Great books can have a life-long impact, inspire travel destinations and shape dreams. They can give meaning to things in our own lives, help us to understand and empathise with other points of view or simply provide a distraction from the rigours of modern life. However you interpret their function, it’s difficult to deny their importance.
World Book Day 2021 has passed by, and the grey clouds are giving way to the blue skies of spring, so CALIBRE’s thoughts have turned to the books that have inspired us to travel. That could be crossing a continent on an epic road trip, or simply visiting a specific location so beautifully described by a favourite author.
With so many wonderful works to choose from, it was tough to narrow it down, but here are just five books that have inspired us to look beyond the local area.
Around the World in Eighty Days
Having bet half his fortune that he can circumnavigate the globe in just eighty days, Phileas Fogg embarks on a mission to do just that. Accompanied by his hot-blooded valet Jean Passepartout, and hunted by the determined Inspector Fix, Fogg must face snowbound passes, sweltering jungles, opium dens, Sioux attacks and an alluring Indian princess, to win the wager.
Part globetrotting travelogue, part mystery caper, Around the World in Eighty Days is a beautifully written adventure that still delights readers almost 150 years after its first publication in 1872.
Ahead of the coming anniversary, The Folio Society has released a new edition of Verne’s work. Kristjana S. Williams has illustrated a spectacular large-scale full-colour map especially for this edition, which unfolds to reveal a dazzling and fittingly eccentric visual accompaniment to the narrative. This map wonderfully showcases the lush botanicals and vibrant animals in the story, all set against a backdrop of quirky period detailing.
This flamboyant theme continues on the binding, while further design flourishes are integrated with the narrative, where Williams switches to black and white for a series of highly inventive chapter heads and tailpieces.
What: Around the World in Eighty Days
Where: The Folio Society
How much: £40
Wild: A Journey From Lost To Found
First published in 2012, Wild is a memoir in which Cheryl Strayed recounts her 1,000-mile solo journey, from Mojave in California to the Bridge of the Gods in Washington state, along the Pacific Coast Trail.
Having lost her mother to lung cancer at only 45 years old, what remained of her family – a brother, sister and stepfather – became fragmented, leaving Strayed struggling with loss and a feeling of disenfranchisement which pushed her towards a dark, self-destructive path. After her marriage failed, and having hit rock bottom, she made the snap decision to hike the PCT, in search of herself and a way out of her all-consuming grief.
The novel gives readers a front-row seat to her warts and all journey to self-discovery. It’s touching, funny and, at times, pretty ugly, but remains a story that is full of hope. Not only does Strayed successfully portray the depth of her loneliness, but she also captures the beauty of the world around her on the trail, while showing just how fine the line is between desolate and isolation, and peace and tranquillity.
What: Wild: A Journey From Lost To Found
How much: £7
The Alchemist: A Fable About Following Your Dream
This short novel by the Brazilian author Paulo Coelho is aimed at the young adult market but has something for all readers. Since it was published in 1988 it has been translated from its original language (Portuguese) into 67 different languages, becoming an international bestseller.
The novel follows the journey of a young shepherd boy, Santiago, from Spain to the pyramids of Egypt. After having a recurring dream about treasures that lay buried beneath the pyramids, Santiago meets an old king who encourages him to follow that dream, listen to his heart and embark on his voyage.
Along the way, he meets the best and the worst of humanity, within a wonderfully written storyline. Coehlo’s depiction of Santiago’s trek and his dedication to following his dreams will inspire any reader to want to do the same.
What: The Alchemist: A Fable About Following Your Dream
How much: £7
On the Road
Jack Kerouac’s 1957 novel has been hailed as one of the greatest American novels, although the reception from the media was rather more mixed when it was initially released. What did become evident pretty quickly, was its impact on the youth of America.
The book is based on the journey across America Kerouac took with his friends, particularly Dean Moriarty (representing Kerouac’s close friend Neal Cassady), during the late 1940s. Beginning with Sal Paradise reeling from a divorce, the novel tells the story of him meeting the free-spirited maverick Dean who inspires Sal to follow the open road, kickstarting his travels across the country.
The novel comprises five parts, throughout which Sal – while all the time looking for that pearl of wisdom he feels is missing – travels to cities across the country, before ending his journey where he began, in San Francisco.
Sal’s journey ultimately is one of learning and wisdom. He experiences life in a way he could never have done without change, and steps into the unknown before becoming ill with dysentery while in Mexico. Only then does Sal realise that Dean is not the role model he was building him to be, deserting him while he is at his lowest point, in favour of continuing his bohemian lifestyle.
Kerouac’s novel was the catalyst for generations of young Americans to get out and discover what the world had to offer. Many prominent figures of the 1960s and 70s, such as Bob Dylan and Tom Waits, credit Kerouac for having influenced their lives and inspired their futures.
What: On the Road
How much: £6
Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything
In her memoir, published in 2006, Elizabeth Gilbert shares her story of self-discovery. Outwardly, she was a woman who had life sorted – a husband, a home and a successful career – yet something was still missing. It takes a year, three different continents and thousands of miles to find what that something is, but the journey she took inspired this highly successful novel.
Eat Pray Love follows Gilbert’s year-long journey from misery to happiness. She steps out of her settled life and moves to Italy, where she can’t even speak the language, for the first leg of her enlightenment tour.
She shakes off the shackles of her comfortable life and embraces a new reality, before moving on to India to find peace through the power of prayer at a spiritual retreat. Here, surrounded by the colours and sounds of this vibrant place, she meets others who have had similar life-changing experiences, all of whom help on her path to recovery.
Finally, seeking inner peace and balance Gilbert reaches Indonesia, where she finds the final piece of her puzzle: Love.
Throughout the novel, Gilbert shares her woes and her joys in a way that encourages readers to explore their own lives and emotions and follow their dreams to find what makes them happy. At times, readers laugh with her, as well as at her, but still feel the sincerity behind the humour. Gilbert manages to travel the world, while breaking down her life and rebuilding it, healing her heart along the way.
What: Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything
How much: £8
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