By Lois Alter Mark, Special to USA TODAY 10 Best
Need to get away ? Try these 10 books first.
You can “book” a trip anywhere with these reads
“Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are,” said writer Mason Cooley.
Books can transport you to places you may never get to visit in real life – and make you feel like you’ve actually been there.
Here are 10 books – fiction, memoir, aspirational travel guides – that will take you around the world without ever leaving your couch.
“The Great Alone” by Kristin Hannah
This unforgettable novel, by bestselling author Kristin Hannah, takes you deep into the Alaskan wilderness in a way you’ll never experience on a traditional outing.
The story, which takes place in 1974, follows a family to America’s last true frontier to live off the grid. Like the land itself, it features moments of danger, untamed wildness and pure beauty. The book’s sense of place is so rich and so real, you’ll want to savor this epic tale wrapped up in a cozy blanket.
“Always Italy” by Frances Mayes and Ondine Cohane
It may be a while before any of us get to visit Italy in person again but you can experience la dolce vita via this gorgeous book, featuring page after page of off-the-beaten-path destinations, insider secrets and more than 350 photos from National Geographic.
Authors Frances Mayes (who wrote “Under the Tuscan Sun”) and Ondine Cohane (an acclaimed travel writer who lives in Southern Tuscany) are the perfect guides, sharing their secrets about everything from the best pizza in Rome to must-see architecture in Florence, revealing an Italy that only the locals know.
“Find Me Unafraid: Love, Loss, and Hope in an African Slum” by Kennedy Odede and Jessica Posner
Kibera, Kenya’s biggest slum, is home to SHOFCO (Shining Hope for Communities), one of the country’s biggest successes, and one of its biggest love stories.
Kennedy Odede, who grew up amidst unimaginable poverty and violence in Kibera, started SHOFCO as a local youth group. When he fell in love with Jessica Posner, a Wesleyan student who came to work there, the two created miracles, even building an exceptional school for girls.
I visited Kibera and SHOFCO on the Women’s Journey to Kenya last summer, and was deeply touched to get to see the people and places that had inspired me to make this life-changing trip in the first place.
“Remote Places to Stay” by Debbie Pappyn and David De Vleeschauwer
The authors, known for stepping far away from the path, have found 22 of the most remote places on earth. From the Arctic to Namibia, many of them take effort to reach – you can only get to some of them on foot, others only by train, boat or bush plane.
But once you see these breathtaking spaces, including a private island and a secret convent, your shoulders will relax, your jaw will unclench and you’ll understand that sometimes the journey makes the destination even more appealing.
“To Shake the Sleeping Self: A Journey from Oregon to Patagonia, and a Quest for a Life with No Regret” by Jedidiah Jenkins
Believing that sometimes you have to go somewhere else to gain perspective on your life, Instagram sensation Jedidiah Jenkins quit his dream job to spend sixteen months pedaling 14,000 miles on a bike.
About to turn thirty, he started asking himself what makes a life worth living. Grappling with the struggle to reconcile his sexual identity with his evangelical Christian upbringing, he embarked on a spiritual quest that would challenge him physically, mentally and emotionally.
He brings readers along for a ride that is, at turns, joyful, monotonous, painful and fulfilling but always honest. He teaches us, “If discontent is your disease, travel is your medicine.”
“Tulum Gypset” by Julia Chaplin
If there was ever a perfect place for the Gypset (gypsy + jetset) lifestyle, this Mexican hideaway is it.
An eight-mile stretch of sand along the Yucatan Peninsula, Tulum is tucked between a tropical jungle, Mayan ruins and the Sian Ka’an biosphere, making it a highly-coveted destination for those seeking sun and spirituality. With over 200 lush photos, this book does what its subject does – it heals and fosters connection – and just may make you consider a new way of life.
“Leave Only Footprints: My Acadia-to-Zion Journey Through Every National Park” by Conor Knighton
This fascinating memoir documents the year-long journey of Conor Knighton, Emmy-winning correspondent for “CBS Sunday Morning,” to visit all 59 national parks – a must-do travel item shared by many.
After a broken engagement, Knighton substitutes a hiking path for the aisle he was supposed to be walking down on his wedding day – and, for the next 12 months, he just keeps walking. Exploring the parks – their landscape, their history, the people he meets in them – through his eyes is likely to whet your appetite to head to the parks yourself one day.
“The Big Book of the Hamptons” by Michael Shnayerson
If you can’t afford an actual house there, this (literally) “Big Book of the Hamptons” is the next best thing.
Long Island’s East End, the inspiration for “The Great Gatsby,” has always been a retreat for New York’s elite – and thousands who team up to spend summer weekends in a rental by the beach.
This stunning book, featuring the estates and gardens of one of the most iconic and extravagant neighborhoods in the world, takes you behind the multi-million dollar shrubs and shows you why the longer-every-year drive on gridlocked Montauk Highway is still worth it.
“At Home At Highclere: Entertaining at The Real Downton Abbey” by The Countess of Carnarvon
Although you can’t visit Highclere Castle right now, you can get an insider’s look at the Crawleys’ iconic home through this juicy book written by the real Lady of the house, The Countess of Carnarvon.
There are gorgeous photos of spaces that “Downton Abbey” fans will recognize immediately, along with personal stories from Lady C. She even shares her private recipes, so you can turn your own home into your castle.
“Cabin Porn: Inspiration for Your Quiet Place Somewhere” by Zach Klein, Steven Leckart and Noah Kalina
What began as a project in upstate New York has become a global movement, with people around the world hand-building homes in idyllic locations and settling in for a simpler life.
This bestseller features photos of hundreds of jaw-dropping cabins to provide inspiration, but it’s the stories behind them that just may encourage you to embark on a project of your own. Because it will be custom-made to your every desire on the site of your dreams, you may find yourself feeling so content, you’ll happily just stay put.