We recently compiled a list of literary fiction that sparked our curiosity and set the wheels in motion for new travel adventures. The list is entirely subjective and by no means complete; we continue to add to it all the time! If you’re already planning to travel to any of the places mentioned below, these novels are great companions to get you in the mood for exploring – and oftentimes to fill in gaps you may have in the history of a region.
The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx
This novel-turned-film has inspired many an armchair reader to head to Newfoundland to meet the friendly, hardy coastal people that populate Canada’s eastern-most province.
Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O’Neill
The streets of downtown Montreal aren’t pretty in this tough as nails debut novel, but they certainly evoke a response from the reader.
Brooklyn by Colm Toibin
This coming of age novel about the Irish immigrant experience in New York City brings the hot, humid streets of 1950s Brooklyn, NY to life.
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
As funny and grandiose as the title is, it’s not entirely misleading. In this smart debut novel from one of America’s most witty and insightful young authors, you can almost feel the sun sparkling off the waters of San Francisco Bay.
In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez
A story about brave resistance and immense sacrifice in the Dominican Republic of the 20th century, under the dictatorship of Trujillo. A novel that reminds us that there’s much more to this sunny island than package holidays.
The Long Song by Andrea Levy
The author takes a refreshingly humourous approach to a weighty moment in Jamaica’s history in this tale of a slave girl and her master around the time of emancipation.
Cereus Blooms at Night by Shani Mooto
There are moments when reading this Trinidad based novel that the reader can almost smell the heavy scent of the red-blooming cereus.
Mistress of Nothing by Kate Pullinger
This historical fiction is based on a true story and evokes every detail of a slow felucca ride along the Nile to Upper Egypt in the 19th century.
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimimando Ngozi Adiche
Nigeria has a strong tradition of literary fiction written in English, beginning with the legendary Chinua Achebe. This novel’s painful and desperate account of the Biafran War is a must-read to begin to understand a piece of the country’s tumultuous past.
Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey
The Booker winning author has a tendency towards the absurd, and the unusual relationship between a priest and ostracized heiress in the wilds of New South Wales, Australia is as unique a love story as you’ll find.
A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
This moving, beautiful novel not only makes the author’s India come alive, it makes my list of top 10 favourite books of all time.
Cracking India by Bapsi Sidhwa
The violent partition of India and creation of Pakistan in 1947 has spawned many literary accounts. Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children was one – this is another eminently readable one, narrated by a young girl in Lahore, Pakistan.
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
This novel was a massive international bestseller and winds together the personal story of a pair of young boys with the recent political history of Afghanistan.
The Lizard Cage by Karen Connely
This internationally-acclaimed novel speaks to the political situation in Myanmar, through the experience of an imprisoned young dissident.
The Disappeared by Karen Echlin
The disappearance of her Cambodian lover spurs a young Canadian woman to follow him back to his homeland, haunted by the killing fields of Pol Pot’s regime.
Number 9 Dream by David Mitchell
A wacky, genius account of a young man searching for his father in the giant, manic futuristic city of Tokyo.
Ulysses by James Joyce
Most of the novels on this list are more contemporary than Joyce’s masterpiece – but it was impossible not to include a book that has sent so many people on literary pilgrimages to Dublin!
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Has anyone been able to read the tragic story of Heathcliff and Cathy without yearning to walk across England’s windswept Yorkshire Moors?
Brick Lane by Monica Ali
Ali writes of the Bangladeshi immigrant experience in the multi-cultural neighbourhood of Brick Lane, in East London.
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
This tantalising mystery novel is a modern take on Victorian gothic. The heroine’s feet running along narrow cobblestone streets makes you want to head straight to London’s Spittlefields area.
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres
The stark beauty of Greece’s Ionian Islands, in particular Cephallonia, are featured in this tragic yet hopeful romance by a masterful story-teller. (Don’t cheat and watch the movie; it was dreadful.)
The Cellist of Sarajevo by Stephen Galloway
A fictional depiction of a brief period of time during the Siege of Sarajevo when a cellist took to the streets to play music for the war-torn populace.
Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
One of the most captivating and thrilling novels I’ve read in a long time, this page-turner is set in 1930s Barcelona.
Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky
The story behind the publication of this beautiful novel is as astonishing as the story within it. An evocative page turner about Paris and its environs during the German occupation of 1940.