Let’s face it. Traveling can be expensive. No matter how many deals, travel hacks, and coupons you rack up, sometimes you just can’t afford to take the trip that you want.
I should know. I’d love to hop on a plane and head to a number of far-flung destinations, but at the moment, that’s just not possible (unless I go into some serious debt). So in lieu of pulling out my Visa card, I reach for my library card instead.
Books are amazing. They can teach us about a multitude of things—how to make money (so we can travel), getting out of debt (so we can travel), starting a business (so we can travel), being a better lover (so we can have more fun while we travel)—but they can also transport us around the word in an instant. I mean, that’s what I look for in a book. In addition to a compelling story, I almost always choose books that are set in a different location than where I live.
So without further adieu, here are 5 books that will help you travel around the world without leaving your couch.
#1 Passing Love
Passing Love follows Nicole-Marie Handy as she explores the streets of Paris to uncover a family secret. Although she’s always been drawn to all things French since finding a little blue English-French dictionary among her parent’s things, she decides to finally go to France once her relationship with her longtime (married) beau fizzles out. Passing Love takes readers through the alleyways, museums, clubs, and little known sections of the City of Lights (buy it here).
# 2 Americanah
Americanah is a love story that stretches from the collegial streets of Princeton, NJ and trendy lofts of New York, to parlors in London and sprawling estates in Lagos, Nigeria. The book follows Ifemelu and Obinze as they both struggle to adjust to their new lives in their respective countries. And while they both ultimately achieve success, their paths are completely different, painfully difficult, and extremely enthralling. Americanah will not only make at you look at the immigrant experience differently, but it’ll have you researching flights to Lagos (buy it here).
Kweme Dawes’ novel She’s Gone is another love story that is fraught with explorations of class, mental illness, and colorism. It traces the unlikely relationship between Keisha, a Columbia University researcher, and Kofi, the Jamaican front man of a reggae band. The story begins in South Carolina and quickly moves to Jamaica as Kofi and Keisha try to make their unconventional relationship work (buy it here).
#4 Ghana Must Go
Ghana Must Go begins with the death of Kweku, the patriarch of a sprawling, high-achieving, dysfunctional clan, and follows as his brood struggles to deal with his death, and their own rifts. Much like her mentor Toni Morrison’s work, newcomer Taiye Selasi’s novel moves through time and space to transport readers from Accra to Lagos to London to New York and back (buy it here).
#5 Another Country
In my eyes, James Baldwin can do no wrong. Like, at all. In Another Country Baldwin delivers a complicated novel that expertly deals with racism, sex, drugs, art and interracial coupling in the 1970s. Primarily set in Greenwich Village, Another Country follows its characters through the streets of Harlem, jazz joints in Manhattan, and the villas of France (buy it here).
After she gets fired from her job at the L.A. Weekly, Jaylah Baldwin has to decide whether she’ll try to get a new, lower paying writing gig or if she’ll do something crazy and buy a ticket to London. She chooses the latter and gets way more than she bargained for. Ok, so this one qualifies as “shameless self promotion,” but my first novel Turn It Loose transports readers from Los Angeles to the neighborhoods, pubs, and dance halls of London (buy it here).