From Japan to Venezuela, these 20 books will take you on a journey here, there and everywhere—no plane ticket required.

Life is an adventure worth caring about. Great Big Guides give you the recommendations you need to live a more joyful, interesting and meaningful life. If you purchase any of the products we recommend in a Guide, Great Big Story may receive revenue. Please note that the prices in this guide were accurate at the time of publishing but are subject to change at any time.

Read Your Way Around the World with These 20 Books

Read Your Way Around the World with These 20 Books

From Japan to Venezuela, these 20 books will take you on a journey here, there and everywhere—no plane ticket required.

Life is an adventure worth caring about. Great Big Guides give you the recommendations you need to live a more joyful, interesting and meaningful life. If you purchase any of the products we recommend in a Guide, Great Big Story may receive revenue. Please note that the prices in this guide were accurate at the time of publishing but are subject to change at any time.

Have you ever started a book only to find yourself completely enraptured with its setting so much that it feels like you’ve actually been there? Yeah, us, too.

To celebrate the transporting magic of a good book, Great Big Story took to Facebook to ask our brilliant and globe-trotting audience which books they recommend. Travel around the world through these 20 must-read stories loved by readers like you.

world books moveable feast

“A Moveable Feast” by Ernest Hemingway

Country of origin: France

Set in Paris in the roaring ’20s, Hemingway’s 1964 memoir is a deeply personal account of the city–and his life–at one of its most famous, creative peaks. Follow a 22-year-old expat as he finds his writing voice amongst the backdrop of Paris café culture, nightlife and artistry. Excerpts from Hemingway’s actual drafts are reprinted in the book and give a unique glimpse into his creative process.

As reader Iren Stranyak-Belkas commented, “No one writes about Paris like Hemingway.”

“Notes from a Small Island” by Bill Bryson

Country of origin: England

First published in 1995, Bill Bryson’s “Notes from a Small Island” is a riveting account of his final trip around Great Britain, from Exeter to Northern Scotland.

Bursting with social commentary, rich with the nation’s history and offering delightful insight into the idiosyncrasies of everyday British life, it’s no wonder our readers recommend this book.

world books notes small island
world books the magus

“The Magus” by John Fowles

Country of origin: Greece

John Fowles’ “The Magus” tells the story of a young Englishman, Nicholas Urfe, who accepts a position as a teacher on a small, beautiful Greek island. The story quickly turns chilling as Urfe befriends a wealthy estate owner with a taste for games of deception and a talent for hypnotism and psychological manipulation.

Despite the often horrific nature of the novel itself, it captures the romance and beauty of life in the Greek islands.

“A Fine Balance” by Rohinton Mistry

Country of origin: India

Set in an unnamed city by the sea in India, “A Fine Balance” delves into the civic unrest and human rights violations during the “Emergency,” in the mid-1970s.

The story follows four refugees—forced to leave for a variety of reasons—who find a home in a financially troubled Parsi widow’s cramped apartment. Initially hesitant of each other, the four strangers slowly begin to feel like family. Their relationships highlight the power of humanity in times of political and economic turmoil.

world books fine balance
world books under the tuscan sun

“Under the Tuscan Sun” by Frances Mayes

Country of origin: Italy

Have you ever wanted to escape to the Italian countryside and take up residency in an abandoned villa? That’s just what Frances Mayes did, and lucky for us, she wrote a beautiful memoir about her experience.

While constructing her dream home out of the old villa, Mayes discovers the intricacies of everyday Italian life. Writing about the area’s food, architecture and culture with poetic lyricism, it’s no wonder this book became a bestseller.

“Memoirs of a Geisha” by Arthur Golden

Country of origin: Japan

Arthur Golden's novel follows Chiyo, a geisha growing up in pre-World War II Japan.

The story follows Chiyo from an impoverished fishing village to the underground Geisha district, where she struggles to support herself in a competitive and unfamiliar environment. To get the real scoop, check out the true story that inspired the novel: “Geisha: A Life”.

world books memoirs of geisha
indonesia world books

“A Brief History of Indonesia” by Tim Hannigan

Country of origin: Indonesia

Tim Hannigan spares little detail in his rich account of Indonesia’s complex and exciting history. Beginning with the kingdoms of the 15th century and ending with the country’s 2014 elections, Hannigan’s book is perfect for novice historians looking to know more about Southeast Asia’s largest nation.

“Whale Rider” by Witi Ihimaera

Country of origin: New Zealand

In “Whale Rider,” New Zealand-native Witi Ihimaera tells the story of Kahu, a member of the Maori tribe of Whangara, as she vies for the position of chief within her tribe. Despite being a girl—the chief has always been a boy—Kahu proves herself worthy with her ability to communicate with whales, a gift previously endowed to the tribe’s original chief.

whale rider world books
cry the beloved country world books

“Cry the Beloved Country” by Alan Paton

Country of origin: South Africa

Set against a backdrop of apartheid’s racial injustice in South Africa, “Cry the Beloved Country” is a triumph of hope, courage and love.

Riddled with emotion, the novel follows a Zulu pastor, Stephen Kumalo, and his son, Absalom, who is facing trial for the murder of a white man.

“Driving Over Lemons” by Chris Stewart

Country of origin: Spain

Chris Stewart, a founding member and retired drummer of Genesis, dropped everything and moved to his newly-bought mountain farm in Andalucía, Spain.

“Driving Over Lemons” tells the story of Stewart and his wife as they discover the complexities of running a farm, meet a variety of interesting characters and ultimately grow a family in the remote, yet blissful, region.

driving over lemons world books
blue highways world books

“Blue Highways” by William Least Heat-Moon

Country of origin: United States

The 1982 travel memoir “Blue Highways” is, at its core, a tale of off-the-beaten-path American people and their unique culture. Told through the lens of William Least Heat-Moon as he travels 13,000 miles on long and winding roads through America’s smallest towns, the book fully encapsulates the collage of people that make up lesser-known America.

“Green Mansions” by William Henry Hudson

Country of origin: Venezuela

Set amongst the backdrop of the Guyana jungle in southeastern Venezuela, “Green Mansions” is both a story of love and of environmental protection.

Following a failed revolutionary attempt, the wealthy Abel escapes deep into the jungle where he finds and falls in love with a young girl named Rima. Their romance, however, is riddled with tragedy and acts as a commentary on the devastating effects of European settlers.

green mansions world book
world books heidi

“Heidi” by Johanna Spyri

Country of origin: Switzerland

The only children’s book on this list, “Heidi” tells the story of a young, orphaned girl who goes to live in the Alps with her grandfather. It’s a charming and emotional story about friendship and perseverance. Of the book, GBS reader Kelly Wolfe Bullock, commented, “I grew up with the book then had the opportunity to live in Switzerland for a couple of years. Loved seeing the book come to life!”

“Death on the Nile” by Agatha Christie

Country of origin: Egypt

Agatha Christie’s “Death on the Nile” features her beloved detective, Hercule Poirot, as he works to solve the murder of a young, glamorous woman.

Christie wrote the classic “nothing is what it seems” story during a year-long stay at the Old Cataract Hotel, in Egypt. Her room had a view of the Nile river, which is said to have been her inspiration for the riveting tale.

world books death on the nile
anne of green gables world books

“Anne of Green Gables” by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Country of origin: Canada

It’s safe to say Anne Shirley’s red braids and straw hat captured the hearts of people everywhere. “Anne of Green Gables,” the novel from which she’s the protagonist, tell the 11-year-old orphan’s story of navigating her new home and family on Canada’s Prince Edward Island.

If you’re looking to fall in love with a character and immerse yourself in her magical Canadian world, look no further than Montgomery’s “Anne of Green Gables.”

“A Fortunate Life” by Albert Facey

Country of origin: Australia

Great Big Story reader Lisa Barr described “A Fortunate Life” by Albert Facey as “an autobiography about a man growing up in early 1900 Australia” and commented that it was “one of [her] all time favourite books.”

The story is a first-hand account of the Australian experience during World War I and an intimate account of hardships, love and determination.

fortunate life world books
my name is red world books

“My Name is Red” by Orhan Pamuk

Country of origin: Turkey

Published in 1998 and set in 16th century Istanbul, “My Name is Red” is a powerful and modernist tale of love, art and religion.

The novel tells the story of a Sultan who commissioned the greatest artists of his time to create a book memorializing his realm. When one artist goes missing, the intoxicating tale becomes a complicated fantasy meets mystery.

“Road Trip Rwanda” by Will Ferguson

Country of origin: Rwanda

Will Ferguson’s travel memoir “Road Trip Rwanda,” tells the story of his journey through the country 20 years after the 1994 Rwandan genocide. In this engrossing story, Ferguson travels with his companion Jean-Claude Munyezamu, a man who escaped Rwanda just months before the genocide began.

The novel is both a tale of friendship and the resilience of a country.

rwanda world books
kite runner world books

“The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini

Country of origin: Afghanistan

The novel tells the story of a friendship between a wealthy boy, Amir, and the son of his father’s servant, Hassan. “Kite Runner” begins in the 1960s and takes the reader through the end of the monarchy in 1973 to the Soviet attack of 1979. This emotionally charged novel sheds light on the painful circumstances during Afghanistan’s time of political upheaval.

Packed with emotion and endless quotable lines, it’s no wonder Hosseini’s book was a runaway hit around the world.

“The Good Earth" by Pearl S. Buck

Country of origin: China

Pearl S. Buck’s famous novel “The Good Earth” tells the story of a Chinese farmer, Wang Lung, and his family in the early 20th century agrarian China.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel focuses on ordinary life through the lens of an ordinary family yet is spectacular in its commentary on tragedy and hope.

good earth world books

These books prove there’s no need to book a flight or even lace up your shoes to experience the excitement of a new place. So curl up with a blanket and a cup of tea and let these books from around the world work their magic.

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