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9 Page-Turners Sure to Inspire Wanderlust

We’ve all been traveling less. A lot less. I’ve found myself turning to tv, movies and social media to help me feel connected to the world I love to explore. But I have to say, there is just something about books that really immerses you in a place, without leaving your favorite reading nook. I love losing myself in a book, and I have to say, I’ve never felt guilty after reading for a few hours. I can’t say the same for time I’ve spent binge watching the hot show of the moment. With that in mind, here are nine novels that will transport you to a faraway place.

*Pssst! If you are able, please purchase from your local, independent bookseller. It really makes all the difference.*

Tangerine by Christine Mangan

Tangerine - Chistine Mangan

Travel through time and space with this female protagonist driven thriller. Alice and Lucy, former college roommates, reunite in Tangier in 1956 when Lucy appears at Alice’s Moroccan doorstep without calling ahead. Also unannounced is Lucy’s plan to pry Alice out of her marriage and carry her off for a series of globe-trotting escapades. The story is great, but you’ll fall in love with Tangier’s markets, cafes and neighborhoods circa 1956.

Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman

Something in the Water

Ever dreamed of a romantic trip to Bora Bora, where you stay in one of those fabulous over-water rooms? Well, you might change your mind after reading this (nah, you will still want to go). Something in the Water is a psychological thriller featuring Erin, a documentary filmmaker on the brink of a professional breakthrough, and her new husband Mark, a handsome investment banker with big plans. The couple embark on a dream honeymoon to the tropical island of Bora Bora, where they enjoy the sun, the sand, and each other. Then, while scuba diving in the crystal blue sea, they find something in the water… Word on the street Reese Witherspoon has optioned the book for a future project. Here’s your chance to actually read the book before you see the movie!


Summer of ’69 by Elin Hilderbrand

Summer of '69 - Elin Hilderbrand

Who says you have to save beach reads for the actual beach? This breezy tale takes place on Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard during the summer of ’69. All of the elements of that iconic year get woven throughout the story, including the moon landing, Vietnam, Woodstock, Chappaquiddick, and more. Add in summer romances, a coming of age story, secret affair, and poof! You’re done reading this book in no time.


Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan

Sex and Vanity

Kevin Kwan earned his place in the hearts of readers with his Crazy Rich Asians series. His latest book lets us be flies on the wall during at an over-the-top wedding on the island of Capri. Protagonist Lucie Churchill sets eyes on fellow wedding guest George Zao (who happens to be very good looking and successful) and she instantly can’t stand him… we’ve all heard this story before, but it doesn’t make it any less fun to read. Especially when you add in all the fabulous imagery you can only find on the island of Capri.


Shantaram by David Gregory Roberts


India is a country I have yet to visit. Shantaram definitely taps into the passion this author has for the country, both in its beauty and physical despair. The story is narrated by Lin, an escaped convict with a false passport who flees maximum security prison in Australia for streets of Bombay. Accompanied by his guide and faithful friend, Prabaker, the two enter Bombay’s underworld, encountering beggars and gangsters, soldiers and actors, and Indians and exiles from other countries.


The Jetsetters by Emma Eyre Ward

the jetsetters

Let’s embark on an over-the-top, luxurious European cruise with the Perkins family. When seventy-year-old Charlotte Perkins submits an essay to the Become a Jetsetter contest, she dreams of reuniting her estranged children. Charlotte yearns for the years when her children were young, when she was a single mother who meant everything to them. When she wins the contest, the family packs their baggage—both literal and figurative—and spends ten days traveling from Athens through glorious Rome to tapas-laden Barcelona on an over-the-top cruise ship, the Splendido Marveloso.


City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

City of Girls

Elizabeth Gilbert wrote one of the most iconic travel memoirs of our time (yep, that would be Eat Pray Love). And I will admit that anywhere she’s going—from a writing standpoint—I am happy to tag along. Her latest book (a novel), City of Girls, transports readers to New York City of the 1940s. Nineteen-year-old Vivian Morris has just been kicked out of Vassar College, owing to her lackluster freshman-year performance. Her affluent parents send her to Manhattan to live with her Aunt Peg, who owns a flamboyant, crumbling midtown theater called the Lily Playhouse. There’s parties, showgirls, romance, cocktailing, singing, dancing, dressmaking, and of course, drama. I live in New York, and yet it’s still one of my favorite places to travel… especially if Elizabeth Gilbert is driving.


The Vacationers by Emma Straub

The Vacationers - Emma Straub

Raise your hand if you want to be on a vacation in Mallorca, Spain? Raise your hand if inviting your extended family might make way for… a lot of drama? That’s what you get in The Vacationers. It was supposed to be the perfect trip: Franny and Jim are celebrating their thirty-fifth wedding anniversary. Their daughter, Sylvia, graduated from high school. But all does not go according to plan: over the course of the vacation, secrets come to light, old and new humiliations are experienced, childhood rivalries resurface, and ancient wounds are exacerbated.


The Great Alone – by Kristin Hannah

The Great Alone - Kristin Hannah

Any book that takes place in Alaska piques my interest. It’s so wild… and exciting… and harrowing. The Great Alone is exactly that. Set in 1974, Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: he will move his wife and 13-year-old daughter north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier. What could possibly go wrong? For a family in crisis, it’s the ultimate test of survival.

What’s your novel for inspiring wanderlust? Share in the comments!

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I love losing myself in a book, and I have to say, I’ve never felt guilty after reading for a few hours. I can’t say the same for time I’ve spent binge watching the hot show of the moment. With that in mind, here are nine novels that will transport you to a faraway place.

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

This Post Has 23 Comments

  1. Samantha, thank you for the great book recommendations! I look forward to trying several of these books asap. Books that pique my wanderlust include “The Moonspinners” and “Nine Coaches Waiting,” both by the great Mary Stewart. Moonspinners takes place in 1960’s Greek isles, and Nine Coaches is in Loire valley in France. Both have female protagonists and are considered romantic suspense books. I’ve read both books numerous times, and never get tired of them.

    1. I went to Europe in 1973 when Europe on five Dollars a day was still in print. The Drifters by James Michener. We traveled by Interrail through Europe , slept in youth hostels, sometiems on trains, and traveled on $5.00 a day including meals.

  2. This is a fun list! I’ll definitely check them out.
    Personally, my two favorite cities in the world, are San Francisco, where I live, and Paris, where I’d love to live some day. So I enjoy mysteries based in those two locales.
    For those who love “historical travel” Ann Parker’s “Silver Rush” series features bad ass 19th century feminist and working single mom, Inez Stannert, as she solves one murder after the next, besting even the best of the local law enforcement. The first five novels are venued primarily in the Rocky Mountain town of Leadville, Colorado (which looks much same today as it did in the 1880’s). In book #6, “A Dying Note,” Inez moves to California where the reader gets to plop down in the middle of San Francisco’s Barbary Coast, amidst the violent power struggles of the fledgling union movement by local musicians. Although the City has changed a bit since those wild and crazy days, with a current map in hand, the reader can easily follow Inez’ path through the City’s iconic landmarks as she searches for the killer of a popular young musician.
    For those who love Paris, Cara Black’s books follow the adventures of fictional private detective Aimee Leduc and is loosely based on the stories of a real life Parisian investigator. From her first “Murder in the Marais” to her most recent “Murder in Bel-Air,” each story takes place in a different Parisian neighborhood. After reading all 18 novels, the reader will know Paris as well or better than the locals.

  3. I read Richard Haliburton’s “Royal Road to Romance” when I was in college in the late 60’s. That fired my desire to travel, I even emulated some of it by living on the cheap as I knocked around Europe during the 70’s. Still have the wanderlust, but I’m too old to wake up in a Yugoslavian barn looking at the South end of a North facing cow.

  4. Years ago I came across a book in the library called Our Hearts Were Young and Gay by Cornelia Otis Skinner and Emily Kimbrough making their first trip to Europe in the 1920s. I was working my way through junior college and had a far different background than Skinner and Kimbrough but their adventures helped inspire my desire to travel to Europe one day. I managed to do it about 8 years later and haven’t stopped since ,well until this year.

  5. Thanks for the recs, Samantha! Put two of these books on reserve today! Looking forward to seeing you and Kevin again!

  6. Thanks for all your suggestions and also from other readers. My favorite mystery writer is Louise Penny who has a series of 16 books. These are mysteries and take place in Montreal, Quebec and a village called Three Pines. Inspector Armand Gamache is the lead detective. There are a lot of good morals etc. Real page turners. The author lives in Quebec and has won many writer’s awards. Enjoy.

    1. The latest Louise Penny book is # 16, “All the Devils are Here,” and is set in Paris!

      I started with Book 1, almost gave up, but stuck it our until Inspector Gamache appeared. Glad I did, now have to fill in some in between.

  7. Also. Martin Walker’s “Bruno, Chief of Police” series (12 books) set in the Dordogne/Perigord in France. It actually got us to visit to see the cave paintings at Lascoux and the surrounding towns plus Bordeaux a few years ago. We’re going back there again.

  8. I loved the book Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon. Read it several times. Also A Year In Provence and Toujor Provence

    1. YES!!! Blue highways should be a must-read for anyone wanting to “explore” America. amongst my most favorite books!

  9. Enjoy any travel book by Paul Theroux. Especially liked Hotel Honolulu. Offbeat and funny, really captured Hawaii and Honolulu. Also James A Michener’s Hawaii and The Drifters. Both of Michener’s books are 700 plus pages, not really a beach or plane read. Thanks for all you do for travelers Samantha!

  10. Two very good books are:
    ‘A Hundred Suns’ by Karin Tanabe and ‘The Lost Vintage’ by Ann Mah.
    A Hundred Suns is a thriller that goes back and forth between France and Vietnam.
    The Lost Vintage takes place in France and is a mystery of sorts.

    Thanks Samantha for the suggestions.

  11. The Drifters by James Michener. WE read this book while traveling by train throughout Europe in 1973 when I went to the UW=Whitewater College program in Copenhagen., We sold blood in Spain for $25.00. We traveled to Morrocco but I was turned back because my hair was too long,. I remember waiting for my girl friend , Margie Ast, to come back from Morocco, while Ihelp another long haired hippie tie his hair up, grease it, and stick it into his shirt collar so he could get into Morocco. I remember findi8ng my girl friends Swiss relatives she had never seen on Christmas. WE stayed in their house with a Christmas Tree lit by Candles. I remember selling Jeans for Rubles in the Ukraine and then realizing they were worthless so we drank them up on vodka. It was a great time of my life. It made me come back again and again., I cannot wait to travel there again when this Covid crap is over.

  12. The Inspector Brunetti series of 29 by Donna Leon. The reader really feels Venice as a Venitian.
    The Edinburg Twilight detective series by Carole Lawrence. Sherlock Holmes friend.

  13. Please check out Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen or flip flop it…a great beach read/feel good book. I worked at a Book Store forever..did not make a dime–spent it all on books. Each time someone wanted a book for a friend that was sad, happy, getting a divorce whether they wanted it or not, getting married, wanted a baby,had a baby, had a teenager, this was THE BOOK !! I do believe you would enjoy it as much as I treasure and love gifting it. Fondly, Henny

  14. I strongly recommend All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. It is a beautifully crafted book, set in Paris and St. Malo during WW2, that will inspire anyone who reads it to visit France!

  15. Thank you Samantha what a joy to see your recommendations and your viewers comments and favorite reads!
    I’ll definitely will aim at reading many of them. Just reading about reading and traveling has lifted my spirit.
    I tend to read about spirituality or Nordic Noir mysteries. So until I can travel overseas again…happy reading to all!

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