9 Books To Transport You Across The Globe During The Pandemic

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While COVID-19 has brought travel to a minimum, many of us have rediscovered a passion for reading. Our bookshelves have the power to transport us to new worlds – particularly those that are diverse and home to authors from different countries and cultures.

These nine authors have written beautiful books set in their respective countries – each one guaranteed to teach you something new about a place you might not have visited before, or might not have experienced in this way. So choose a book, and allow yourself to be transported across the globe.

Travel to… Sri Lanka

with Reef by Romesh Gunesekera

Reef tells the story of Mr Salgado, a marine biologist, and his houseboy, Triton, who’s so committed to pleasing his master that he remains oblivious to the political unrest threatening Sri Lanka beyond the walls of the house.

The Booker Prize-shortlisted author gives readers a glimpse into one of Sri Lanka’s most fascinating periods of history. Spanning nine years, readers are taken on a journey from the country’s unsuccessful coup in 1962 to the bloody uprising of 1971. The story is told through the relationship between our two protagonists in an emotional, and sometimes comical, story of coming to terms with one’s destiny.

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Travel to… India

with Our Trees Still Grow in Dehra by Ruskin Bond

Ruskin Bond is one of India’s greatest storytellers, particularly known for bringing the country to life through his words. In this collection of short stories, Bond introduces us to the India that he knows: spanning regions including Bombay, Delhi, and the small towns and villages of the Garhwal hills.

Semi-autobiographical in nature, the reader is transported to the lesser-known places of the Himalayan mountains, introducing us to its people and hidden secrets. Each story brings with it a part of India that few are yet to discover.

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Travel to… China

with Three Brothers by Yan Lianke

It’s rare to find a memoir that tells the story of a whole country so well, but Yan Lianke has managed to do just that. Previously shortlisted for the International Man Booker Prize, Lianke invites readers into his childhood home in Song County of China’s Henan Province, presenting us with a picture of life in rural China during the Cultural Revolution.

Through the turbulent lives of his father and uncles, Three Brothers tells the story of an entire nation. Lianke’s story will educate you on a crucial period in Chinese history, while also giving you an understanding of the people and culture that make up the country today.

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Travel to… South Korea

with If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha

Transport yourself to the dazzling city of Seoul – a world of plastic surgery, K-Pop stars, and social hierarchy. This literary debut tells the story of four young women fighting to survive in South Korea’s dynamic capital city. It’s a story driven by its characters, giving readers a glimpse into contemporary Korean society, while also highlighting universal themes of what it means to be a woman in a modern, ever-changing world.

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Travel to… Japan

with Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata

Nobel Prize winner Yasunari Kawabata’s Snow Country takes you to one of the most breathtaking settings: an isolated hot spring in the snow-covered mountains of Japan.

Widely acknowledged as one of Kawabata’s best works, it tells the story of a wealthy dilettante who meets a geisha. The beauty of western Japan is a consistent backdrop for this tale of wasted love, with Kawabata’s words transporting the reader worlds away from our bustling cities.

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Travel to… Vietnam

with The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai

It’s said that the best way to get to know a country is by starting with its history – and historical fiction can be a great way to do this. The Mountains Sing is a mesmerising work of historical fiction, telling Vietnam’s story from a local perspective. Set against the backdrop of 20th-century Vietnam, this family saga brings to life the true cost of a devastating war, and how it impacted generations of people in different ways.

While this makes for a sad read in parts, the story is also one of hope and inspiration. Former veterans of the war have hailed this book as having given them a deeper understanding of the war they fought in, and there’s no doubt that readers everywhere will come away with an enriched understanding of Vietnam and the country that it is today.

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Travel to… Nepal

with Arresting God in Kathmandu by Samrat Upadhyay

Upadhyay’s collection of short stories does a brilliant job of exploring a changing modern Nepal. Each story introduces us to the everyday lives of the people of Kathmandu, with themes ranging from marriage and sexual tensions to family rifts and identity.

There’s a common thread of desire and spirituality that weaves through each tale, bringing to life Nepal’s evolving society, and the conflict between tradition and modernity. Each new character draws out a new aspect of Nepalese culture, which is one of the best ways to learn about a country: through the everyday lives and stories of its people.

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Travel to… Libya

with The Return by Hisham Matar

This is a story about so many things: fathers and sons, loss and grief, and the author’s personal journey that’s fascinating in its own right. But it’s also the story of a country’s art, literature, and history.

Matar was 19 when his father was kidnapped and taken to prison in Libya, never to be seen again. It was 22 years later when the author returned to Libya on a journey to find his father and rediscover his homeland. This is that story. It’s one that brings to light eerie tales from Gadaffi’s dictatorship, as well as educates readers on a crucial piece of history that Matar tells with a graceful balance. It’ll make you wish all history was told to you in that way.

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Travel to… Turkey

with 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World by Elif Shafak

Shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2019, Shafak’s novel tells the story of Tequila Leila, a sex worker in Turkey. As we are guided through her life, we discover the dynamic world of modern Turkey – the many unique cultures within one, as well as the customs and beliefs that make up the people who make the country.

As you flip through the pages, readers are introduced to superstitions, key moments in history, and some of the modern marvels of the country. Most importantly, this is a novel that gives voice to the country’s voiceless.

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Priyanka is a freelance journalist based in the UK. She has previously worked on the Asia House Literature Festival in London and now runs the page @PrisReads, which spotlights literature from across Asia.