Books that take you places.
TRACEE: I’ve had travel on the brain recently, which led me to think about my favorite travel based mysteries. Not mysteries set in exotic locations, but books where the premise is intertwined with travel not merely destination. Agatha Christie wrote two classics with this premise: Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile. (I’ll confess that I have several non mystery favorites that rely on travel, including Larry McMurtrie’s Lonesome Dove, certainly a 1,000 mile cattle drive qualifies!) Any favorite voyage-themed books on your list? PAULA: I’m a sucker for pilgrimages stories of all kinds: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce, Hector and the Search for Happiness by Francois Lelord, The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo, to name just a few…. TRACEE: Ah yes, The Alchemist, that was a great book. And according to legend Paulo Coelho wrote in in two weeks, writing straight from the soul. I suppose that should be a novel in itself. PAULA: He made the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage and wrote about it in a book about that called The Pilgrimage…loved that too. ROBIN: Bill Bryson’s books come immediately to mind. A Walk In The Woods made me want to hike the Appalachian Trail. I read In A Sunburned Country right before my first trip to Australia. Actually, now that I’m thinking of it, I’m a sucker for travel-as-a-metaphor, self-discovery stories like On The Road by Jack Kerouac and Wild by Cheryl Strayed. I love adventure travel myself so throw a trek across mountains or through a desert in a book and I’ll read it. SUSAN: I loved Lonesome Dove, Tracee, though it is responsible for my fear of snakes. And water. I also loved True Grit, the movies. That’s a sort of quest story. There’s a book called Seeds by Richard Horan about his quest to accumulate seeds from the trees on the homes of various writers and I love that, though it’s not a mystery. I also love Stephen King’s The Stand. I’ve never read The Alchemist, though I know I should. MICHELE:My first travel read was as a girl. Toujours Diane introduced me to European travel and sounded so sophisticated. My Love Affair with England and other books by Susan Allen Toth were a grand orientation to traveling in England. Of course I love the books that are journeys of growth and courage. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert and Wild by Cheryl Strayed (which I’ve called the scariest book I ever read) were both terrific reads. And like Robin, I loved A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, which I read on a hammock under a tree in the Wellfleet Audubon campgrounds while I was grounded with strep throat. Somehow, I didn’t feel “confined” as I vicariously trekked through the Appalachian Trail. But don’t all books take us on a voyage somewhere? TRACEE: I agree that all books take us on a voyage, which is why I started to think about books that have literal voyages in them and how they are different and in the end, not different. The voyage of the mind is as impactful as the physical one. Which basically means reading is an awesome mental gymnastic. I’ll add the Life of Pi to the list. A voyage of the mind and body. CATE: I recently read The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian which was a really interesting, frightening take on the journey story. I also learned a bit about murder laws in Dubai and why you never want to die on a plane. Anita Shriev’s The Pilot’s Wife certainly had me thinking about the life and double lives possible when travel is baked into a character’s existence. ALEXIA:In addition to Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile, I’d add Strangers on a Train, The Lady Vanishes, Throw Momma from the Train, and Mrs. Winterbourne to my list of favorites. Hmmm, I sense a theme forming. You may want to avoid traveling with me.Less lethal travel favorites include On the Road, Travels with Charlie, Heart of Darkness (which is pretty lethal, I guess), The Grapes of Wrath, and The Island of Lost Maps. Which, strictly speaking, is about rare map theft, rather than travel, but maps make me think of travel. ALISON: Such a fun question! I love books set someplace I either know really well or don’t know at all. I read Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises on a flight to Madrid a few years ago. When I was flying to Utah several times a year, I fell in love with Terry Tempest Williams. She’s a master of painting scenes of the intermountain west. When Women Were Birds and Refuge still are two of my favorite books. When I lived in Leningrad/St. Petersburg, I fell in love with Ivan Turgenev after reading A Sportsman’s Sketches, which included so many portraits of place in Russia. On a lighter note, Helen Russell’s The Year of Living Danishly was an absolute delightful introduction to life in Denmark…and I didn’t have to step out into the bitter Billund winter. TRACEE: I’m busy taking notes here, a few of these I’d like to re-read and quite a few I haven’t, and can’t believe it! And Alexia, yes, for the record, Heart of Darkness should be bumped out of a less lethal category. That’s one I haven’t read since high school. Probably should re-visit. Thanks everyone for chiming in…. lots of good rainy day reads here.