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5 Novels That Will Inspire You To See The World

BY JERRY ALONZO LEON

featured travel novels

Even before you’ve ever planned a trip, imagined setting foot in an unknown city or dreamed of visiting some obscure land far away, chances are that you’ve already traveled there before—you just never realized it.  Books, and novels in particular, often become our first travel guides: providing a glimpse into places and cultures beyond our own, helping to foster an aptitude for curiosity—an indispensable tool, indeed, for any wanderlust traveler.  For if traveling can help to enrich the palette of our lives, then the books we read become like the finely spun filaments of an intricately woven canvas, upon which our experiences are painted.

As is true with any list, there are no right or wrong answers; only subjective choices.  But I wanted to choose books where the cities, landscapes, and locations are just as integral to the book as the characters themselves.  In other words, without these particular elements, the stories themselves could not be the same.  Also, I purposely left out books of non-fiction, poetry, travelogues, and biographies because I feel they deserve their own respective lists (stay tuned for these lists in the coming weeks).

Travel novel Don Quixote

The Ingenious Gentlemen Don Quixote of La Mancha [Spanish: El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha] (1605)

Miguel De Cervantes Saavedra

As one of the founding works of the western canon, Don Quixote is often cited as one of the greatest works ever written.  Inspired (deluded?) by the many books of chivalry he has read, Don Quixote, a self-appointed knight errant, alongside his trusty squire Sancho Panza, roam the land of sixteenth century Spain in search of adventure and righting wrongs.   Armed with an unwavering confidence and fearless demeanor, the Cabellero de la Triste Figura (Knight of the Sorrowful Figure) serves as an exemplary model for any traveler.  Containing elements of adventure, tragedy, comedy, romance, fantasy, and much more, it has everything you would probably ever want in a book.

Travel novel country of the pointed firs

The Country of the Pointed Firs (1896)

Sarah Orne Jewett

Set in the rural surroundings of the Northeast, The Country of Pointed Firs describes the idyllic lifestyle of a small New England coastal community, living in the fictional fishing town of Dunnet Landing.  Driven less by plot and more by the minutiae of easy living, it reads more like a series of sketches, comprised of the town’s inhabitants and its appealing rustic backdrop.  For the traveler keen on exploring the outdoors or an admirer of small town values, this book is a must read.

Travel novel the sun also rises

The Sun Also Rises (1926)

Ernest Hemingway

As the novel that made Hemingway famous, The Sun Also Rises follows the lives of a group of expatriates living in 1920’s Europe.  The book centers upon the struggles of Jake Barnes and Bret Ashley, emblematic representatives of the Lost Generation, as they contend with issues of moral decadence, unrequited love, and abject dissolution.  Not to mention, this is the book that made the Running of the Bulls the global phenomenon that it has now become.

Travel novel on the road

On the Road (1957)

Jack Kerouac

The quintessential masterpiece of the Beat Generation, On the Road quickly became an instant classic upon its release and is now undoubtedly regarded as an essential cornerstone of American literature.  Similar to The Sun Also Rises, On the Road is a roman à clef, but that’s probably where the similarities end.  Kerouac employs his stream of consciousness technique to embody the roving madness of a never ending road trip, cutting across much of 1940’s America, from New York to California and down to Mexico.

Travel novel all the pretty horses

All the Pretty Horses (1992)

Cormac McCarthy

Set in the Texas south of 1949, John Grady decides to become a cowboy and leaves home to realize his dream.  Part bildungsroman and part Western, the novel is set throughout many southern locales including Texas, the Rio Grande and even Mexico.  As the first part of his border trilogy (All the Pretty Horses, The Crossing, Cities of the Plain) McCarthy depicts with vivid realism how the romantic idea of Western expansion, conflicts with the realities of unruly populations and places.  McCarthy’s prose manages to bring to life the American South unlike any author before him.

Which books inspire you to travel?  Feel free to add your own suggestions to this list in the comments below.

Jerry Leon contributor profile

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