an Adventure Around the World

July 30 2019
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I noticed recently that I tend to reject “summer reads” in warmer months and instead seek out bleaker, chillier narratives. Bright summer days send me searching for snow-blanketed landscapes and stories of survival or suspense. Come wintertime, I find pockets of sunshine in a seaside story or frothy romance. I think this contrarian reading habit has something to do with how effectively a novel with a strong sense of place transports me to another climate, another world—another universe. Who doesn’t love a little escapism in the dog days of summer? A good book can immerse us in places we may never have the chance to visit, in a way no other medium can. Here are just a few that will transport you around the world.

The House of the Spirits
by Isabel Allende

Chile

This enthralling epic spans decades and lives, bringing to life the triumphs and tragedies of three generations of the Trueba family against the backdrop of Chile. The patriarch Esteban is a volatile man whose pursuit of political power is tempered only by his love for his wife, Clara, who has a mystical connection to the spirit world. When their daughter embarks on a forbidden love affair, the lovers’ child will lead her family and her country into a revolutionary future.

 Read the full review of THE HOUSE OF THE SPIRITS.

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The House of the Spirits
Isabel Allende

“It was an enormous pleasure for me to reread this book three decades after it first made its mark on me. I found myself still enraptured by the words of these women, still dazzled by the magic potion that is Isabel Allende’s gift for storytelling. And as I reached the final page, I smiled in wonderment at the forces that led me to where I am today, and was thankful for the reminder that our future is written in the stars.”

Read Johanna Castillo’s review here.

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An Orchestra of Minorities
by Chigozie Obioma

Nigeria

Set on the outskirts of Umuahia, Nigeria, and narrated by a guardian spirit, AN ORCHESTRA OF MINORITIES tells the story of Chinonso, a young poultry farmer who sacrifices everything to win Ndali, the woman he loves. Spanning continents, traversing the earth and cosmic spaces, and told by a narrator who has lived for hundreds of years, the novel is a contemporary twist of Homer's ODYSSEY.

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An Orchestra of Minorities
Chigozie Obioma

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Himself
by Jess Kidd

Ireland

In this darkly comic tale, Mahony, a charming ne’er-do-well, returns to his haunted Irish hometown and turns the town—and his life—upside down. Abandoned at an orphanage as a baby, Mahony assumed that his mother wanted nothing to do with him. But when he receives an anonymous note implying that she may have been forced to give him up, Mahony embarks on a pilgrimage to the rural village of Mulderrig to uncover the truth about his mother.

Read the full review of HIMSELF.

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Himself
Jess Kidd

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And the Mountains Echoed
by Khaled Hosseini

Afghanistan

Following its characters and the ramifications of their lives around the globe—from Kabul to Paris to San Francisco—AND THE MOUNTAINS ECHOED is about how we love, how we take care of one another, and how the choices we make resonate through generations. Khaled Hosseini explores the many ways in which families nurture, wound, betray, honor, and sacrifice for one another; and how often we are surprised by the actions of those closest to us, at the times that matter most.

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And the Mountains Echoed
Khaled Hosseini

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Kafka on the Shore
by Haruki Murakami

Japan

KAFKA ON THE SHORE tells the story of a teenage boy, Kafka Tamura, who is on the run in Japan, and Nakata, who is drawn to Kafka for reasons that he cannot fathom. As their paths converge, acclaimed author Haruki Murakami enfolds readers in a world where cats talk, fish fall from the sky, and spirits slip out of their bodies to make love or commit murder, in what is a truly remarkable journey.

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Kafka on the Shore
Haruki Murakami

This ambitious and expansive novel will amaze, entertain, and bewitch you. A tour de force of metaphysical reality, it is powered by two remarkable characters: a teenage boy who runs away from home and an aging simpleton who never recovered from a wartime affliction.

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My Last Continent
by Midge Raymond

Antarctica

In Midge Raymond’s harrowing novel, Deb Gardener and Keller Sullivan spend a few blissful weeks each year studying the habits of penguins in Antarctica. There, they escape the sorrows of their separate lives and find solace in their work and in each other. But as a new research season begins, Keller fails to appear. Then, Deb’s ship receives an emergency signal from a cruise liner that has hit desperate trouble; among the crew of that sinking ship, Deb learns, is Keller.

Read the full review of MY LAST CONTINENT.

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My Last Continent
Midge Raymond

An unforgettable love story that pulls readers deep into one of the most remote places on the planet. Deb and Keller are researchers with a complicated history who spend a few weeks each year studying penguins in the Antarctic. When Deb discovers Keller is trapped aboard a sinking cruise liner, her role changes from researcher to rescuer as she sets out to save him.

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Here Comes the Sun
by Nicole Dennis-Benn

Jamaica

At an opulent resort in Montego Bay, Margot hustles to send her younger sister, Thandi, to school. When plans for a new hotel threaten their village, Margot sees not only an opportunity for her own financial independence, but also perhaps a chance to admit a shocking secret: her forbidden love for another woman. In HERE COMES THE SUN, a cast of unforgettable women battle for independence while a maelstrom of change threatens their Jamaican village.

 

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Here Comes the Sun
Nicole Dennis-Benn

Capturing the distinct rhythms of Jamaican life and dialect, Nicole Dennis-Benn pens a tender hymn to a world hidden among pristine beaches. In HERE COMES THE SUN, Margot works as a prostitute to send her little sister to school while shielding her from the same fate. When she catches a glimpse of opportunity for financial independence, Margot must fight to balance the burdens she shoulders with the freedom she craves.

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The Caregiver
by Samuel Park

Brazil

In 1980s Rio de Janeiro, Ana, a struggling voice-over actress, is her daughter’s moon, her sun, her stars. But when Ana becomes involved with a civilian rebel group, her daughter, Mara, is forced to escape and emigrates to California as an undocumented immigrant. Mara finds employment as a caregiver, and she begins to grapple with her turbulent past and uncover vital truths about her mother and herself.

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The Caregiver
Samuel Park

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The Good Earth
by Pearl S. Buck

China

This Pulitzer Prize–winning novel presents a portrait of China in the 1920s, when the last emperor reigned and the vast political and social upheavals of the twentieth century were but distant rumblings. This moving, classic story of the honest farmer Wang Lung and his selfless wife, O-Lan, is a universal tale of an ordinary family caught in the tide of history.

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The Good Earth
Pearl S. Buck

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Queenie
by Candice Carty-Williams

England

Queenie Jenkins is a 25-year-old Jamaican British woman living in London, straddling two cultures and slotting neatly into neither. She works at a newspaper where she’s constantly forced to compare herself to her white middle-class peers. After a messy break up with her white boyfriend, Queenie seeks comfort in all the wrong places and careens from one questionable decision to another, asking herself all of the questions today’s woman must face in a world trying to answer them for her.

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Queenie
Candice Carty-Williams

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A Wedding in Haiti
by Julia Alvarez

Haiti

In a story that travels beyond borders and between families, acclaimed Dominican novelist and poet Julia Alvarez reflects on the joys and burdens of love―for her parents, for her husband, and for a young Haitian boy known as Piti. In this intimate true account of a promise kept, Alvarez takes us on a journey into experiences that challenge our way of thinking about history and how it can be reimagined when people from two countries―traditional enemies and strangers―become friends.

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A Wedding in Haiti
Julia Alvarez

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Beyond the Truth
by Anne Holt

Norway

In this seventh installment of the Hanne Wilhelmsen series set in Norway, the brilliant female detective must untangle the complex and bitter history of one of Oslo’s wealthiest families after a celebratory get-together at their home ends in a multi-victim homicide. As she searches for the killer, Hanne will once again risk everything to find out the truth. But this time, will she go too far?

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Beyond the Truth
Anne Holt

In the seventh installment of the Hanne Wilhelmsen series “that demands to be read—and the more quickly, the better” (Bookreporter), the brilliant female detective must untangle the complex and bitter history of one of Oslo’s wealthiest families after a celebratory get-together ends in a shocking multivictim homicide.

Shortly before Christmas, four people are found shot dead at the home of the Stahlbergs, a wealthy Oslo family of shipping merchants notorious for their miserliness and infighting. Three of the victims are members of the family, and the fourth is an outsider, seemingly out of place. Cake had been set out in the living room and a bottle of champagne had been opened but not yet poured. Yes, family gatherings during the holidays can be difficult, but why did this one become a bloodbath?

As Hanne Wilhelmsen investigates the case alongside her longtime police partner, Billy T., motives for the murders emerge in abundance; each surviving member of the Stahlberg family had good reason to want the victims dead. As she searches for the killer, Hanne will once again risk everything to find out the truth. But this time, will she go too far?

“When you think of Scandinavian noir, names like Stieg Larsson, Henning Mankell, and Camilla Lackberg probably come to mind, not Anne Holt. That may be about to change….Holt consistently delivers in her series. And Beyond the Truth…is her best yet…If you aren’t familiar with Anne Holt’s Hanne Wilhelmsen novels…dive in with this one—number 7—but then do yourself a favor and binge-read the first six” (Entertainment Weekly).

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