When travel is curtailed – as it is right now – books with a wandering theme can take you on inner journeys to places you can’t actually visit.
Here are 5 such books worth picking up now, recommended by a travel editor.
1. Snow in May, by Kseniya Melnik
I dipped into these scintillating short stories during a Trans-Siberian rail journey. As our train rolled across the birch forests and grand cities of Russia, the fictional lives of the people of Magadan, once the gateway to a Stalinist gulag and now home to engineers and artists living alongside their former guards, evoked a complex country both epic and intimate.
2. Through Painted Deserts: Light, God, and Beauty on the Open Road, by Donald Miller
This road-trip memoir, about crossing the United States in a souped-up Volkswagen van, has accompanied me on global journeys and local cafe jaunts. The writer dives into the deepest human questions and surfaces with epiphanies. The book fortified my conviction as a traveller that we leave home to experience it afresh and love it for new reasons.
3. The Narrow Road to The Deep North, by Matsuo Basho
While retracing the foot journey of feted poet-wanderer Matsuo Basho in the isolated north of Japan, I read his travelogue, a blend of prose and haiku. Evoking the Japanese sense of beauty and transience, his classic doubly awakened my senses as I traipsed through whispering cedar forests in misty rain and cruised past the longevity pines of Matsushima Bay.
4. Maxine, Aoki, Beto + Me, by Wena Poon
This book of globetrotting short fiction is playful and on trend, with its youthful cosmopolitan protagonists grappling with supply chain disruptions, natural disasters and political calamity. Its Singapore-born author, a friend from our days in the United States, suggested that I read it on the plane.
5. The Pilgrim’s Progress: From This World, to That Which Is to Come, by John Bunyan
Reading this 1678 Christian allegory as a teen, and later Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, I began framing life as a journey. The Slough Of Despond, a deep bog into which the pilgrim falls, seems like a description of the world now. But a man named Help comes his way.
By Lee Siew Hua, travel editor, Text adapted from The Straits Times, March 2020
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