Around the World in Books

Books really are the most incredible things. Through them we can travel the whole world without ever leaving the comfort of our home. A great book can transport us from a cold, grey winter’s day in Newcastle to the plains of Africa glowing under a fiery sun or a glistening sea sparkling beneath the stars of the southern hemisphere. Through literature we can be inspired to see these far-off places with our own eyes and, once we do venture out into the world, a book is a traveller’s greatest companion. To celebrate World Book Day, we’ve made a list of some of our favourite cities around the globe and the books that bring them to life.

London – Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens

It may not be so far from home but London is a fantastic weekend destination. Dickens is synonymous with London and in Little Dorrit he paints a vivid picture of some of London’s most iconic spots, from the shady streets of Southwark and London Bridge to the idyllic riverbanks of Twickenham. 

Paris – A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

In this fascinating and, of course, exquisitely crafted account of his time in the French capital, Hemingway give us an intoxicating glimpse into the literary and artistic salons of Paris in the 1920s. Take it with you and see if you can hunt down the writer’s old haunts; from the Shakespeare and Company bookshop to the bars where he drank with F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ezra Pound.  

New York – The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

In this classic coming of age novel, young Holden Caulfield spends a turbulent few days hiding out from his parents in New York City. In his wanderings he takes us from the nightclubs of Greenwich Village, via Broadway and the Rockefeller Centre, to Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum of Art – a veritable where’s where of Manhattan hotspots.

Mumbai – Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

Rushdie’s mind-bending tale of magic realism brings the sights, sounds and smells of India to life with an incredible vivacity. Nowhere does he accomplish this more than in his descriptions of Mumbai and its people: his rendering of the main character’s family pickle factory in the city’s northern suburbs will have your taste buds tingling and your mouth watering!

Rome – I, Claudius by Robert Graves

Stepping foot in Rome, particularly walking into the Forum or the Colosseum, is like stepping back in time, and nothing brings to life the thrilling, treacherous times of the Roman Empire quite like I, Claudius. Rome’s ancient ruins take on even greater meaning when populated by the ghosts of Robert Graves’ brilliantly written characters.

Cartagena – Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

While never mentioned by name in the book, the South American coastal city in this unexpected and moving story bears many similarities to Colombia’s Cartagena. Garcia Marquez creates a vibrant portrayal of this colourful city in a book that will have you longing to see the blue skies of South America and the bright coloured feathers of the birds who fly there.

St Petersburg – Crime & Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

In Dostoevsky’s psychological masterpiece, the streets of St Petersburg become the maze from which protagonist Raskolnikov’s unhappy mind cannot escape. Moving away from the grandeur of the imperial palaces, Dostoevsky takes us into the beating heart of the city to show us the people who survive and fall there. Stand on Nikolaevsky Bridge and survey the historic city from the same spot as Raskolnikov himself.

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