A few months ago, I joined a group on Goodreads called Top 5 Wednesday. Each week, you’re given a topic and if that topic speaks to you, you can choose five books that relate to it. This wednesday, the topic is “Books that feature travelling.” Because it’s a broad subject, I thought I’d be able to include books from a variety of genres and have some fun with it so I decided to write a post on it.
Disclaimer: I think I may have taken the notion of travelling a little broadly. I’m not really focusing on travel as a leisure activity but more as a forced circumstance. Hope you won’t mind.
5. Expo 58 – Jonathan Coe
I’ve already mentioned this book in “My Favourite Covers” post (LINK) but I think it deserves its spot in this list. This novel is about a British man who is sent by his company to look over the British portion of the Universal Expo of 1958 that took place in Brussels. There are two levels of travels in this book. The main character does travel to Brussels but he also travels to everywhere else in the world through the exposition. He encounters new people from all over and is thrown into this cosmopolitan society so far away from his boring home life. He soon realises that there must be more than this provincial life (Beauty and the Beast reference!) and crazy things ensue.
4. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
The first time I read this book, I despised it. As it was part of my final examination in Grade 12, I reread it just to make sure I’d gather all I needed to but I got much more than I anticipated as I ended up loving this novella. This book deals with very dark themes; it’s about the effects of colonisation, the misconception of the Other, and the alienation that comes with travelling to a foreign territory. Throughout the story, Conrad explores the problematics surrounding European Imperialism. This book also deals with travel as the main character has to leave his natal England to reach a remote part of the Congo. The trip is described in all its complexity. When you compare this book to Expo 58, you see how different the notion of travel can be.
3. One Day – David Nicholls
This book has also something to do with my Grade 12 final exams. It wasn’t a part of the curriculum unfortunately but I did start reading it three days before exams started. This is probably the biggest and best mistake I’ve ever made because I couldn’t put it down. Studying was completely forsaken and I was thrown head first into the story. I still don’t know how I managed to pass all my exams but let’s not dwell on the past. This book is probably my favourite romance novel, if we can call it that. You follow the lives of two protagonists, Emma and Dexter, over the course of 20 years. You see them grow and you see them grow apart. The entire story felt very real and made me feel all of the feels. In terms of travel, the author takes you from Scotland to Paris, to Rome, to London… The physical distance highlights the emotional one as travelling sometimes brings Emma and Dexter together, but can also create a gulf between them. The movie adaptation is very well done too. David Nicholls wrote the script for it and Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess really understood the characters.
2. The Return (L’énigme du Retour) – Dany Laferrière
I’ve already mentioned this novel in “My Favourite University Reads – Part 2” (LINK) so you already know I loved it but let me tell you again. This story takes you from Montreal to New-York to Haiti and brings your heart along for the ride. The author (it’s an autobiographical work) decides to return to his home-country Haiti after his father’s death. This is as much a travel log as it is a coming-home story. As a reader, you get to be immersed in a society that is facing many struggles but has not given up hope yet. You encounter a beautiful community in a splendid landscape perfectly illustrated by the poetry of the author’s words. Can I say anything more to encourage you to read it? I don’t think so.
1. The Hobbit / The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien
Finally, the numero uno for this list is a little bit of a cheat on my part. I wanted to include both of the works I read from Tolkien because they both made me travel very far into Middle Earth but also in my path as a reader. I think travelling in a fantastic world is an amazing experience because it offers a real escape from our own “small” universe. Tolkien’s world-building skills are incredible and I will never get over them. It’s funny how when you’re reading both of these works, you feel like you’re on this quest with Bolbo and Frodo and that this is not a foreign territory at all. I watched all the movies of course. I’m a big fan of the LOTR adaptations but can we talk about how bad that last Hobbit movie was? Ugh.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this post. I might do more T5Ws in the future if I’m inspired by the topics. Give me a link of your own T5W video or post in the comment, I’d love to see what you have to say.