Renate Engelbrecht
Content producer
5 minute read
24 Jun 2021
8:30 am

Books that transport you to another country

Renate Engelbrecht

Feeling the urge to travel abroad but stuck in SA? Explore the globe with these books.

Explore Denmark with the book, A Year of Living Danishly. Image: iStock

It looks like, for the time being, we would need to rely on books to transport us to another country with COVID-19 restrictions still preventing us from exploring the globe. Here are eight books that will give you a glimpse of what lies beyond South Africa’s borders – a glimpse of different cultures and cuisines to be explored.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Andalusia, Spain / Egyptian Desert
Paulo Coelho tells the story of a young, Andalusian shepherd called Santiago. It’s the ultimate book about going on both a physical and an emotional journey. The boy travels from his homeland in Spain in search of a treasure close to the Egyptian pyramids. Set in Andalusia, as well as the Egyptian desert, the story transports you to another world, while also taking you on a journey to reconnect with your inner self. It’s a testament to the transforming power of your dreams and the importance of listening to your heart.

The Alchmist set in Andalusia, Spain

The book, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is set in Andalusia, Spain. Image: iStock

Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Italy / India / Bali
If you’re keen on travelling to three places at once, this book will transport you to Italy, India and Bali. Eat Pray Love is Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir and revolves around her search for what is important to her after her divorce. She bravely steps out of her comfort zone and embarks on a journey of self-discovery, exploring some of the world’s most wonderful places.

Bali features in the book Eat Pray Love

The book, Eat Pray Love features Bali as one of the three must-visit countries. Image: iStock

The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russel
This book delves into what it is that makes Denmark such a popular place to live. The country is often ranked at the top of the UN World Happiness Report and The Well-being and Happiness Index from the EU Commission. In The Year of Living Danishly, Russel writes about the Danish lifestyle, their culture and traditions. If you’re looking to be transported into the homes and lives of the Danish, this is the book to buy.

My life in France by Julia Child
This book is as much about Julia Child’s life in France as it is about French cuisine and apart from the fact that it tells the story of Child’s growth from a naïve newlywed into a renowned cook, it also gives a pretty good picture of life in France. As Julia Child’s memoir, My life in France is filled with wonderful stories about French character, the French way of life and how Child wholeheartedly embraced it all.

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
The tragic tale of two lovers, Tita and Pedro, unable to marry because of a family tradition preventing the youngest daughter from getting married, is set in Mexico at the turn of the twentieth century. The book not only paints a proper picture of Mexico; it also includes a Mexican recipe at the beginning of each chapter. These recipes, cooked by Tita, the youngest daughter in the De La Garza family form an important part of the storyline, a journey of breaking the family curse of her birth right and finally being free to express her love for Pedro in the open. The tragic love story eventually leaves only a recipe book (in which Tita recorded her wisdom) as remnant of her and Pedro’s love.

The Last Storytellers by Richard Hamilton
Morocco’s storytelling tradition has been rooted in Marrakech’s Jemaa el Fna, the city’s legendary square for almost a thousand years. Here, storytellers gathered to recount ancient folktales and fables to captivated audiences – a tradition on the brink of extinction due to television, movies and the internet. In his book, Richard Hamilton has recorded stories filled with the mysteries and beauty of the Maghreb, after tracking down Morocco’s last few remaining storytellers.

The last storytellers transports you to Morocco

The book, The Last Storytellers will instantly transport you to Morocco and the Jemaa el Fna market square. Image: iStock

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
South Africa
Stay local with South African born Trevor Noah’s book, Born a Crime. This book will transport you to where the comedian grew up, while also painting a picture of what it was like being born into the apartheid era as a child of mixed heritage. Trevor Noah tells stories from his South African childhood – both during apartheid and post-apartheid – detailing the challenges and peculiarities of growing up in South Africa in those challenging times.

The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen
This book will instantly transport you to Tibet and the Himalaya Mountains in Asia, with Peter Matthiessen accompanying his friend, GS on a field study about the Himalayan blue sheep (bharal). The book is a masterful depiction of the landscapes, people and systems of belief that Matthiessen encountered. The novel not only includes Matthiessen’s thoughts and views throughout his journey in Tibet, but also morals and beliefs intertwined with life struggles and hardships.

The Snow Leopard_Asia

The book, The Snow Leopard takes you to Tibet and the Himalayas in Asia

While travel is generally restricted for the time being, why not let one of these books transport you to another country?