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One of the most wonderful things about books is their remarkable ability to conjure a sense of location, to make you feel as if you’re exploring the most exotic countries on earth without ever leaving your bedroom. Since travelling abroad is still difficult for many of us at the moment, I’ve put together a list of reading suggestions to transport you to faraway places. Hopefully you’ll find inspiration for a future holiday in the pages of one of these books!

‘You can really feel the sting of sand burning beneath your feet’


Call Me by Your Name (2007), by André Aciman

André Aciman’s tender coming-of-age novel is set in the Italian Riviera, where seventeen-year-old Elio is forced to give up his bedroom for the summer to make way for a visiting scholar from America. Astute and unsentimental in its honesty, Call Me by Your Name depicts the heady relationship that forms between Elio and Oliver in the restless weeks that follow. The warmth of the sun penetrates through the pages, and you can really feel the sting of sand burning beneath your feet as the two protagonists cycle to beaches along the Riviera coast. It’s the perfect summer read!


Love After Love (2020), by Ingrid Persaud

Set amid the vibrant colours of Trinidad, Ingrid Persaud’s story of an unconventional family is told from three different points of view: Betty Ramdin, her teenage son Solo, and their marvellous lodger Mr Chetan. One of the things I love most about this book is the fact that it celebrates love in its myriad of forms, rather than focusing solely on romantic love. It’s also written in Trinidadian dialect – admittedly, this takes some getting used to, but once you’ve become immersed in the sounds and rhythms of the language, it makes for delicious reading.


War and Peace (1869), by Leo Tolstoy

If you can bear its sheer size, then War and Peace is perhaps the most epic book set in Russia that’s ever been written. Tolstoy traces the lives of three different families as Napoleon’s army advances on the Russian border and the chaos of war threatens to engulf the country. The book encompasses so many different genres and themes – life and death, love and violence, faith and free will, all intermixed with Tolstoy’s philosophy of history. In many ways, it’s a love letter to life itself, set against a magnificent backdrop of glittering ballrooms, frosty sleigh rides and star-sprinkled skies.


Northern Lights (1995), by Philip Pullman

Speak to anyone I know and they’ll tell you that I never miss an opportunity to recommend this book. Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights is one of my all-time favourites, following the journey of Lyra Belacqua as she ventures north in search of her missing friend. Set in a parallel world, where every human being is accompanied through life by a daemon, armoured bears rule the ice, and witches fly through frozen skies, this is the type of book that is marketed for children, but only fully appreciated by adults. Pullman weaves so many different layers into the story, touching on theology and science, knowledge and sin, the freedom of thought and the existence of the soul. This first instalment of the His Dark Materials series will definitely make you want to witness the magnificence of the Northern Lights for yourself!


Norwegian Wood (1987), by Haruki Murakami


Mountain View

Arts’ Summer Reading List

When Toru Watanabe hears the famous Beatles song, ‘Norwegian Wood’, he is immediately transported back to his student days in Tokyo during the 1960s. Told through a poignant first-person narrative, Murakami’s book recaptures the experience of first love, as Toru reminisces on his relationships with two very different women. While sensitively exploring the connection between passion and grief, Murakami keeps Tokyo in the foreground, its landscape changing with the seasons and coloured by nostalgia.


The Thorn Birds (1977), by Colleen McCullough

The Thorn Birds is a truly heart-wrenching romance that spans almost half a century. It begins in 1915, when Paddy Cleary moves with his wife and seven children to Drogheda, a vast sheep station in the Australian outback. It’s here that Meggie, the only daughter of the Cleary family, meets Ralph de Bricassart, a young priest from the local parish. Over the years, they develop a deep love for one another that continues to shape their lives, even when Ralph’s ambition drives him to the Vatican and away from Drogheda. A profoundly emotional read, and masterfully written, The Thorn Birds is set against the stark backdrop of New South Wales, a landscape prey to both droughts and floods, both unforgiving and bountiful.