Travel can be a state of mind and sometimes it comes in the form of a bundle of pages. But, while sci-fi and thriller keep us alert in the winter, hot weather somehow calls for more laidback reading material. So what could be better than a book that will make you wander around (at least in your head) and maybe book your next destination?
Whether you’re on a sun-filled Greek island, a weekend away in Rome or on your sofa in London or Manchester, a good travel book can immerse you in the cultures of far-flung countries in the blink of an eye, transport you to sunny beaches, and even onto a train running through France.
At Stylist, we love a (real or imaginary) holiday, these are the team’s favourite travel books.
Meena Alexander, sub editor, recommends: The Beach by Alex Garland
“For a novel that skewers Western tourists in Thailand so perfectly, Alex Garland’s The Beach sure did inspire a lot of us to go there. Painting a vivid picture of trouble in paradise, the 1996 novel tells the story of Richard, a young American traveller who discovers a community of backpackers living on a remote island off Koh Phangan. The shimmering descriptions of Bangkok and the idyllic islands in the Gulf of Thailand instantly captured my imagination, and it wasn’t long before I had my tickets booked.
“Having a place brought to life in prose before you’ve even touched down makes it all the more magical when you get there – it’s almost like walking through the set of your favourite film. Since The Beach, I’ve made it a habit to choose a holiday read set in the place I’m visiting. It’s escapism in every sense.”
Jenny Tregoning, deputy production editor and food editor, recommends: One More Croissant For The Road by Felicity Cloake
“Imagine the Tour de France, but with fewer men in lycra and more stops for cheese and wine, and you’re halfway to Felicity Cloake’s beautifully written ode to Gallic cuisine. The Guardian food writer spent a summer cycling over 2,000km across France on her trusty steed ‘Eddy’ in search of the country’s finest culinary treats – from the fluffiest of soufflé omelettes in Mont St Michel to pungent Provençal fish soup in Marseille, interspersed with amusing notes on French culture (such as the unpredictability of the train network) and invaluable advice on where to get the best croissant in Paris (a tie between Blé Sucré and Des Gateaux et des Pains).
“This book will make you wistful for childhood holidays in Brittany, it will make you (very) hungry, and it will encourage even the most reluctant of cyclists back into the saddle. If you’re heading across the Channel for your summer break, there’s no better companion.”
Hannah-Rose Yee, Stylist contributor, recommends: Map of Another Town by MFK Fisher
“Whenever I go on a holiday I love to read a book that takes place in the destination I am travelling to, which is how I came to read MFK Fisher’s Map of Another Town.
“Fisher was a celebrated food writer who spent some time living in Aix-en-Provence, rising under the golden sun to eat croissants and drink coffee before heading to one of the city’s terraced restaurants to drink wine and slowly win over the po-faced waiters and maitre-ds who police all French towns as if their life depended on it. Fisher writes with such intimacy and style about her corner of Provence that it will make you want to travel there immediately.”
Alessia Armenise, picture editor, recommends: The Idle Traveller: The Art of Slow Travel by Dan Kieran
“In a world where traveling is more and more perceived as a way to tick some boxes and take a few Instagram shots, The Idle Traveller: The Art of Slow Travel by Dan Kieran is a refreshing ode to taking it slow and enjoy the road, not the destination.
“Reading this book will make you rethink about the way we travel and, hopefully, make you want to be a traveler and not a tourist. Personally, since reading it I have been less concerned with the monuments and the must-see attractions and more interested in the secret roads, the little shops and all the hidden gems that we can easily find if we just look around us instead of reading a mainstream guide.”
Moya Crockett, Stylist Loves deputy editor & Stylist’s contributing women’s editor, recommends: The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy
“I first read The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy aged 23, and fell in love instantly. First published in 1958, it’s written from the perspective of Sally Jay Gorce, a young American in Paris. Sally Jay is reckless, self-absorbed, spoiled and scatter-brained, but she is also extremely funny, endearing and surprisingly independent for a young woman in the 50s: at the start of the novel, she’s very much a solo traveller in Paris (albeit one travelling on a wealthy uncle’s dime). She has flings with Italian diplomats, accidentally dyes her hair pink and pops to the shops in evening dresses when she hasn’t done her laundry. She is a lot of fun.
“But apart from Sally Jay, what makes The Dud Avocado so thrilling is its Parisian setting: the crowded cafes, the chestnut-lined avenues, the glittering hotel bars. If you want to feel frothily excited about an upcoming trip to the city of love, I can think of no better book.
“In one memorable paragraph, Sally describes walking down the Champs Élysées: ‘I found myself standing there gazing down that enchanted boulevard in the blue, blue evening… Here was all the gaiety and glory and sparkle I knew was going to be life if I could just grasp it.’ Magical.”
Megan Murray, writer, recommends: Sundays in Paris by Yasmin Zeinab
“Paris may be one of the most exciting, buzzy, cosmopolitan capitals in the world but Yasmin Zeinab’s book Sundays in Paris helps you to fall in love with this city at a slower pace. Tourists may not be aware (which is why this book is all the more needed for them) but much of Paris is closed on a Sunday, meaning those who want to explore need to get a little more creative to see some of this magical place’s gems.
“From her tried-and-tested best (and coolest) brunch spots to a hidden garden on an old railway above the streets, Zeinab’s insider knowledge not only gives you genuinely the best tips on where to eat and what to see through a unique lens, but she even organises part of the book into recommended tours. From morning wake-up until cocktail hour, Zeinab tells you what to do hour by hour to see Paris as a local, giving you all of her experience and a trip you definitely wouldn’t have had by Googling ‘best things to do in Paris’.”