6 Books That’ll Make You Want to Pack Your Bags: Staff Picks

While a book on vacation is always a good idea, sometimes the book itself can also be an escape.

These are a few of the many reads that have inspired our travel dreams.

They're all free to borrow with your library card. Don't have one? Sign up for free online.

1. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

The Place: The Democratic Republic of Congo

The Story: When a Baptist missionary takes his family to the Belgian Congo in 1959, things unravel and they are all changed forever. Told over the course of three decades, from tragic undoing to reconstruction, the novel alternates between the perspective of the evangelical’s wife and his four daughters.

The Recommendation: “[It’s] one of the books which made me desperate to see Africa... While I didn't visit the Congo, my interest in Africa led me to visit Botswana, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe earlier this year.” — Jessica McPhee, Supply Chain Transformation Project Manager in the Purchasing Division

The Poisonwood Bible is available as a book and eBook.

2. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

The Place: Barcelona, Spain

The Story: In a post-Spanish Civil War Barcelona, an antiquarian book dealer’s son finds himself enthralled by a mysterious book. Still mourning the loss of his mother, he sets out to find the author’s other works, only to find that someone has been systematically destroying them. Possibly in possession of the last copy of the author’s work in existence, his search reveals an epic story of murder, madness and doomed love.

The Recommendation: “So many books have made me want to travel, but perhaps none more than The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. I had just come back to Edmonton after living in Europe for a year, and Ruiz Zafón's beautiful prose about the twisting, cobbled lanes of Barcelona's Gothic Quarter made me sorely miss Europe.” — Kyle Marshall, Community Librarian at Lois Hole (Callingwood) Library and West Henday Promenade (Lewis Estates) Branch

The Shadow of the Wind is available as a book, eBook and downloadable audiobook.

3. The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

The Place: Botswana

The Story: Driven by a desire to “help people with problems in their lives,” Precious Ramotswe decides to set up a detective agency in Botswana, on the edge of the Kalahari Desert. While cases are hard to come by at first, Mma Ramotswe soon has people bringing her their troubles—though none captivate her so much as the case of a missing 11-year-old boy who may have been kidnapped by witchdoctors.

The Recommendation: “Alexander McCall Smith paints such a beautiful portrait of the people and landscape of Botswana in The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. I discovered this book during a dark, lonely winter living in Finland and the loving descriptions of the cattle, heat, and wide open skies of southern Africa made me long to travel to Botswana to experience it myself. I have yet to visit in real life, but every time a new book in the series comes out, I look forward to spending a few hours drinking red bush tea in the warmth of the African sunshine.” — Lindsay Johnston, Mobile Library Assistant at Idylwylde (Bonnie Doon) Branch

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency is available as a book, eBook, audiobook CD, downloadable audiobook and large print edition. Totaling more than 15 books, the series is available in various formats.

4. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

The Place: Paris and Saint-Malo, France

The Story: Blind by the age of six, Marie Laure’s father builds her a model of their Paris neighbourhood so she can memorize the streets. But when the Germans invade, the pair flee to Saint-Malo. Meanwhile, the orphaned Werner, enchanted by a crude radio, becomes a master of building and fixing radios until he’s won a place in the Hitler Youth. He travels throughout Europe until, finally, his story takes him to Saint-Molo where he meets Marie Laure.

The Recommendation: “I have been to France, but it was only when I read All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr that I became fascinated with the walled city of Saint-Malo. The parallel stories takes place in Germany during the Second World War, and in Paris. Like all good historical fiction, the book's setting and characters create a world that the reader can completely escape into… [it] completely captivated me.” — Mary Bennett, Collections Librarian in the Collection Management and Access Division

All the Light We Cannot See is available as a book, eBook, audiobook CD, downloadable audiobook and large print edition.

5. Spring Snow by Yukio Mishima

The Place: Tokyo, Japan

The Story: Amid a tension between old and new in turn-of-the-century Tokyo, Shigekuni Honda narrates what he believes are the successive reincarnations of his childhood friend, Kiyoaki Matsugae. Both sons of rich provincial families, Honda watches as Matsugae falls in love with a spirited young woman, embarking on a doomed yet inevitable love affair following her sudden engagement to a prince.

The Recommendation:Spring Snow was not only one of the first novels that made me fall in love with Japanese literature, but also one of the first that made me want to visit Japan. Mishima's prose is like reading page after page of spare and elegant haiku and his descriptions of the hills and beaches around Kamakura made me add it to my list of destinations when I visited last year.” — Taryn Hunchak, Library Assistant at Idylwylde (Bonnie Doon) Branch

Spring Snow is available as a book.

6. Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

The Place: Venice, Italy

The Story: Young traveler Marco Polo seeks to distract the aging emperor Kublai Khan from the impending end of his empire with tales of cities he’s seen in his travels. Spanning the past, present and future, it soon becomes clear that all of the cities are one and the same.

The Recommendation: “It's a magical, surreal travelogue, set in the pleasure gardens of Xanadu where Marco Polo tell the great Kublai Khan stories of many cities Polo claims to have visited. It's inspiring for those of us who love cities— even imaginary ones. It makes you want to travel the world, if only to find yourself.” — Nicole Bedard, Donor Engagement Specialist in the Fund Development Department

Invisible Cities is available as a book and streaming audiobook.

This blog post has recommendations that are a perfect fit for one of the themes in our 2018 EPL Reading Challenge: a book set someplace you want to go. The Reading Challenge is a fun way to dare yourself to read outside your comfort zone—and it’s not too late to join. Learn more and start today!

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